Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Make a Bitter Drink

Keith in Lakeview writes: "Just what the hell are bitters? And why do I want them in my drink?"

Peychaud's and Angostura are the most familiar versions of bitters, but others exist. Flavors such as grapefruit, absinthe, and fennel seed have been turned into bitters by adventurous young bucks in bars from Boise to Baltimore. Bitters, like most ancient liquors, began their path to the bar as a medicine. Consider bitters the seasoned salt of the twenty first century. An elemental way to add a personalized touch to drinks, but which all share a common taste bud tickling effect.   

Barks, roots, spices, citrus peels, etc... are soaked in heavily proofed booze. Through magic, alchemy, time, heat, or witchcraft, the booze takes on the flavors of the infusion. Bitters help to sharpen the flavors of a cocktail, playing against the sweetness of the liquor or mixing agent. But I also find that bitters can help take the edge off a cocktail made with all booze like a pickle on a hamburger. 

Personally, rum and bitters are a match made in heaven. For a great lesson in why, you may want to pick up Wayne Curtis' excellent book And a Bottle of Rum. The spiciness of Angostura bitters are a natural companion for the richness of rum. Mount Gay, a few splashes of Angostura bitters, and a squeeze of lime makes a fantastic summer cocktail. But the powers of bitters can elevate even the workman Bacardi Gold. In fact, for a rum punch, I prefer Bacardi Gold over any other rum. 

Pineapple Rum Punch

3 ounces Bacardi Gold
5 cubes of pineapple
2 ounces lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
3 ounces water
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Combine above ingredients in a cocktail glass. Add crushed ice and shake for a good thirty seconds. You want the pineapple and ice to break down slightly. This will add more sweetness and acidity to the drink (pineapple) and the melting ice will help mellow the drink while still providing the punch of three ounces of rum. Pour into vessel of choice. Top with more ice if necessary.


Jeff Abbott said...

My friend Brad Parsons won the James Beard Award this year for BITTERS, a really beautiful and informative book on the subject, full of great recipes using bitters. He'll be coming to NOLA for the first time for Tales of the Cocktail, where the book is up for yet another award. I'd be there too but will still be on book tour then. . .

Anonymous said...

What's the colorful glass device on the right hand side of the picture? A stirrer?

Brian C said...

You gotta love a good pineapple drink.