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All About Bitters (Part 2)


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#271 EvergreenDan

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 08:07 AM

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There are at several different issues being discussed in this part of the thread.

1) Whether two drinks with absolutely identical final constituents will taste identical if the bitters are diluted in one step (one dash full strength right into the glass, with an extra dash of water in the glass) or two steps (in the dasher, then to compensate, two dashes into the drink).

2) Whether two drinks with nearly identical final constituents, differing only by a the extra water involved in using two dashes of the 37.5% bitters will taste different. Same as 1), but don't use the extra dash of water.

3) Whether bitters will change in relative aromatic (non-tongue) flavor when diluted in a dasher -- that the 37.5% bitters might taste different from the 75% bitters when dashed onto your finger and stuck in your mouth. By relative flavor, I'm not talking about alcoholic heat or intensity but a change in the relative prominence of one aromatic botanical to another.

Absent a chemical reaction (such as solids precipitating out of solution), I believe:
1) is chemically impossible. The two drinks have the same number of constituent molecules in each drink. Any perceived effect will disappear in double-blind A/B/X testing.

2) is vanishingly unlikely, otherwise drinks would impossible to make repeatedly because the amount of dilution in cocktail-making caused by ice and measuring errors is orders of magnitude higher than the 1ml amount that we are talking about. Any perceived differences will disappear under double blind testing.

3) May be true, but because it is both counter-intuitive and in conflict with my experience in tasting bitters, I doubt it. Every bitters that I've ever tasted has been the same in character when sampled directly out of the dasher and then diluted in plain (or seltzer) water. (I'm talking relative botanical aromas here, not bitterness, alcoholic heat, saltiness, acidity, etc.) If 3) is true, then bitters makers should ignore the flavor of the bitters in the bottle and construct them so that they taste as desired in the cocktail. Alas, I don't know how to construct a double-blind test for this.

I think we all agree that:

4) Two dashes of the same bitters in a glass will make a different drink than 1 dash.

5) Savvy bitters consumers consider the concentration / potency of the bitters when dispensing dashes. One dash of Xocolatl Mole may overwhelm a delicate drink, whereas 2 dashes of Angostura might not be enough.

6) Bitters should ideally be constructed so that they are an appropriate concentration. For example, Stirring's Blood Orange "bitters" are so mild that that they are useless in dash quantities.

7) The alcohol concentration during infusion makes a big difference, along with time, material preparation, temperatures, etc. This affects the flavor of the "base" bitters, prior to dilution to bottle strength.
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#272 slkinsey

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 11:15 AM

Good summary. I would say that I'm right with you with respect to your points and responses numbered 1 and 2 above. I'm not sure I agree with respect to your response to point number 3.

I think it's pretty clear that aromatic constituents change based upon a large number of variables. In this case, concentration and abv are the primary ones we're concerned with.

You can see the effect of concentration in a drink like Audrey's Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini where a half ounce of highly concentrated Islay single malt is "stretched out" with two ounces of vodka (and water from the ice, of course). This keeps the alcoholic strength more or less the same, but radically decreases the concentration of the scotch molecules. There are many different flavors and aromas that are detectable in the cocktail compared to the malt.

You can also see the effect of concentration by comparing, e.g., Wild Turkey 101 and Wild Turkey 80. The difference between these two spirits being that there is more water added to the Wild Turkey 80, so the concentration is reduced. These two spirits do not taste the same. Of course, the abv is also reduced, so there may be a double effect. It might be interesting to dilute a sample of Wild Turkey 101 by 20% with 100 proof vodka and then compare the three spirits. This would offer an opportunity to see how much of the difference between WT 101 and WT 80 results from a reduction in concentration and how much results from a reduction in abv.

To evaluate the effect of abv in isolation would be a bit more complicated. One could take two samples of 75% bitters and do a 100% dilution of both samples, one with 75% ethanol and one with water. The two samples would then have the same concentration of flavor/aroma molecules but would have a different abv. This would be an interesting experiment to try. I suspect that there would be a noticeable difference between the two samples due to the greater volatility of ethanol compared to water, but I also expect that the difference would be no where near as great as differences attributable to concentration. If we were to compare those two 100% diluted samples (one at 75% abv and one at 37.5% abv) of bitters with a 75% sample of undiluted bitters, I would expect to see a relative degree of similarity between the two diluted samples and large differences between those samples and the undiluted sample.


It's noteworthy that when most of us speak of reducing the abv, what we're really talking about is reducing the concentration and the abv. My suspicion is that the reduction in concentration may be the more important variable.

Edited by slkinsey, 30 December 2011 - 11:20 AM.

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#273 slkinsey

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 03:22 PM

There are at several different issues being discussed in this part of the thread.

1) Whether two drinks with absolutely identical final constituents will taste identical if the bitters are diluted in one step (one dash full strength right into the glass, with an extra dash of water in the glass) or two steps (in the dasher, then to compensate, two dashes into the drink).

<<snip>>

Absent a chemical reaction (such as solids precipitating out of solution), I believe:

1) is chemically impossible. The two drinks have the same number of constituent molecules in each drink. Any perceived effect will disappear in double-blind A/B/X testing.

This, I believe, is the heart of the misunderstandings here.

When we make an infusion of herbs, spices, citrus, etc. to make a bitters, what we are creating is a solution consisting of ethanol, water and various aromatic and flavorful molecules. If we had the technology, we could determine the parts-per-million of every constituent molecule in the solution.

Now, we understand that our solution of ethanol, water and various aromatic and flavorful molecules may taste differently depending on a variety of factors such as temperature, abv, presence of sugar, concentration of the various aromatic and flavorful molecules, and so on.

We also understand, one hopes, that solutions with the same chemical composition taste exactly the same, regardless of how those solutions may have come to have their chemical compositions. Furthermore, those of us who know a little something about how sense organs and human perception work know that even solutions with highly similar chemical compositions will taste exactly the same so long as the differences fall within certain sensation thresholds.


This understanding is largely what I have been speaking to.

If we take a 75% abv solution of ethanol, water and various aromatic and flavorful molecules and dilute it by 100% with water, we have created a solution that contains half as many aromatic and flavorful molecules per unit volume as the original solution. It also contains half as much ethanol and two and a half times as much water per unit volume compared to the original solution. These differences will make the 37.5% bitters taste and smell different from the 75% bitters because the concentration of aromatic and flavorful molecules as well as the abv have changed.

Now this could lead one to believe -- as Adam apparently does -- that the differences in flavor between the two bitters will carry through into any drink into which these bitters are dashed. But chemistry doesn't work that way. When we dash bitters into a cocktail, all we are doing is adding a dose of aromatic and flavorful molecules to the drink together with minor amounts of (effectively flavorless) water and ethanol. This lets us understand that if we add one dash of 75% bitters to the one cocktail and two dashes of 37.5% bitters to another cocktail, the amount of aromatic and flavorful molecules we are contributing to each cocktail is the same. (This also constitutes a massive dilution and reduction in the concentration of aromatic and flavorful molecules.) The only difference will be that the cocktail with the two dashes of 37.5% bitters will contribute five times more water to the drink. Could this make a difference? Well, maybe. It could affect the concentration or abv of the final cocktail. But in reality we are only adding minute quantities of water anyway. Once we introduce the variability of chilling via melting ice the likelihood that this small amount of additional water will meaningfully affect the concentration and abv of the final cocktail is vanishingly small, and the chemical composition of the two cocktails will be identical within reasonable threshold tolerances. One way of putting this into "chemistry talk" would be to say that the parts-per-million of the various aromatic and flavorful molecules will be effectively the same in both cocktails. This means that the two cocktails will taste virtually identical and will not be distinguishable in double-blind A/B/X testing.


The reason to dilute a bitters to bottle proof is so that it contributes the desired number of aromatic and flavorful molecules when used in the doses typically and conveniently employed in making cocktails, i.e., by the dash -- although some makers of especially concentrated bitters have decided to employ eyedropper dosing rather than dash dosing. Too many aromatic and flavorful molecules per dose, and the bitters becomes very tricky to use. Too few aromatic and flavorful molecules and your bitters may be perceived as a poor value, and/or unduly burdensome to use, and/or bartenders may have a tendency to over-dose in compensation.

If, on the other hand, the dilution to bottle proof causes a chemical reaction such as louching, precipitation, etc., then the game changes. And this strikes me as somewhat likely, although I haven't heard Adam say that he sees this in his bitters manufactory.
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#274 cadmixes

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Posted 31 December 2011 - 08:35 AM

Following this thread with amusement, but the bourbon person in me is obligated to point out that Wild Turkey 80 is NOT watered down Wild Turkey 101. It's ~5 year old whiskey while the 101 is more like 7 or 8.

The new Wild Turkey 81 that started to hit stores this year is a lot closer to 101 plus water.

#275 evo-lution

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Posted 31 December 2011 - 03:25 PM

just a reminder. this is more or less the forum that invented modern bartending (egullet even spawned modernist cuisine). some of the great contributors have come and gone. thousands of people have and do lurk here as a source for their ideas and education. you will see precedents on here for an astounding amount of trends used around the world. i'm pretty sure much of the success has come from a scholarly tone and an avoidance of guru-ism.

i have a feeling that in the sous-vide topics, nathanm and vengroff, would always welcome another ratio in the hopes that their ideas scale.

if anyone wants to perform any tests, the rules of two stage dilution should apply to more than just bitters. everything should scale to liqueurs, spirits, absinthe etc...


What has this post got to do with anything? As for the bolded bit. Odd.

It's noteworthy that when most of us speak of reducing the abv, what we're really talking about is reducing the concentration and the abv. My suspicion is that the reduction in concentration may be the more important variable.


This is what I've been saying. With the abv change you are affecting flavour.

This lets us understand that if we add one dash of 75% bitters to the one cocktail and two dashes of 37.5% bitters to another cocktail, the amount of aromatic and flavorful molecules we are contributing to each cocktail is the same


No. It's not. They both have their own flavour profile. Which takes me to my last point on this subject...

I think we all agree that:

4) Two dashes of the same bitters in a glass will make a different drink than 1 dash.


And these bitters at two different abvs (or concentrations if you must) are different.

Edited by evo-lution, 31 December 2011 - 03:40 PM.

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#276 slkinsey

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 08:45 AM


This lets us understand that if we add one dash of 75% bitters to the one cocktail and two dashes of 37.5% bitters to another cocktail, the amount of aromatic and flavorful molecules we are contributing to each cocktail is the same


No. It's not. They both have their own flavour profile. Which takes me to my last point on this subject...

You have had plenty of opportunities in this discussion to assert that the dilution to bottle proof causes a chemical reaction such as louching, filterable precipitation, etc. that permanently changes the chemistry of the bitters. And several other people have suggested that this might be the case. Since you have not made such a claim, your entire argument is predicated on the supposition that the dilution to bottle proof changes the flavor profile in a permanent and characteristic way that endures through further massive dilutions into other liquids simply by virtue of having been diluted in the bottle.

I hope you understand that flavor and aroma perceptions are created through the sensation of certain molecules at certain concentrations. And I hope you understand that if, for example, 83 parts per million of quinine produces a certain taste sensation, it doesn't matter how the quinine molecules got to have a concentration of 83 parts per million. A simple water and quinine solution that started out at 83 ppm will taste exactly the same as one that started out at 166 ppm and was diluted down to 83 ppm. The reason they taste the same is because the chemistry is the same.

When we make a bitters infusion we have created a solution containing water and ethanol and the various flavorful and aromatic molecules that resulted from the infusion. In this context, the water and ethanol are effectively flavorless/odorless and what we care about are the flavorful and aromatic molecules. If there is no chemical reaction or other effect of dilution such as louching, precipitation, etc., then the ratio of these flavorful and aromatic molecules will not change with respect to each other no matter how much the solution may be diluted. For example, if the original solution has 100 mg/l of Molecule A and 50 mg/l of Molecule B (a 2:1 ratio) and is then diluted by 100%, the new solution will have 50 mg/l of Molecule A and 25 mg/l of Molecule B (also a 2:1 ratio). We can dilute this solution as much as we want, and the ratio of Molecules A and B will always be 2:1 unless something causes one of them to drop out of solution.

If we were to do a chemical analysis of your 75% bitters to look at the aromatic and flavorful molecules, we could see that it has, say, 100 mg/l of Molecule A and 50 mg/l of Molecule B and 20 mg/l of Molecule C and so on. When we make a 100% dilution, so long as this reduction in abv doesn't cause any of the aromatic and flavorful molecules to come out of solution, the 37.5% solution now has 50 mg/l of Molecule A and 25 mg/l of Molecule B and 10 mg/l of Molecule C and so on.

So, let's say that one dash = 1 milliliter. 1 ml of the 75% solution will contain 0.1 mg of Molecule A and 0.05 mg of Molecule B and 0.02 mg of Molecule C and so on. 1 ml of the 37.5% solution will contain half as many of each flavorful and aromatic molecule: 0.05 mg of Molecule A and 0.025 mg of Molecule B and 0.010 mg of Molecule C and so on. This is not fundamentally different from the dilution of ethanol with water (except that when we dilute ethanol we tend to express the amount of ethanol in terms of volume rather than mass).

So now we're putting dashes of these solutions into a cocktail. If we use one milliliter of the 75% solution, we are dosing the drink with 0.1 mg of Molecule A and 0.05 mg of Molecule B and 0.02 mg of Molecule C and so on. If we use two milliliters of the 37.5% solution, we are also dosing the drink with 0.1 mg of Molecule A and 0.05 mg of Molecule B and 0.02 mg of Molecule C and so on, because we used twice as much solution. This means that the same amount of aromatic and flavorful molecules will be present in both drinks, and the only chemical difference between the two cocktails will be that the one dosed with the 37.5% solution will contain an additional 1 ml of water.

This is basic chemistry and mathematics. If you don't understand this or willfully persist in insisting that it isn't so, I don't think there is any basis for those who do understand these things to continue this conversation with you. All I can suggest is that you refer this question to a chemist. I should hasten to add that there are any number of possible explanations for your observations that would be entirely valid. For example, if you are not making your comparisons in a properly controlled way there is the huge issue of confirmation bias. On the chemistry side, as several of us have suggested, there could be chemical changes that result from the reduction in abv (most likely certain molecules precipitating out of solution). This seems like a fairly likely explanation. I haven't even said that what you claim to observe doesn't happen. I and others here have mostly taken exception with the reasons you have given to explain your observations, because those explanations simply don't hold up according to really very basic scientific principles.
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#277 evo-lution

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 10:59 AM

Quite unbelievable really.

I and others here have mostly taken exception with the reasons you have given to explain your observations, because those explanations simply don't hold up according to really very basic scientific principles.


What reasons are these? All that is happening is a bunch of people over-complicating something that is very simple, and then bringing all sorts of random equations and ratios to somehow try and suit their side, which is still missing a simple fact - that at the two abvs described throughout they will have very different flavour profiles. You can twist these words how you want, the point stands. These are two concentrations of very flavourful liquid, at two wildly different abvs/profiles/concentrations/flavour/whatever you want to call it.

The other factor is that those saying I'm wrong have admitted throughout they haven't actually tried this out. If I could really be bothered I'd send you samples of numerous bottlings and it may start making a little more sense.

Back to an earlier statement I quoted already;

I think we all agree that:

4) Two dashes of the same bitters in a glass will make a different drink than 1 dash.


...plus these aren't the same bitters as they're (hypothetically) bottled at differing abvs. Again, by abv, that relates to profiles/concentrations/flavour/whatever.

*EDIT - Apologies to those that have had to read this as it did get tiresome a little while back, and also apologies if I've not explained this properly, but it is really simple.

Edited by evo-lution, 01 January 2012 - 11:55 AM.

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#278 slkinsey

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 12:12 PM

What reasons are these? All that is happening is a bunch of people over-complicating something that is very simple, and then bringing all sorts of random equations and ratios to somehow try and suit their side, which is still missing a simple fact - that at the two abvs described throughout they will have very different flavour profiles. You can twist these words how you want, the point stands. These are two concentrations of very flavourful liquid, at two wildly different abvs/profiles/concentrations/flavour/whatever you want to call it.

No one has disputed that these two concentrations of very flavorful liquid taste different at those concentrations.

But you are effectively asserting that equal concentrations of the same original very flavorful liquid taste different depending on whether the original very flavorful liquid was diluted in one step or two steps. The fact that you are either unwilling or unable to speak to the scientific underpinnings of the question doesn't lend credence to your position.


The other factor is that those saying I'm wrong have admitted throughout they haven't actually tried this out. If I could really be bothered I'd send you samples of numerous bottlings and it may start making a little more sense.

It's disingenuous for you to suggest that the only way someone can test your claims is to "really be bothered" to make their own high proof bitters, especially if you can't "really be bothered" to send over a small amount of your own high proof bitters which is already prepared. 50 ml of 75% abv bitters would be more than enough for testing purposes, and it can't be any more expensive or time-consuming for me to make a batch of high proof bitters than it would be for you to drop a little bottle into an envelope.

Generally speaking, the burden of proof lies with the person making extraordinary claims that go against accepted scientific principles. And in this case, that person would be you. As I posted above, as a result of this discussion I unscientifically tested the effect of proof using some highly concentrated ~50% abv commercial bitters as the base (for the record: Bittermen's Xocatl Mole at 53% and Dutch's Colonial Cocktail Bitters at 52%). I took some of each and diluted them with an equal measure of water. The ~25% abv bitters tasted different from the ~50% bitters out of the bottle, as we would expect. But cocktails made using a single dose of the ~50% bitters tasted identical to those made using a double dose of the ~25% bitters. This is precisely what we would expect, given the fact that the tested cocktails had effectively identical chemical compositions. Why you don't understand or won't accept this is a mystery to me. Have you ever studied chemistry?

If you believe that there's something magically different about 75% compared to 37.5%, then maybe that makes my informal testing irrelevant. If that's the case, then it's incumbent upon you to demonstrate this. If you want to clear the controversy entirely, then as someone who presumably has plenty of 75% bitters lying around, you should send some 75% bitters over. I'll even split the shipping cost with you. We will dilute the bitters here with distilled water, and I'll arrange to get together with suitably reputable testers (e.g., well known bartenders and writers, etc.) to conduct a series of double blind triangle tests to determine whether or not it is possible to distinguish between cocktails made with one dose of 75% bitters and cocktails made with two doses of the same bitters diluted to 37.5% in the bottle with distilled water. If you're willing to put your reputation where your mouth is, shoot me a message and we'll set it up.

But before you go to that trouble, have a conversation with a chemist. Surely you must know someone over there with a university degree in chemistry.
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#279 Shalmanese

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 12:25 PM

75% bitters briefly become 37.5% bitters before they become a drink as they dilute out into a limited volume of the drink. Imagine this as a thought experiment: Your drink has a hollow piece of ice that holds 2mL of water in it and, as you drop 2mL of bitter into the drink, it accidentally hits that cup of ice and mixes into 37.5% bitters. 5 seconds later, you stir the drink and that 37.5% bitter disperses into the drink.

Unless you're willing to make the statement that how you apply bitters to a drink can make perceptual alterations in the flavor, then you must admit that this drink will taste identical to the ones where the 75% gets dashed straight in.
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#280 Tri2Cook

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 12:46 PM

Unless you're willing to make the statement that how you apply bitters to a drink can make perceptual alterations in the flavor, then you must admit that this drink will taste identical to the ones where the 75% gets dashed straight in.

Unless the 37.5% bitters tastes different than the 75% bitters for reasons caused by but not directly related to the dilution.


If reducing the ABV of the original 75% bitters to 37.5% by adding water causes changes to the flavor profile due to various possible scenarios that have already been mentioned, then it seems like the two will continue to taste different no matter how you go about constructing a drink with them. They've been changed at a base level that isn't going to repair itself through any carefully arranged drink construction. I don't know the science behind bitters and have no idea what the change in flavor profile in the lower ABV bitters is caused by but I don't see any way carefully arranging drinks to make the concentration match in both would matter if they taste different going in due to whatever happened during the original dilution... unless the difference is entirely and solely due the reduction in ABV and nothing else. I won't swear that I didn't miss it but I haven't seen a post where Adam made a specific claim as to what was causing the flavor change is the lower ABV bitters, just that they are different on a level that is not recoverable through drink construction methods. So the test should be easy, take whatever bitters you have and cut a portion of it to half it's original ABV... then go to it. If the change is based solely on the level of dilution, then what you start with shouldn't matter. Should it?
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#281 slkinsey

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 01:17 PM


Unless you're willing to make the statement that how you apply bitters to a drink can make perceptual alterations in the flavor, then you must admit that this drink will taste identical to the ones where the 75% gets dashed straight in.

Unless the 37.5% bitters tastes different than the 75% bitters for reasons caused by but not directly related to the dilution.

Precipitation of select flavorful and aromatic molecules would be the way this might happen. Other reactions are unlikely.

I and several others have suggested this possibility a number of times, and Adam has stuck to his guns that abv is the deciding variable. To wit:


Sam and I are assuming that when you dilute to bottle strength that nothing louches or precipitates out. Obviously if flavor components become solids in suspension or settled to the bottom of the dasher, then the flavor of the two end drinks could well be different.

The same product at two differing abvs taste differently, it's that simple!


There have been ample opportunities for someone interested in having an honest and open discussion to say that they do see louching at dilution, or to observe that additional sediment that has to be filtered off appears while the bitters is resting post-dilution. Everyone on the other side of the question would then have understood that some irreversible change in the chemical composition had taken place as a result of the dilution. I have even said that I think it is likely that something like this may happen. But I assume louching or additional sedimentation would be easy for a busy bitters maker to observe, and we have to assume that if Adam were being forthright in his engagement in this discussion this is an observation he would have mentioned. I assume that he has been forthright and has not deliberately withheld such observation, and so we have to note that quite the opposite has been the case thus far in the discussion. Rather than bringing forward the possibility of certain molecules precipitating out of solution at dilution, he has suggested (as above) that only the abv is important.

Edited by slkinsey, 01 January 2012 - 01:19 PM.

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#282 Tri2Cook

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 01:25 PM

There have been ample opportunities for someone interested in having an honest and open discussion to say that they do see louching at dilution, or to observe that additional sediment that has to be filtered off appears while the bitters is resting post-dilution. Everyone on the other side of the question would then have understood that some irreversible change in the chemical composition had taken place as a result of the dilution. I have even said that I think it is likely that something like this may happen. But I assume louching or additional sedimentation would be easy for a busy bitters maker to observe, and we have to assume that if Adam were being forthright in his engagement in this discussion this is an observation he would have mentioned. I assume that he has been forthright and has not deliberately withheld such observation, and so we have to note that quite the opposite has been the case thus far in the discussion. Rather than bringing forward the possibility of certain molecules precipitating out of solution at dilution, he has suggested (as above) that only the abv is important.

Fair enough. I won't pretend to know what Adam does or doesn't wish to share regarding the specific science involved so I'll go back to my corner and continue to be a casual observer. :biggrin:

edited to remove excessive quoted material

Edited by Tri2Cook, 01 January 2012 - 01:26 PM.

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#283 evo-lution

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 02:58 PM

he has suggested (as above) that only the abv is important.


Not once have I said that only the abv is important (though ultimately the final abv is the deciding factor in the strength/taste of a product, in this instance bitters, following their initial production stage).

What I have said is the same product (as originally produced) diluted to two differing abvs will taste differently, as each abv has its own profile. You've agreed with this so we can move on from that...

If you're willing to put your reputation where your mouth is, shoot me a message and we'll set it up.


It is quite incredible that someone, who admittedly still hasn't carried out anything vaguely resembling what is being discussed, can be so sure of something even though there are numerous quotes from yourselves that contradict what you've been saying and agree with the original point I've been making throughout.

Even in the last couple of posts, you've contradicted yourself to ridiculous extremes, also making embarassing and condescending statements, most recently regarding what I may or may not know. Has it ever crossed your mind that as someone who has been producing a product line for quite some time that these sort of comparisons are huge considerations? That I wouldn't carry out a variety of tastings/etc. during the development stages?

Most of what has been said by yourself thus far has been made by way of assumption. That's not something that really rocks my World but let's play...

Now this isn't necessarily what has been discussed, but I assume you have a bottle of Angostura Bitters? Decant 1oz then add 1oz of water. Have a taste of this diluted Ango versus the Ango as they are bottled. Very different don't you think? Now what changed? That's right, the abv. Funny that.

Now, prepare two identical drinks, let's say a G&T as I've mentioned this already, with one of these drinks containing 2 dashes of Angostura, the other containing 4 of the diluted Angostura. Look at the colour first. One is darker yeah? Then have a taste. And you're still willing to claim they taste exactly the same?

Edited by evo-lution, 01 January 2012 - 03:00 PM.

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#284 slkinsey

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 05:33 PM


If you're willing to put your reputation where your mouth is, shoot me a message and we'll set it up.


It is quite incredible that someone, who admittedly still hasn't carried out anything vaguely resembling what is being discussed, can be so sure of something even though there are numerous quotes from yourselves that contradict what you've been saying and agree with the original point I've been making throughout.


Really?

As I posted above, as a result of this discussion I unscientifically tested the effect of proof using some highly concentrated ~50% abv commercial bitters as the base (for the record: Bittermen's Xocatl Mole at 53% and Dutch's Colonial Cocktail Bitters at 52%). I took some of each and diluted them with an equal measure of water. The ~25% abv bitters tasted different from the ~50% bitters out of the bottle, as we would expect. But cocktails made using a single dose of the ~50% bitters tasted identical to those made using a double dose of the ~25% bitters. This is precisely what we would expect, given the fact that the tested cocktails had effectively identical chemical compositions. Why you don't understand or won't accept this is a mystery to me. Have you ever studied chemistry?


Just repeated the experiment making a tequila Old Fashioned with 5 ml of Bittermen's Xocatl Mole bitters in one sample versus 10 ml of diluted-down (5 mi of bitters plus 5 ml of water) Bittermen's Xocatl Mole bitters in the other sample. They were indistinguishable.
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#285 evo-lution

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 06:19 PM

Really?


Yes. You may have missed this bit;

"...still hasn't carried out anything vaguely resembling what is being discussed."
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#286 slkinsey

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 06:34 PM

Diluting 50% bitters to 25% doesn't vaguely resemble diluting 75% bitters to 37.5%?
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#287 evo-lution

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 07:42 PM

I do wonder if you have read anything that's been said, it seems apparent to me that you haven't because all I see is repeated assumption, and/or speculation, based on things that weren't posted. Very odd.

What I said in posts 840, 842 and 844 (and following) stands. Now read what was said there, and then read your post #845. If you'd taken the time to maybe ask me to qualify what I was saying instead of the usual lecture post which had no relevance to what was said previously (as I point out at the beginning of post 847) this wouldn't have went over three pages. Post #851 may also be of some help with regards what I've been saying.

Anyway, as much fun as this conversation has been...

Edited by evo-lution, 01 January 2012 - 07:58 PM.

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#288 Shalmanese

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 08:43 PM

Now this isn't necessarily what has been discussed, but I assume you have a bottle of Angostura Bitters? Decant 1oz then add 1oz of water. Have a taste of this diluted Ango versus the Ango as they are bottled. Very different don't you think? Now what changed? That's right, the abv. Funny that.

Now, prepare two identical drinks, let's say a G&T as I've mentioned this already, with one of these drinks containing 2 dashes of Angostura, the other containing 4 of the diluted Angostura. Look at the colour first. One is darker yeah? Then have a taste. And you're still willing to claim they taste exactly the same?


I just did this and could taste the difference in the pure bitters but absolutely no difference in the finished drink (color wise or taste wise). I'm willing to wager $100 USD that you couldn't either in an adequately controlled, double blind study.
PS: I am a guy.

#289 evo-lution

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 08:58 PM

I just did this and could taste the difference in the pure bitters but absolutely no difference in the finished drink (color wise or taste wise). I'm willing to wager $100 USD that you couldn't either in an adequately controlled, double blind study.


Right...

Edited by evo-lution, 01 January 2012 - 09:02 PM.

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#290 Shalmanese

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 10:09 PM


I just did this and could taste the difference in the pure bitters but absolutely no difference in the finished drink (color wise or taste wise). I'm willing to wager $100 USD that you couldn't either in an adequately controlled, double blind study.


Right...


I'm serious about this wager. PM me if you want to talk terms.
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#291 Frederic

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 01:20 PM

So are the two camps best summed up as this?

1) math and chemistry. the final number of molecules in your drink determines the flavor perception
2) initial dilution means everything. molecules are perceived differently even if the math in the glass adds up in the end. it just is.

#292 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 06:47 PM

Cigar bitters. Is this something worth DIYing?

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#293 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 10:03 PM

Cigar bitters. Is this something worth DIYing?


You have to be extremely careful infusing tobacco into alcohol. People can get very, very sick that way.
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#294 brinza

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 06:36 PM

I know nothing about the science behind all this but I've been following this conversation and I think the difficulty for this outside observer arises from the fact that somewhere along the line everybody abandoned the discussion and set out to prove they're right. What I'm getting from it is that Adam is saying if you use bitters at two different ABVs, you will get two different tasting drinks. Others are arguing that if you do x+x-y with this one and x-x+y with that one, you will get two drinks that will be perceived as equal in taste. Adam is saying that the point is that nobody using the two bitters is going to do all of that stuff, they're just going to dash it in regardless because who really thinks about the ABV of the bitters when they grab them from the cabinet and goes to scientific lengths to correct for the differences. Others are saying "ah, but you can minimize the perceivable differences if you really want to and think it through". It seems to be an argument of possible vs. practical... nobody is going to have the final word on this one no matter how long it goes on. It is entertaining and informative though.

You said it. The whole discussion seems more like it's been set out to invent a problem rather than solve one. If you've ever witnessed homeopaths trying to argue their case . . .
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#295 Old Block

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 01:45 PM

Interesting thread this...


Now, prepare two identical drinks, let's say a G&T as I've mentioned this already, with one of these drinks containing 2 dashes of Angostura, the other containing 4 of the diluted Angostura. Look at the colour first. One is darker yeah? Then have a taste. And you're still willing to claim they taste exactly the same?



I find this a very flawed example, if you want to test the 2 drops of angostura versus 4 drops of 1:1 angostura:water don't use a drink that has a variable amount of dilution from ice! Unless you can guarantee that you used the same volume of consistent quality ice at exactly the same temperature etc etc. I would also contend that the colour would be exactly the same (once you stir it in of course) for the same reasons as the taste would be exactly the same.

The second you mix the drink the ice is obviously diluting everything, including the bitters solutions, and when you're using only 1-2 mls of bitters, in a glass filled with ice, it's not going to take much of a difference in the melting rate of the ice in the two drinks to totally skew the results.

To test it in a cocktail situation surely you would have to exclude ice from the equation since we can never have total control over it, and at these quantities it's too big a factor. It may not be ideal but wouldn't using chilled ingredients for, say, a Manhattan and chilled water to dilute be a much better way? In which case yes, the two would theoretically taste slightly different (as one will have 2 drops more water to dilute the tasteful parts) but i defy anyone to be able to taste the difference between the two.

Anyway, that's all kind of irrelevant to the original discussion. I won't claim to have all that much knowledge about making bitters, is simply diluting pre-made bitters with water to get a new bitters with half the ABV really representative of how you would go about making two different strengths of the same flavour bitters? If so then I don't see how there is even a debate here..




You have to be extremely careful infusing tobacco into alcohol. People can get very, very sick that way.


And it would be against the law to sell it I think. Even to give it away in a bar would be pretty risky legally speaking I'd imagine, but whatever you get up to in the privacy of your own home is nobody's business but your own...

#296 EvergreenDan

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 02:48 PM

Recommended reading by Darcy O'Neil, Art of Drink, on the topic of tobacco infusions. It's "sobering." :wink:
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#297 evo-lution

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 09:25 PM

I find this a very flawed example


I'm going to assume you didn't try, as it seems you didn't read the pages prior as well.

The discussion started in reference to diluting bitters to a specific bottling strength, the effect adding water/altering abv will have on the flavour, and the methods employed when adding water to dilute the original maceration. That's about it really...

Recommended reading by Darcy O'Neil, Art of Drink, on the topic of tobacco infusions.


It's crazy how many bars/bartenders are still preparing tobacco infusions even though advice such as Darcy's has been widely circulated. Even crazier how many wish to extract the flavour of cigarettes?!?

Edited by evo-lution, 05 February 2012 - 09:29 PM.

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#298 Old Block

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 10:35 PM


I find this a very flawed example


I'm going to assume you didn't try, as it seems you didn't read the pages prior as well.

The discussion started in reference to diluting bitters to a specific bottling strength, the effect adding water/altering abv will have on the flavour, and the methods employed when adding water to dilute the original maceration. That's about it really...

Recommended reading by Darcy O'Neil, Art of Drink, on the topic of tobacco infusions.


It's crazy how many bars/bartenders are still preparing tobacco infusions even though advice such as Darcy's has been widely circulated. Even crazier how many wish to extract the flavour of cigarettes?!?



I never tried to go into the depths of how the debate started, I was simply pointing out that the example you used was poor for obvious reasons.

I'm not a smoker, and never have been, but have on occasion have enjoyed a couple of wheezy, girlish drags of a fine cigar and can see why people might want to try use the flavour in a drink. Cigarettes are just a bastardized form, like RTDs. Anyway, off topic.

#299 Mjx

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 02:05 AM

. . . .

It's crazy how many bars/bartenders are still preparing tobacco infusions even though advice such as Darcy's has been widely circulated. Even crazier how many wish to extract the flavour of cigarettes?!?


Not sure what you mean when you say 'the flavour of cigarettes'. Quite a few things have an extremely attractive (I realize this is subjective) tobacco note, and it isn't surprising that someone would want to play with that a bit, and enhance it by infusing tobacco (in this instance, I'm not speaking of a smoky note, but the actual scent of, say, loose tobacco).

Tobacco is so strongly flavoured, it effectively contributes its scent in amounts tobacco that are way below that which would be toxic: I've done this with ganache/truffles.

I used a government publication (Nicotiana tabacum L) the monograph Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph No. 9 Chemistry and Toxicology (Hoffmann, D. and Hoffmann, I.) as references, and to be on the safe side, used the toxicity level for children as a guideline (no children ate these, I was just being careful, and yes, everyone knew that tobacco was a flavouring ingredient); the actual amount I used was, incidentally, way below the safe level, because it was not difficult to tell that the maximum safe level would have made the end result inedible.

One can start from the assumption that guidelines for working with potentially toxic substance should be based on the fact that there are many careless imbeciles out there, but... I don't know. Careless imbeciles will always find a way to menace the population, regardless of attempts to regulate risk.

What I'm saying is that I think a reasoned, rather than an emotional response is called for, when considering tobacco infusion (for the record, I've never smoked, and grew up in a family of anti-smokers).

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#300 evo-lution

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 04:41 AM

I never tried to go into the depths of how the debate started, I was simply pointing out that the example you used was poor for obvious reasons.


If you had read through, and/or at least tried what I suggested, those obvious reasons may just have made a little more sense instead of working on assumption. The only reason the debate went across three pages was because of this. "What I assume," versus "What I've tried." Not really interested in going over it again.

What I'm saying is that I think a reasoned, rather than an emotional response is called for, when considering tobacco infusion (for the record, I've never smoked, and grew up in a family of anti-smokers).


I'm not sure how you've established that my comment was based on emotion and not through reasoning, I've spoken on this subject many times before having tried a number of tobacco infusions made by various people, not one of which tasted any good. The specific reason I mentioned cigarettes is because, for the most part, the taste they offer is not one I'd want transferred into a drink. Cigars yes, but I'd take a real cigar on the side any day of the week.

I used to smoke, and every so often still have the occasional cigar, so can completely understand why someone would like to add some of that flavour however there's an obvious flaw in what's happening, burning tobacco and cold-compounded tobacco are two wildly different beasts. If it's the flavour of loose-leaf tobacco that someone is after, there's a host of ways they could do that because, as you point out, many spirits/botanicals/etc. have a tobacco note.

Should you want tobacco aromatics without the inherent dangers then I see no reason why anyone would look further than Perique at this moment in time.
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