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All About Bitters (Part 2)


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#61 evo-lution

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 05:51 AM

If accesability to a broad audience is the criteria, then it would seem best to go with whatever is more widely available to purchase in a store without resorting to online ordering and the attendant hassles that can entail.


Is accessibility really an issue in this day and age? And surely online ordering is the most accessible way of purchasing practically anything nowadays, particularly when speaking about a global audience?
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#62 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 01:26 PM


If accesability to a broad audience is the criteria, then it would seem best to go with whatever is more widely available to purchase in a store without resorting to online ordering and the attendant hassles that can entail.


Is accessibility really an issue in this day and age? And surely online ordering is the most accessible way of purchasing practically anything nowadays, particularly when speaking about a global audience?


For an enthusiast? No, in fact the internet is an aid to accessibility. To someone with only a very casual interest in cocktails, however, if they can't buy it at the liquor store then they probably won't buy it at all. It's just an extra (if minor) level of hassle, which is more than enough to deter most people. If I'm understanding correctly that the target audience here is people who aren't already reading forums like this, then making things easy to obtain is key.

For my own part I've got something like 15-20 different bitters around, not counting ones I've made for myself. My dad, who has only a minor interest in making someonthing for himself more complicated than a Tom Collins, has only the bitters I've taken to him.
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#63 evo-lution

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 02:44 PM

For an enthusiast? No, in fact the internet is an aid to accessibility. To someone with only a very casual interest in cocktails, however, if they can't buy it at the liquor store then they probably won't buy it at all. It's just an extra (if minor) level of hassle, which is more than enough to deter most people. If I'm understanding correctly that the target audience here is people who aren't already reading forums like this, then making things easy to obtain is key.

For my own part I've got something like 15-20 different bitters around, not counting ones I've made for myself. My dad, who has only a minor interest in making someonthing for himself more complicated than a Tom Collins, has only the bitters I've taken to him.


Point taken and understood, but if the blog's about drinks and the people reading are sat at their computer, to me there's no more accessible and easier way to order a product than by clicking a sales link or similar on that page.

I don't see how going to a liquor store is easier?!?
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#64 12BottleBar

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 02:44 PM

For my site, accessibility is a consideration but never a roadblock. I've got an Amazon store for whatever I help people find, but yes, I do know that my core audience is the "run down to the liquor store (or even supermarket)" group. If possible, I try to make things easy for them.

#65 evo-lution

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 05:02 PM

I do know that my core audience is the "run down to the liquor store (or even supermarket)" group.


Do people really prefer stepping away from their computer to run down to the liquor store to buy a bottle of booze? I thought people across the World were getting lazier by the day, and that internet shopping was the future. :biggrin:
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#66 Ritty

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 06:13 PM

[/quote]

Do people really prefer stepping away from their computer to run down to the liquor store to buy a bottle of booze? I thought people across the World were getting lazier by the day, and that internet shopping was the future. :biggrin:
[/quote]

Aside from avoiding the extra expense of shopping on-line, I shop at my local liquor store because I can schmooze with those who are procuring the spirits. They have several dozen bottles open for samples, and will crack almost anything else I show an interest in buying. The only reason I'd order on-line is if I really wanted something that was not sold in Minnesota.

#67 KD1191

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 08:41 PM


I do know that my core audience is the "run down to the liquor store (or even supermarket)" group.


Do people really prefer stepping away from their computer to run down to the liquor store to buy a bottle of booze? I thought people across the World were getting lazier by the day, and that internet shopping was the future. :biggrin:


Lazier, maybe, but also far less patient. Delayed gratification is not a concept with a particularly large audience these days. It's far easier/quicker to drop into the shop than to register at another online retailer of questionable repute, pay for shipping (assuming the retailer can ship to your state, the laws are varied and ridiculous), wait a week and hope that the shipment doesn't get snatched off the stoop...or even worse, have to arrange for someone to be home or make a special trip to the shipper's warehouse, because someone 21+ has to physically sign for the package containing alcohol.
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#68 12BottleBar

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 08:42 PM

Adam -- I'm in Los Angeles; we drive to the mailbox. :)

#69 brinza

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 08:50 PM

Do people really prefer stepping away from their computer to run down to the liquor store to buy a bottle of booze? I thought people across the World were getting lazier by the day, and that internet shopping was the future. :biggrin:

Perhaps what you are not understanding is that in the U.S. there are fifty different sets of liquor laws dictating who can buy what, where you can buy it, when you can buy it, and where you can get it from. For most people, that means that, other than things like bitters, potable alcoholic beverages cannot be purchased online. That's not to say, that people don't do it; I might have even done so myself . . . . So, yes, anyone can buy bitters from Amazon or Kegworks, but as far as liquor, the liquor store really is easier.
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#70 evo-lution

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 06:27 AM

Aside from avoiding the extra expense of shopping on-line, I shop at my local liquor store because I can schmooze with those who are procuring the spirits. They have several dozen bottles open for samples, and will crack almost anything else I show an interest in buying. The only reason I'd order on-line is if I really wanted something that was not sold in Minnesota.


It's not cheaper to buy online? The second part of your post I agree with.

Perhaps what you are not understanding is that in the U.S. there are fifty different sets of liquor laws dictating who can buy what, where you can buy it, when you can buy it, and where you can get it from.


I may not live in there but I am more than aware of that considering a lot of my business comes from the US. :wink:

Lazier, maybe, but also far less patient. Delayed gratification is not a concept with a particularly large audience these days.


This may be a cultural difference between the US and the UK, where I find many people on this side of the pond have a "live for the weekend" mentality and everything is geared towards that. Ordering or picking up a bottle isn't necessarily for instant gratification, more often than not a bottle is ordered or picked up with the weekend in mind.

I guess the size of the countries is another factor, in the UK most booze ordered online is at your door in about 2-3 days maximum. The size of the US makes that logistically impossible in many cases I'd assume.

Regardless, the question posted by 12BottleBar is to recommend bitters to a global audience who have an interest in mixed drinks but not necessarily to the level of many that post here. The vast majority of true bitters are available across the globe so that's the info I'd provide to my readers. The bitters you need in your cupboard depends solely on the style of drinks you like.

Lest we forget that informed opinions are made based on the information given. To say you only need, or can make do, with an orange bitters and Angostura is wholly wrong in my opinion.

Edited by evo-lution, 04 November 2010 - 06:28 AM.

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#71 Ritty

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 08:18 AM

I'd like to get this discussion back on bitters. I've started to infusing my own, but am taken aback by the huge number of bittering agents. As an experiment I infused about a dozen separately, to try to get an idea of their flavor profile, but still it's hard to get an idea what I should put together and in what proportions, to create a unique and well balanced bitter. As a recovering home brewer, I know that hops added at the end of the boil will impart a nonbitter flavor and flowery nose, from volatile oils, I'm assuming steeping times might be different depending what one is after. Maybe I should have a greater proportion of leafy things in my herbaceous catnip bitters, and rooty things to go with something like dandelion & burdock. Aside from endless experimentation, can anyone offer me a bit of advice?

#72 evo-lution

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 08:44 AM

I'd like to get this discussion back on bitters. I've started to infusing my own, but am taken aback by the huge number of bittering agents.


I could give you a long answer to this but I'm going to try and give you a shorter one;

The bittering agent is one of the most important aspects of a good bitters (such a shame that it's often left out or not used in larger quantities*) :wink: .

Which bittering agent you decide to go for is entirely dependent on the other botanicals present in your recipe and the steeping time you intend on using. For example, my Dandelion & Burdock bitters both call for Dandelion & Burdock (as you'd expect). In their own right they are bitter botanicals but I would not put them into the bittering agent category as they have other qualities that supercede their bitterness. Another bittering agent is required to lift them to the required bitterness I'm after, but it doesn't need to be an overtly bitter botanical to get to it where I want to.

To understand the effect of macerating/compounding different botanicals I would recommend starting out with separate infusions, however when you're making your batch I would highly recommend infusing the botanicals together. If this means you have to infuse botanicals before/after the rest so be it.

*The problem stems from a misunderstanding of the category and people making their decision/opinion of a bitters by trying them on their own as opposed to in a mixed drink.
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#73 12BottleBar

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 08:50 AM

To say you only need, or can make do, with an orange bitters and Angostura is wholly wrong in my opinion.


Adam - I was going to just message you directly, but I do think that this discussion is germane to the topic, so I'll response here.

In no way am I or my site claiming the above. All I provide is an entry point for someone who is, maybe, uneducated on the subject of cocktails or a bit intimidated by it. My goal is to get readers excited enough about one or two drinks that they then move on to bigger and more interesting things. So, am I saying "only these"? No. But unless people start their journey somewhere, they'll never wander down the dark alleyways of discovery. Just like the starter Lego sets only make us want the bigger, more complicated ones.

This is how my personal experience has been -- I started off with a bottle of Angostura which I never used because no one taught me what it was for or why it was good. I learned the basics, became more excited, and ultimately found my way here -- chatting bitters with you and the group here. I think the process has worked out beautifully.

#74 Chris Amirault

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 08:55 AM

Here are a few notes from my experiments/fumbling around with a variety of bittering agents.
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#75 12BottleBar

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 08:57 AM

I've not made bitters yet myself, but my assumption is that they are all made by combining the botanicals and letting the "cure" together. In gin making, some manufacturers like Leopold's distill the botanicals separately and then combine/blend them after the fact. Has this approach been applied to bitters making? Would it work?

#76 evo-lution

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 09:07 AM

To say you only need, or can make do, with an orange bitters and Angostura is wholly wrong in my opinion.


Adam - I was going to just message you directly, but I do think that this discussion is germane to the topic, so I'll response here.

In no way am I or my site claiming the above. All I provide is an entry point for someone who is, maybe, uneducated on the subject of cocktails or a bit intimidated by it. My goal is to get readers excited enough about one or two drinks that they then move on to bigger and more interesting things. So, am I saying "only these"? No. But unless people start their journey somewhere, they'll never wander down the dark alleyways of discovery. Just like the starter Lego sets only make us want the bigger, more complicated ones.

This is how my personal experience has been -- I started off with a bottle of Angostura which I never used because no one taught me what it was for or why it was good. I learned the basics, became more excited, and ultimately found my way here -- chatting bitters with you and the group here. I think the process has worked out beautifully.


I absolutely agree with your thoughts here, apologies if my gripe appeared to be aimed at you as it wasn't intended to be.

When it comes to recommending or starting off with any product - bitters, gin, rum, whisk(e)y, and so on - the only guaranteed bottles you should keep in your cupboard are the ones that fit the drinks you often consume.

The days of using London Dry in any drink calling for gin, Angostura Aromatic in any drink calling for bitters, or bourbon in any drink calling for American Whisk(e)y are gone. We now have the opportunity to make selected and informed opinions based on the wealth of products at our disposal. Too much information can dazzle, but a gentle push in the right direction will open up doors you never knew were there...
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#77 campus five

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 09:25 PM

On the availability discussion: I was at a Bevmo today, and was heartened to see Angostura, Peychauds and Regan's Orange all in stock, on the shelf. That was unthinkable not too long ago.

#78 evo-lution

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 08:46 AM

I've not made bitters yet myself, but my assumption is that they are all made by combining the botanicals and letting the "cure" together. In gin making, some manufacturers like Leopold's distill the botanicals separately and then combine/blend them after the fact. Has this approach been applied to bitters making? Would it work?


Funnily enough, I actually addressed this just a couple of posts before yours;

To understand the effect of macerating/compounding different botanicals I would recommend starting out with separate infusions, however when you're making your batch I would highly recommend infusing the botanicals together. If this means you have to infuse botanicals before/after the rest so be it.


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#79 Chris Amirault

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 09:06 AM

Though I hardly have a fraction of Adam or others' experience in this topic, I will affirm that combining separate infusions produces a product that tastes more like a product of separate infusions than a unified product. To that end, I still have most of this stuff in little jars, as I haven't been able to figure out workable combinations of the tinctures.
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#80 12BottleBar

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 01:45 PM

Chris, I think your reference guide will prove quite useful. Final question before I make the leap (again, apologies for not scouring all the pages of this topic for a simple answer): from where are those in the US buying ingredients? I only really know of Small Flower and Frontier Coop.

#81 evo-lution

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 01:50 PM

Picked up another vintage bottling yesterday*, Egon Braun Hamburg Amargo Bitters. Unopened and labelled. Should drop this week...

*Much to the annoyance of Ritty. :wink:
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#82 Ritty

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 09:33 PM

Picked up another vintage bottling yesterday*, Egon Braun Hamburg Amargo Bitters. Unopened and labelled. Should drop this week...

*Much to the annoyance of Ritty. :wink:


Ha! I picked up something new to me too. It's called Underberg. On the label, it says it's not a beverage. It has something in common with Fernet Branca.

#83 Ritty

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 09:39 PM

Here are a few notes from my experiments/fumbling around with a variety of bittering agents.


Thanks for directing me here. I've read about a quarter of the posts, but hadn't seen this one. Before I look too carefully at your notes, I'm going to sample my tinctures, so as to not be influenced when I try describing some of the same things.

Though I hardly have a fraction of Adam or others' experience in this topic, I will affirm that combining separate infusions produces a product that tastes more like a product of separate infusions than a unified product.


Even though it may produce an inferior product, I'm planning on mixing separate tinctures, until I think I have a combination that works. Then I'll macerating several items at once, when I'm done experimenting.

Edited by Ritty, 05 November 2010 - 09:52 PM.


#84 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 08:26 AM


Picked up another vintage bottling yesterday*, Egon Braun Hamburg Amargo Bitters. Unopened and labelled. Should drop this week...

*Much to the annoyance of Ritty. :wink:


Ha! I picked up something new to me too. It's called Underberg. On the label, it says it's not a beverage. It has something in common with Fernet Branca.


Underberg is quite exciting stuff.
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#85 evo-lution

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 01:33 PM

Writing up some tasting notes for the Khoosh today...


Now that I've finally shaken off the cold that's been bugging me recently I've had the chance to sit down and write some detaied tasting notes for the Khoosh Bitters.

Colour: Gold (almost identical in colour to the bottle of Black Bush I have on my whisky shelf)
Nose: Multi-layered and intriguing. The first thing that springs to mind is rum and raisin ice cream, but there's also notes of Coffee Creme chocolates and a little spice. Very similar to dark rum.
Palate: Intensely bitter and sharp, an initial hit of sweet sherry and citrus moves into coffee fudge, hazlenut and bitter dark chocolate.
Finish: Long and warming with bitter coffee dominating hints of sherry and oak.

Ha! I picked up something new to me too. It's called Underberg.


Is this a newer bottle of Underberg (wrapped in paper from head to toe) or an older bottling (with a regular label)? I recently acquired an older bottle of Underberg myself. £0.99 on eBay.

Edited by evo-lution, 09 November 2010 - 01:41 PM.

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#86 evo-lution

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 10:58 AM

Egon Braun Hamburg Amargo Bitters.


So these arrived today;

Posted Image
Posted Image

Not opened them (yet) but been examining the bottle and I'm pretty confident these were kicking around during Prohibition as there is a stamp on the bottle which reads as follows;

IMPORTANT

Approved for importation into the U.S.A for non-beverage purposes only, as per letters dated Washington, D.C, November 21st, 1922 and September 22, 1923 by Federal Prohibition Director.


Posted Image

A very interesting find considering the close proximity to Repeal Day and the fact I'm going to be in Hamburg for it.

These bitters were originally called Egon Braun Angostura Bitters and were changed to Egon Braun Amargo Bitters for the US market.

As you may or may not know, the Angostura Aromatic we know of today were originally called Dr. Siegert's 'Amargo Aromatico' (translates to 'Aromatic Bitters'), with Amargo then being used by other companies as a generic term.

Edited by evo-lution, 11 November 2010 - 11:12 AM.

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#87 Chris Amirault

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 06:50 PM

How would you characterize the effects of age on these remarkable, old bottlings?
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#88 evo-lution

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 06:43 PM

How would you characterize the effects of age on these remarkable, old bottlings?


I think this would depend wholly on the style of bitters, the botanicals in the recipe, how they've been stored and if they're opened/unopened. There's always a little evaporation and I'd expect there to be a little flavour loss from certain botanicals.

The Khoosh seem to have lost a little flavour but still pack a punch. I really need to do some digging into the company to find out more about how they were made and what botanicals were used.

I've just opened the Egon Braun Hamburg Amargo Bitters and they are quite sensational. There was a little evaporation here but the sediment present would probably sustain some flavour. This was a corked bottle but dipped in wax so that has helped them keep their flavour I'd guess.

They've kept a fair amount of flavour which I think is down to the fact they predominantly consist of spices such as clove, cinnamon, anise and so on. Having messed around with dozens of 'Angostura' recipes from old science/medical journals and the like I know exactly what these are about. A simple comparison regarding their flavour profile would be a combination of Angostura Aromatic and Fee Brother's Barrel-Aged Bitters, but toning down on the sweetness.
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#89 Katie Meadow

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 07:20 PM

Okay, so I'm now the proud owner of a little bottle of Fee's rhubarb bitters. What to do with it? We are most likely to mix drinks using gin or rye. I'm thinking a rhubarb rye Manhattan would be nice. Actually I've sampled it straight and I can't say as I get much rhubarb flavor, more like cherry. Actually I'm starting to wish I had a hunk of freshly baked pumpernickel bread and a bowl of tart warm rhubarb. Any ideas for drinks using rhubarb bitters?

#90 EvergreenDan

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 06:59 AM

Fee's rhubarb bitters. What to do with it?


These go great with any citrus flavor, such as Aperol. I'm particularly fond of:

Rhubarb and Rye
1 1/2 oz Rye (preferably overproof)
1 oz Aperol
1/2 oz Rhubarb bitters
1/2 oz Lemon juice
1 Lemon zest (as garnish)

It's fashioned after other bitters-heavy drinks, like the Gunshop Fizz.

Other Rhubarb Bitters recipes on Kindred Cocktails.
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