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evo-lution

Jerry Thomas's Own Decanter Bitters

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Just wondering if anyone has ever made these bitters, and if they have, what their thoughts were on the finished product?

One-fourth pound of raisins

Two ounces of cinnamon

One ounce snake-root

One lemon and one orange cut in slices

One ounce of cloves

One ounce of allspice

Fill decanter with Santa Cruz rum

Many thanks in advance. :smile:

Adam


Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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Just wondering if anyone has ever made these bitters, and if they have, what their thoughts were on the finished product?
One-fourth pound of raisins

Two ounces of cinnamon

One ounce snake-root

One lemon and one orange cut in slices

One ounce of cloves

One ounce of allspice

Fill decanter with Santa Cruz rum

Many thanks in advance. :smile:

Adam

The folks at The Bitter Truth have made a version. I'm unclear if they used Virginia Snakeroot or some European equivalent.

Snake Root (aka Aristolochia serpentaria) is regarded by the FDA as a carcinogen and also kidney toxic.

Dr Cocktail Post on SnakeRoot (on DrinkBoy)

The U.S. Government has issued a warning on supplements containing poisonous plant compounds called aristolochic acids which are powerful carcinogenic and kidney toxin.  The toxin may be in some products sold in the U.S. Large doses will cause immediate damage.  Small doses will cause damage but may not be detected until the damage is all ready done.  They can also cause cancer of the lung, bladder and stomach. There are 14 different aristolochic acids in Chinese and Japanese herbs as well as Dutchman's pipe, Clematis, Virginia snakeroot, Wild ginger, Indian ginger, Canada snakeroot, False coltsfoot, Colic root, Heart snakeroot, Vermont snakeroot, Southern snakeroot.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Snake root is toxic.

That's why I'm asking if someone else has made it. :biggrin: There's no way you'd catch me making bitters to old recipes as I don't really want to be drinking poisonous/toxic ingredients.

Would there be a suitable substitute for it? What exactly does it lend to bitters?

The folks at The Bitter Truth have made a version.  I'm unclear if they used Virginia Snakeroot or some European equivalent.

Have they ever said anything about it? I guess Dave Wondrich would know a bit about this...


Edited by evo-lution (log)

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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[...]

Have they ever said anything about it?  I guess Dave Wondrich would know a bit about this...

I asked Stephan Berg about it a while ago, and he replied:

...and then we are talking about jerry thomas own decanter bitters. yes i know snakeroot is banned in the US, but it is a different story here in germany. it might not be virginia snakeroot, but we can buy snakeroot officially here in germany.

If you check that DrinkBoy topic, DrCocktail goes on a bit later to speculate:

Bitters Recipe: Snakeroot Substitution

I've been thinking about this: Jerry Thomas' Decanter Bitters DO sound really good. The snakeroot was just the bitter component. There are many other historically correct bitter herbs we could substitute, and I think we should. For instance: gentian, rue, wormwood....the list goes on. One thing about the snakeroot, though, is that it has an almost camphor-ish aromatic component. Perhaps a few camphor leaves, or even ginger.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I've been thinking about this: Jerry Thomas' Decanter Bitters DO sound really good. The snakeroot was just the bitter component. There are many other historically correct bitter herbs we could substitute, and I think we should. For instance: gentian, rue, wormwood....the list goes on. One thing about the snakeroot, though, is that it has an almost camphor-ish aromatic component. Perhaps a few camphor leaves, or even ginger.

Wasn't Camphor mildly poisonous too (in larger amounts)? Perhaps Ginger with a tiny bit of a bitter Mint/Menthol would be a safer bet for these?

I remember reading this thread on DB a long while back, but I don't know if a solution ever came up - just lots of "snakeroot = bad", "renal failure" &c. posts?

Cheers!


Edited by samuraibartender (log)

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Does anyone know if you would substitute gentian for snake root 1:1?

Alas, the virginia snakeroot I have soaking in alcohol here at the North Gowanus Institute has an utterly bewitching aroma all its own. I've never smelled or tasted anything like it.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Alas, the virginia snakeroot I have soaking in alcohol here at the North Gowanus Institute has an utterly bewitching aroma all its own. I've never smelled or tasted anything like it.

I take it this Virginia Snakeroot is poisonous/toxic too?


Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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Alas, the virginia snakeroot I have soaking in alcohol here at the North Gowanus Institute has an utterly bewitching aroma all its own. I've never smelled or tasted anything like it.

I take it this Virginia Snakeroot is poisonous/toxic too?

Yes; it's the aristolochia serpentaria. I had to grow it from rootstock. PITA.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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I reviewed this in detail with Stephan, and the BTB Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters uses Black Cohash (Cimicifugae racemosa) in lieu of Virginia Snakeroot. The aroma and flavor profile is near identical, but while Snakeroot was banned by the FDA for risks of renal (aka kidney) failure, the Black Cohash is EAFUS safe and considered a dietary supplement. It apparently helps with hot flashes, even before that first cocktail.

If you're thinking a tiny amount of Snakeroot might still be safe, consider that FDA ban goes beyond any allowance as a controlled substance. It's just plain toxic.

By contrast, there are FDA banned substances such as Calamus (Sweet Flag), banned due to abuse as a pyschoactive in the 1960's. It's an essential in a number of classic bitters, but consumption won't put you at risk of dilating much more than your eyes.

If all this disappoints, remember there's an big wide world of amazing and safer botanicals well and more deserving a home in bitters than these.

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Is it even theoretically possible to remove the toxic elements of these plants (even in a laboratory) without removing the flavor?


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I reviewed this in detail with Stephan, and the BTB Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters uses Black Cohash (Cimicifugae racemosa) in lieu of Virginia Snakeroot.  The aroma and flavor profile is near identical, but while Snakeroot was banned by the FDA for risks of renal (aka kidney) failure, the Black Cohash is EAFUS safe and considered a dietary supplement.  It apparently helps with hot flashes, even before that first cocktail.

I did some snooping around and this Alvita tea is the only source I can find for Black Cohosh that appears to be the root and not a powder or a tincture. Any other sources out there?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Is it even theoretically possible to remove the toxic elements of these plants (even in a laboratory) without removing the flavor?

Not knowing specifically what chemical(s) cause the toxicity myself - would a distillation or three remove any of these (as impurities), much as in the production of absinthe (& subsequent removal of nearly any thujone)?

As wonderful as Mr. Wondrich's Snakeroot tincture (?) sounds, I think eas is right - there are just so many botanicals, bitter & otherwise, that have no health risks associated (& some have quite the opposite) with their use. Even in cases where an exact flavor can't be duplicated, sometimes what you get by using something else is just as good or better.

Cheers!

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