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Boker's Bitters


evo-lution
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Adam, why the Pernod? Is it what's on hand, or do you think it works better than absinthe?

It's what's on hand at the moment, will definitely re-visit with Absinthe however I was more than happy with Pernod.

Had my first stinker tonight, a Slope cocktail using 1/2 t of the Boker's instead of Angostura. Maybe I'm wrong, but I fear that Punt e Mes + Boker's = Mud. I'd be interested to hear what others think, but that one went down the sink.

I need to get myself a bottle of Punt e Mes to try it out. I think it may be the extra bitterness of Punt e Mes plus the bitterness of the Boker's which is causing the problem? I've had no problems with Dubonnet, Noilly Rouge or Martini Rosso (the three I've used in drinks thus far).

I've no plans for this evening so I think I'll mess around with a few recipes...

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Went down a different route tonight as I wanted to try a drink with the Falernum I'd made as I've had a few people mention that they get notes of clove from the Boker's, and I also wanted to make a drink using more Boker's.

I put together a variation on the...

Captain's Blood Cocktail

40ml Appleton V/X

20ml Homemade Velvet Falernum

25ml Fresh lime juice

7.5ml Boker's Bitters

Method: Add all ingredients to mixing glass, fill with cubed ice and shake hard for 10 seconds. Fine strain.

Glass: Chilled coupette

Garnish: N/A

Ice: N/A

Apologies for the lack of photo, I drank it up pretty quickly.

I really, really enjoyed this drink! Up-front were sweet notes of almond which carried on to bring through nutmeg and a hint of banana :wacko:. The clove in the Falernum worked really well with the Boker's, ending with a long, bitter, lightly spiced finish with the warm cocoa carrying through from beginning to end.

Highly recommend this if you like Falernum and/or rum!

Edited by evo-lution (log)

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Two recent successes and one not-so-much with the Boker's:

1. The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail is superb with Boker's. In fact, I like this version quite as much (though in a different way) as I like it made with Peychaud's. And mind, I *love* Peychaud's. I used Marteau Verte Classique in place of the Pernod (in part because I don't keep Pernod) and it was fantastic.

2. Last night, I made Whoa, Nellie! (see cocktailnerd) and added about 2.5ml of Boker's to the mix. Wonderful. BTW, if you made this drink, I highly recommend (a) using a bold rye (Rittenhouse bonded or even Thos. Handy), (b) using Coruba rum (much better I think than Myers's at least here), (c ) using equal parts rye and rum (1oz each), and (d) adding a lemon twist as garnish (shown in the picture but omitted from the listed recipe).

3. For the not-so-much, I must say I didn't care for the Pink Gin I made with the Boker's and ended up not finishing it. My favorite way to make this drink is "New Orleans Style", with 4 heavy dashs of Angostura and 2 heavy dashes of Peychaud's. Perhaps the problem was with the gin I chose -- some of my precious stash of Tanqueray Malacca, typically my favorite for this application -- or maybe I've just gotten too used to the Angostura/Peychaud's combo.

I haven't done any experiments with Boker's and Punt e Mes, but I suspect Adam's correct -- too much clashing bitterness between the two. As much as I love Punt e Mes, this causes me no worries at all given how well Boker's plays with other more conventional sweet vermouths like M&R, Cinzano and Noilly Rouge. I also plan to try it with Dolin Rouge but have not gotten around to it. Anyone with access tried it yet with Noilly Ambre? We can't get that stuff here in the US (ping me immediately if I'm wrong about that), so it won't be me to test that one.

Finally, Adam, I'll give the Captain's Blood a go soon!

Edited by Mike S. (log)

Cheers,

Mike

"The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind."

- Bogart

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Gentian? :wacko:

The base bittering agent is definitely quassia bark...

1000964small.jpg

Quassia alone provides more than enough bitterness!

The only herb/flower present is mallow, and there's definitely no gentian root either unless one of the ingredients used falls under the gentian family which I'm pretty sure they don't.

Edited by evo-lution (log)

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I also have now tasted the new Boker's Bitters and my feeling is that these are the most bitter of the various bitters I have (apart from my first orange bitters try). Strong bitter backbone was already mentioned, but I feel the bitterness needs a special mention. Also, there is something that reminded me of strong and cold black tea now when I just tasted again.

It's a good time to be a bitters user these days.

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Also, there is something that reminded me of strong and cold black tea now when I just tasted again.

You're not the first to have mentioned the notes of 'tea', I can't be sure if it's from the mallow or something else?

Edited by evo-lution (log)

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Not sure if everyone's read the following post that was made anonymously on the Chanticleer forum, so thought I'd share it here.

I've been doing a fair bit of research into the history of Boker's and a lot of what was posted has backed up what I've found thus far (I'm sure most of it is from the same sources) although some of it isn't entirely accurate I think. For my own curiousity, I wanted to fill in the gaps and have a better understanding about the history of Boker's bitters and the people behind them.

I'll be sharing the info I've uncovered once I've put it all together into a readable doc, until then I think the info below makes for pretty interesting, so thanks to whoever it was that posted it!

I found this thread on a web search and it piqued my interest about Boker's bitters and whether the original recipe might still be hanging around somewhere. So I started with some simple googling and ended with some geneological research. Total time about 12 hours: here's what I found out.

Here is what I have discovered. I am just writing this off the top of my head so I have not included any references to the source documents, but all of this information is freely available on the web.

The story starts with John G. Boker, the supposed inventor of Boker's Bitters. He was a very interesting man. He was German, and first came to the U.S. as a Prussian diplomat. His real name was Johann Böker. Apparently he liked it here because he decided to stick around and went into business importing wine and spirits. He was apparently fabulously successful in this business because he was referred to in newspapers as "the millionaire John Boker" and his personal problems were sometimes written up in the New York Times, as we will see. He spent years collecting art from the area around Düsseldorf, acquiring so many pieces that he opened a museum to display them to the public.

Boker first invented Boker's bitters in the late 1820s in New York City, and then altered the recipe somewhat in the early 1850s. Boker had four children: John B. Boker, Helen, Walter, and Mary Ann. In the 1850's he seems to have tried to get his son John involved in the business, but apparently John Jr. wasn't cut out to be a wine merchant and medicine manufacturer, because Boker soon turned to his son-in-law Louis Funke, Jr, who had married Helen Boker.

Louis was born in 1828, also in Germany, and apparently was working as a silversmith or gilder before he got involved in his father-in-law's business. There is a New York tax record indicating that he was required to pay an ad valorem tax on a quantity of silver of which he was in possession when the tax man made his rounds. Louis must have done well in the business because in March of 1860, when Boker was about 65, he sold the bitters business to Funke.

John G. Boker hit the headlines in New York City when his youngest daughter, Mary Ann, eloped with one of the family servants, John Dean, the coach driver. As a result of this, Boker changed his will and cut her out completely. He also cut out his younger son, Walter for some unknown reason at the same time.

Shortly after selling the Boker's bitters business to Louis Funke, Boker died. As a condition of the sale, Funke was required, upon Boker's death, to annually pay 2/3 of the net profits of the business to Boker's widow, Emily for the rest of her life. As it happened, she lived until 1888. Later on, this arrangement became the basis of a lawsuit filed by John Boker Jr.'s ex wife against Funke, claiming that she had not received her cut of the Boker share. The judges ruled that Funke was only responsible for paying the 2/3 share to Emily Boker, which he had done faithfully, and that any other arrangements were entirely within the Boker family and didn't concern Funke. As for Mary Ann Boker Dean, upon finding out that she was cut out of her father's will, she said she didn't need the money anyway and was perfectly happy with her marriage to the former coach driver.

From 1860 on, Louis Funke was the sole source and U.S. agent for Boker's bitters.

As I mentioned, Louis Funke was married to John G. Boker's daughter Helen. They only had one child - a daughter named Marie who was born in 1853. Louis Funke must have done well in the bitters business, even though he only received 1/3 of the net profit. His wife and daughter were able to take a trip to Europe in 1861. By this time Boker's bitters were being sold around the world. Advertisements for Boker's bitters appear in Australian newspapers in the 1860s.

In the 1870's Funke was involved in a trademark battle with a company out of Louisiana that copied the name Boker's bitters, even going so far as to copy the distinct bottle and forge the John G. Boker signature on the label. The Louisiana men claimed to have purchased the rights to Boker's bitters from John Boker, Jr., so Funke sent Boker down to Louisiana to be deposed. In this deposition, John B. Boker disclaimed all rights to or interest in Boker's bitters, confirming that his father had assigned all rights to the product, trademarks, etc. and had transferred the recipe to Louis Funke solely. When Funke was later sued by John Boker Jr's ex-wife, she managed to get her ex-husband to take the stand and claim that he possessed rights to the bitters and therefore should have received a cut of the profits. Funke entered the previous deposition as evidence, completely discrediting Boker's testimony.

Funke's daughter Marie married sometime around 1882-1883. Her husband was Rudolph von Bernuth, yet another German immigrant, who was 13 years older than her and already well established in business. Perhaps that is why he didn't get involved in the bitters business. In any case, Funke didn't seem to be thinking of who would take over the business. Marie Funke von Bernuth had had her first child, Rudolph Jr, in 1884. Maybe Funke was planning to pass the bitters business on to his grandson. Unfortunately Funke died in 1892 in what seems to be a somewhat unexpected manner. It was in the middle of the lawsuit over the profit distribution, and his daughter Marie, his executrix, had to defend the lawsuit to completion. The plaintiff lost at every level, but kept appealing right up to the New York Supreme Court, and so the final resolution wasn't made until 1896.

At this point, the story of Boker's bitters seems to end. After this time, Boker's bitters is mentinoed only in handbooks of Chemistry for the most part, which include it in lists of medicines until the mid 1910s. The alcohol content is given as anywhere from 41% to 42.6%. The only other place where Boker's Bitters are mentioned is in pro-Temperance publications, right up to the enactment of prohibition, where the entry from the chemistry manual is reproduced to show how dangerously alcoholic the bitters were.

I don't think we can be sure that Boker's bitters ceased production after Funke's death - it had almost never been advertised anyway so there isn't much record of it in newspapers and magazines even at the height of production. Still, it seems likely that Louis Funke's death was the end of Boker's bitters. Rudolph von Bernuth Sr. didn't seem to be interested, Rudolph von Bernuth Jr. was only 8 years old at the time of Funke's death.

Marie Funke von Bernuth  had two other children besides Rudolph Jr.: a daughter Helen born around 1888, and a son Anton born around 1897. Rudolph Jr. married late and never had any children. I didn't find out what happened to Helen and the youngest Son, Anton F. von Bernuth, also married late, but did have two children, Rudolph and Marietta, before unexpectedly dying at age 50. Both Rudolph Jr. and Anton studied law at Columbia and were practicing lawyers. Anton was also a top tennis player and was a leading figure in U.S. Tennis.

There is currently a Rudolph "Rudy" von Bernuth, who has worked at the highest levels of several international NGOs such as CARE, and Save The Children U.S.A.  I suspect this is the son of Anton F. von Bernuth, as he is about the right age and has the right name, but I didn't find any proof of this.

If the original recipe for Boker's bitters still exists anywhere, it probably is in the hands of the von Bernuth family, I guess the Boker family would also be a possibility, but less likely, as they ceased to have any role in the business after 1860.

Edited by evo-lution (log)

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Here's some random info I've uncovered about the history of Bokers's that I can't really include in the document I'm putting together so thought I'd share it here anyway...

From the info I've come across, Boker's Bitters were first produced in 1828 by John G. and Emily Boker. John G. Boker died on March 3rd 1860, the same year that ownership passed to Louis Funke. It appears that production ceased round about the time that Funke passed away...

Regarding the will of John G Boker, the following was published in the NY Times on 13th March 1860 - http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html...FB566838B679FDE

WILL OF JOHN G. BOKER

Mr Boker's name will be well remembered in connexion with the circumstances attending the marriage of his daughter "Mary Ann" to John Dean, a couple of years since.  By his will as originally drawn, he left his whole property , understood to be of quite large value, to his widow for life; and to his four children after her death. But, by a codicil, he disinherits his son Walter, and his daughter Mary Ann.

The following piece was an extract from an obituary for Col. Charles S. Spencer, printed in the New York Times on August 12th 1887, and follows on to describe the reasons why John G. Boker disowned his daughter.

The case which first brought the Colonel prominently before the public was the celebrated and romantic one of "John Dean and his own Mary Ann" which reached even the dignity of being the subject of a comic song.  John Dean was at the time,about 30 years ago, the coachman of John G. Boker, described then as "a respected and thrifty liquor dealer."  Mr Boker had a daughter, Marianna Petronella, who became the idol of John Dean, reciprocated his affection, and married him secretly.  Mr Boker arrested Dean on charge of abduction, and locked up the wayward daughter.  Col Spencer championed the young coachman successfully, and by a writ of habeas corpus forced the father to give up his Mary.

The following describes the day John G. Boker's country seat was sold shortly after his death. It was printed in the New York Times on June 2nd, 1860

SALE AT TARRYTOWN OF THE COUNTRY SEAT OF THE LATE JOHN G. BOKER.--The country seat of the late JOHN G. BOKER--prominently known to the public by his ownership of the Art Union Gallery, and disowning his daughter MARY ANN, who married JOHN DEAN' his coachman--situated a short distance above Tarrytown, on the Hudson River, was yesterday sold at auction, From Commodore PERRY, who formerly resided there, Mr. Boker purchased the place.  It comprises 94 acres of land, well wooded and diversified with meadows, lawns, gardens and fishing ponds.  The mansion is built of stone, in the gothic style, with towers, porticoes , and bay-windows.  The Hudson River railroad cars were loaded with leading Metropolitan merchants and capitalists, who attended the sale, the former anxious to secure a splendid rural residence for their families, and the latter mover thither by the spirit of speculation.  A good number of metropolitan Mrs. Toodles were likewise on the ground, the seductive fascinations of a possible good bargain drawing them as surely there as the needle is attracted to the magnet.  The magnet in their case was the cataloguing for sale of the entire household furniture, from the carpets, statuettes and carved rosewood sofas of the parlor to the straw mattress in the "coachmans room."  The house and land were sold first, Mr Henry H. Leeds being the auctioneer.  The bidding was spirited, jumping at first several thousand dollars a bid, and gradually lessening, till the two were knocked down for $91,000.  For the furniture, there prevailed strong competition, many articles selling for twice their value.  Altogether the sale resulted much better than was anticipated, and, with the jokes of Mr Leeds and a collation given to purchasers, afforded a pleasant visit to the hosts who went there.

The house mentioned in this piece was called 'The Moorings', and Commodore Perry's full name was Matthew Calbraith Perry. The neighbours to this home included Washington Irving (Sleepy Hollow author) who died in 1859...

Another random piece that I came across in the New York Times (printed on July 29th 1889), regards a play called 'Boker's Bitters'. I've not seen this mentioned anywhere before so am intrigued to know if anyone knows anything about it?

"Boker's Bitters" is the name of a musical comedy by Harry Hamlin and Paul Potter: It professes to follow the fortunes of a strolling vendor of patent medicines, and aims at combining humor and pathos.  It will be seen in Chicago early in the season.

Slowly but surely I'm piecing together a bit more about the history of Boker's...

Edited by evo-lution (log)

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Philip Duff kindly forwarded the following drink that was created by Door 74's head bartender

Hocus Boker's

1 shot Appleton VX

1 shot Talisman blended scotch

3 dashes Boker's bitters

3/4 shot lemon juice

1/2 shot mandarin napoleon

1/2 shot apricot liquer

Shake and fine strain in a coupe. Garnish with a dried apricot

I've not yet had the opportunity to try it so thought I'd share it here...

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Made Jeff Morgenthaler's Norwegian Wood using the Boker's and a bottle of 30+ year old yellow Chartreuse -- most excellent.

The Norwegian Wood sounds pretty good, will need to try this out.

Mostly been messing around with the Boker's using Sake and Shochu at the moment with some really good results. I'm on to something with a combination of Bols Genever, Uragasumi Junmai, Boker's, a touch of sugar syrup and citrus zest but I've not quite got a perfect ratio as yet...

Got a couple more batches of Boker's on the way just now. I intend to keep some aside to conduct a barrel-ageing experiment although I've been getting some great feedback from those who have bottles from the second batch. Martinez and Japanese Cocktails are particular favourites from many it'd appear.

Forrest Cokely added a couple of interesting drinks on his brilliant write-up about the Boker's - http://adrinkwithforrest.blogspot.com/2009/09/bokers-bitters.html

2.jpg

Slow Travel. . .

2.5 Oz Cerbois XO Armagnac

1 Oz Tuaca

Stir until well chilled, Strain into glass.

Lemon zest twisted to express the oil (Rub rim of glass)

3-4 Drops Boker's

3612948776_3197e67d60.jpg

Rum-a-diddle

1.5 Amber Rum (i used Columbus)

2 Teaspoons Passion Fruit Liqueur (i used TMD)

2 Teaspoons Canton Ginger Liqueur

1 Teaspoons Orgeat ( i used Ferrara Orzata)

.75-1 Oz Goslings 151 (or just any Dark Rum)

4-5 Drops of Boker's

Edited by evo-lution (log)

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I'm also interested. Have you tried them in a Manhattan? With maybe Evan Willaims 1783 Bourbon?

I've tried them in a Manhattan, but not using that particular Bourbon as such unfortunately. Can't decide if I prefer the use of Rye (I used Pikesville) over Bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace) in my Boker's Manhattan...

Which reminds me, I really need to get my hands on some more Rye...

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I'm on to something with a combination of Bols Genever, Uragasumi Junmai, Boker's, a touch of sugar syrup and citrus zest but I've not quite got a perfect ratio as yet...

Finally hit a ratio that really works;

Nagasaki (click for the Dutch-Japanese link to the name)

50ml Uragasumi Junmai Sake

25ml Bols Genever

2 Dashes Boker's Bitters

2 Dashes Sugar Syrup (2-1)

Method: Add all ingredients to mixing glass, fill with cubed ice and stir for 10-15 seconds

Glass: Chilled coupette

Garnish: Lemon zest

Ice: N/A

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Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a descendant of the Boker's family. I had originally contacted him after a little detective work... He believes his grandfather was the last person to manage the company before it went under when Prohibition destroyed the business and has kindly offered to assist me in my quest to get to the bottom of the history of Boker's.

What I've uncovered thus far and I'm 99.9% sure of is;

Boker's was first manufactured in 1828 by John G. Boker

John G. Boker ran the business until January 1853 with his brother E. Boker (not as I'd originally believed his wife Emily).

E. Boker died in 1853 and the company was then run by John G. and his son J. Boker.

'Boker's Stomach Bitters' was trademarked in 1853

On the 29th February 1860 John G. Boker sold the business to Louis Funke

John G. Boker died on March 3rd 1860...

I'm hoping to have my timeline/document completed in the very near future once I'm verified all my findings.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Quick update regarding Boker's Bitters...

New webpage - http://bokersbitters.co.uk/

My mate (and designer) Christian put this together without me knowing anything about it. It's still a work in progress as there's new content to go up and elements of the site to be tweaked, but you'll get the idea where we're going with it. I'll let you know as and when it's finished.

At the moment we're looking to update the Boker's map and add a links page so it would be appreciated if anyone who has gotten their hands on a bottle/s can tell me* where they can be found as we wish to compile a list of bars around the World that stock Boker's. It would also be appreciated if any bars/companies/blogs could forward* their logos for inclusion on the links page that we'll be adding.

Any blogs/reviews/etc. should also be forwarded. Any pictures/menus will be included where possible, for example Hayden lambert's menu from his guest bartending spot at Le Lion or Door 74's Autumn/Winter Menu

I will also be adding as many recipes as I can to the site so if anyone has any drinks they've created or drinks that they believe should be included please forward the recipe and any/all relevant info (who created it, the date it was created, etc.). Full accreditation will be given on the webpage in every case, where possible.

New products (which I'm working on at the moment) will be released through the webpage. I am working on a bitters just now that is traditionally British but entirely unique.

The website will also be used as a resource for my own recipes which bars/bartenders can make themselves (this won't just be bitters). You'll notice a bottle of Falernum on the webpage, this may be available to buy in the near future, if not I'll be releasing the recipe (I'll be starting a separate thread about this). Watch this space....

*Forward any details/recipes/etc. to adam.elmegirab@evo-lution.org

Sláinte!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Some original Boker's drinks recipes...

Erin’s Delight #2

40ml Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength

10ml White Crème de Cacao

30ml Fresh lime juice

5ml Sugar syrup

Pinch fresh coriander

1 Dash Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters

Method: Lightly press coriander in base of mixing glass, add all other ingredients, fill with cubed ice and shake hard for ten seconds.

Glass: Chilled cocktail glass

Garnish: Lime wedge

Ice: N/A

Notes: Created by Hayden Scott Lambert for a Martin Miller’s competition and named after his Northern Irish wife who taught Hayden how to truly appreciate gin. As featured on Hayden's drinks menu for his guest spot at Le Bon Lion in Hamburg.

Auld Skool

37.5ml Cognac

12.5ml Combier orange

12.5ml Dry sherry

1 Dash Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters

Method: Add all ingredients to mixing glass, fill with cubed ice and stir for 15-20 seconds.

Glass: Brandy snifter

Garnish: Lemon twist

Ice: N/A

Notes: Created by Brian Macgregor for the 2009 winter drinks menu at Jardiniere in San Francisco.

Delegation Cocktail

64c8e64040.jpg

50ml Remy Martin VSOP

3 Barspoons chestnut cream

30ml Fresh lemon juice

3 Dashes Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Bokers Bitters

Half a fresh egg white

Method: Add all ingredients to mixing glass and dry shake for 5 seconds. Fill mixing glass with cubed ice and shake hard for a further 10 seconds. Fine strain.

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Roughly cracked cassia and cardamom

Ice: N/A

Notes: Created by Jason Williams of The Galley Room in Melbourne. The drink was influenced by Jerry Thomas' Japanese Cocktail and recently secured Jason third place at the Australian Bartender Awards.

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Delegation Cocktail

50ml Remy Martin VSOP

3 Barspoons chestnut cream

30ml Fresh lemon juice

3 Dashes Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Bokers Bitters

Half a fresh egg white

With the reference to the Japanese, I assume the chestnut cream is an orgeat analogue?

 

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That last drink is ridiculously pretty. I'm going to have to make a trip to The Gallery Room.

edit: I couldn't find any info on the Gallery Room so searched for Jason Williams and he actually works at the Blue Diamond.

It is a really good looking drink!

Regarding Jason, he currently works at Blue Diamond however he's leaving to set-up a new bar called The Galley Room.

With the reference to the Japanese, I assume the chestnut cream is an orgeat analogue?

I'll find out for sure, but it may be something like this...

Edited by evo-lution (log)

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Was kindly forwarded another Boker's recipe by Michael Edmonds, of Blue Diamond and Sligo in Melbourne, which he created for the recent Australian Bartender of the Year awards.

306934087c.jpg

Christmas Cake Scaffa

60ml Remy Martin VSOP

20ml Romate Oloroso sherry

1 Barspoon of Agave (uncut) Partida

4 Dashes Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters

1 Lemon peel

Method: Add all ingredients to a wine decanter and swill until the flavours marry

Glass: Stemmed

Garnish: Lemon peel (snap and discard)

Ice: N/A

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