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ThinkingBartender

Bitters in the Whiskey Sour: The Origin?

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Is this the earliest occurence of Bitters in a Whiskey Sour? A publication published by Angostura themselves, it must be added.

Trinidad Professional Mixing Guide, 1949.

Whisky Sour.

3 generous dashes ANGOSTURA aromatic bitters, 1 1/2 oz. Rye or Bourbon Whisky, 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice, 1 teaspoonful fine granulated Sugar. Frappe and strain into Delmonico glass prepared with a slice of Orange and a Cherry.

Are there earlier references for Angostura Bitters in a Whiskey Sour?

Cheers!

George Sinclair

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As far as I know, it's a suggestion David Embury makes in "Fine Art of Mixing Drinks". I don't have the 1948 one, so someone would have to confirm it it's already in the first edition.

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For what its worth, the Forst Park hotel in Platres,Cyprus was serving a Cyprus Brandy Sour which included bitters in the early 1930's. The bitters used at the time were the locally produced "Cock Drops" (" the heart of a good cocktail" according to the label !), although Angostura is now widely used.

"Cock Drops" are still in production , although they have recently been re-branded as "Magusta Magic Bitters"

gethin

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You'd have to assume that someone had done it before then if you consider that the Crusta (essentially a Sour with the addition of bitters, Curacao and sugar rim) was around in the mid 1800s.

I can't get my head round the fact that if the 'Bittered Sour' was created in the 1900s it would've taken 100+ years for someone to add lemon juice to the cock-tail...


Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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You'd have to assume that someone had done it before then if you consider that the Crusta (essentially a Sour with the addition of bitters, Curacao and sugar rim) was around in the mid 1800s.

I can't get my head round the fact that if the 'Bittered Sour' was created in the 1900s it would've taken 100+ years for someone to add lemon juice to the cock-tail...

Jerry Thomas clearly views the Crusta as derived from the Cock-tail though, not as a sour.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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You'd have to assume that someone had done it before then if you consider that the Crusta (essentially a Sour with the addition of bitters, Curacao and sugar rim) was around in the mid 1800s.

I can't get my head round the fact that if the 'Bittered Sour' was created in the 1900s it would've taken 100+ years for someone to add lemon juice to the cock-tail...

Jerry Thomas clearly views the Crusta as derived from the Cock-tail though, not as a sour.

I'm more than aware of the correlation, especially when it comes to Jerry Thomas :smile: , but the point I was making is that the only difference between a sour (with bitters - i.e the drink in question) and a cock-tail is the addition of lemon juice.

It's really hard for me to believe that it took over 100 years for someone to add lemon juice to a cocktail, even more so when you consider the crusta essentially fills the gap between the two drinks.


Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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You'd have to assume that someone had done it before then if you consider that the Crusta (essentially a Sour with the addition of bitters, Curacao and sugar rim) was around in the mid 1800s.

I can't get my head round the fact that if the 'Bittered Sour' was created in the 1900s it would've taken 100+ years for someone to add lemon juice to the cock-tail...

Jerry Thomas clearly views the Crusta as derived from the Cock-tail though, not as a sour.

I'm more than aware of the correlation, especially when it comes to Jerry Thomas :smile: , but the point I was making is that the only difference between a sour (with bitters - i.e the drink in question) and a cock-tail is the addition of lemon juice.

It's really hard for me to believe that it took over 100 years for someone to add lemon juice to a cocktail, even more so when you consider the crusta essentially fills the gap between the two drinks.

Except when you consider that right up to the turn of the century at least, a cocktail had bitters by definition, and so adding them to a punch-derived beverage would be more counterintuitive in the contemporary zeitgeist than our hindsight might suggest. My research is far from comprehensive but recipes containing both bitters and citrus enough to create any impression of acid on the palate do not seem to appear til around WW1 at the earliest. Even the Pegu Club, my vote for spiritual descendant of the Crusta, has only a tsp of juice in it's earliest known recipe (and its Roses! iirc).

I just think it's counterproductive to project our own experiences and preferences onto our predecessors...the wheel seems obvious now, but was a huge innovation when it appeared.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Except when you consider that right up to the turn of the century at least, a cocktail had bitters by definition

Again, I'm aware of the definition, as I alluded to in my last post. The four drinks in question (Cock-tail, Crusta, Sour and Bittered Sour) are too closely related for me to accept that there was 100+ years between a Whisk(e)y Crusta and a Bittered Sour.

I'm looking at it in the way that a bartender would see the similarities between a Crusta and Sour and add some bitters to their Sour. It may well be the case that this wasn't done but I can't really comprehend that it was.

I just think it's counterproductive to project our own experiences and preferences onto our predecessors...the wheel seems obvious now, but was a huge innovation when it appeared.

I don't agree that it's counterproductive in the slightest as there was a drink containing whisk(e)y, lemon juice and bitters in existence (albeit it also contained curacao).


Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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I just think it's counterproductive to project our own experiences and preferences onto our predecessors...the wheel seems obvious now, but was a huge innovation when it appeared.

I don't agree that it's counterproductive in the slightest as there was a drink containing whisk(e)y, lemon juice and bitters in existence (albeit it also contained curacao).

Except that is wasn't a sour (citrus is the primary accent), it was a cocktail (bitters are the primary accent). In a day where a Crown and Coke is considered by many a "cocktail" it is important to remember that the term once had a very strict definition (which we all know, of course--I have not been trying to imply any ignorance on anyone's part) and there does not seem to have been a lot of crossover, at least until the turn of the 20th century.

Is there any documentation of a pre-prohibition whiskey sour with bitters (excepting the Crusta)? For that matter, was the Crusta even a popular drink in the post Civil War era, or was it just a favorite of JT?

I am not saying it is impossible, I'm just saying that as a historian by education, I think it is dangerous to say that you "must assume" that something was done simply because the means existed unless you have documentation. It would be akin to saying that there must have been steam-powered industry in Ancient Rome since they knew how to work iron and boil water, and were accomplished engineers.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Except that is wasn't a sour (citrus is the primary accent), it was a cocktail (bitters are the primary accent). In a day where a Crown and Coke is considered by many a "cocktail" it is important to remember that the term once had a very strict definition (which we all know, of course--I have not been trying to imply any ignorance on anyone's part) and there does not seem to have been a lot of crossover, at least until the turn of the 20th century.

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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I see the analogy with steam-power but don't think it directly correlates as that's an advancement in technology whereas we're talking about a bartender adding some lemon juice to a whiskey cock-tail (which was being done with the Whiskey Crusta, albeit it had extra components as mentioned before).

It's not a perfect analogy but I think it conveys the idea, though we are discussing an advancement of art rather than technology. Maybe more to the point would be to ask why the bittered sour couldn't go back to the early 18th century? Both Punch and Stroughton's were popular beverages at the time. But no one is suggesting that--we are all in basic agreement that the combination of citrus, bitters, and liquor in any form was popularized no earlier than the 1850s. Someone had to make an innovation. Why is it then such a stretch once we have accepted all of this to accept that an actual sour with bitters (as opposed to citrus-accented cock-tail) would be another innovation that had to be made? Obvious connections often only seem so in hindsight. All that said though, you may be on to something: without some documentation though we can't say with any sort of certainty. What we do have documentation of though is a preponderance of recipes for Sours that do not include any bitters. From this I would conclude that at best, the bittered Sour was exceedingly uncommon in the pre-prohibition era, if not alltogether unheard-of.

If only they knew what they'd been missing though--I'm particularly a fan of the way Anvil in Houston does theirs: Buffalo Trace Sour with an eggwhite and a misting of Angostura from an aerosol can over the top. Marvellous.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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if you increase the extract in a sour you change the "sweet-tart" perception thus making the drink more accessible to those that are acid averse. dasher bottle bitters are the best way to increase extract. cultures that aren't dry wine orientated seem to be acid averse. if the country was becoming a melting pot of people with different food ways a well extracted sour might have met everyone in the middle.


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Extract?

extract is synonymous with essential oils. subtract ethanol, subtract sugar, subtract acid. its molecular junk. but awesome molecular junk. sometimes extract can be too high and become really in-elegant. but in cocktails and the realm of acquired tastes flaws often also become features so there aren't many rules...

extract is also really important to tonality. sometimes we get this really watery orange juice or maybe lame pomegranite juice when you press fresh fruit. its watery which dilutes the extract. kinda boring. you can use methods to concentrate the extract to make a blend consistent with our expectations. this is what oj bottlers do.

when i make an orange liqueur and i want to determine how many peels i want to put in to become comparable to cointreau or to clement's creole shrubb, i try to match their extract. sugar and alcohol are easy to determine via hydrometers but extract without lab tools is tough and takes blind tasting panels. quite a pain to evaluate something intense and mono-flavored. most of our pimento drams are lame because we don't have the right extract.

dasher bottle bitters are not about being bitter. they are about the manipulation of bitter botanicals to create beautiful sets of extracts. unfortunately the law doesn't always understand this pursuit and recently makes producers create overly extracted (negative bitter!) bitter blends to be "unpotable" instead of simply being too high in molecular junk to be potable.

extract is very important to the "sweet-tart" phenomenon in drinks. if you harness it and engineer your drinks to be a certain way you can really hit the average of an entire room's tastes (polarized tastes!) and make lots of money.


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Interesting perspective. I think this is what makes the New York Sour--i.e., a Sour with a float of dry red wine--work so spectacularly.

As for bittered sours in general, I suggest looking into Donn Beach's drinks; he was an early bitters + sour guy. It's not a combination that turns up frequently before Prohibition, if at all outside, the narrow bounds of the Crusta. It's not even in the 1912 Angostura guide I have. I'll keep an eye out, though.


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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Another place to look is the Floridita; Constante used the bitters/sour combo. As did the great Albert Martin, one of the celebrity bartenders of the 1930s, at the Bon Ton in New Orleans to create his Rum Ramsey: 1 1/2 oz light rum, 1 teaspoon bourbon, juice 1/4 lime, 1/2 teaspoon bar sugar, 1 dash Peychaud's, shake, strain, up. This is a fun drink to play around with. Havana Club 3 and George T. Stagg are pretty cool, but I've also tried it with Philippine lambanog for the rum and a good rye (extremely fine, IMHO) and any number of other combos.


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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