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All About Bitters (Part 2)


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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.

I have tried. As far as I can tell, you have not. If you have, there's $100 in it for you if you're willing to try again and you are right.

PS: I am a guy.

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. . . ., 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. . . .

It sounds as though alcohol extracts something that is fairly unpalatable: In ganache, the scent was distinct, but I noticed no added bitterness, so I'm guessing that the fat extracted/carried flavour far less efficiently than it did aroma (a bit in the way that an enfleurage does in perfumery). How do small quantities of fluid lipids mix in drinks? Are there any bitters that are at least partly oil-based?

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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however there's an obvious flaw in what's happening, burning tobacco and cold-compounded tobacco are two wildly different beasts.

I wonder if anyone's tried to distill tobacco smoke into liquid smoke the same way they do with hickory? Alternatively, on the food side of things, if anyone's tried tobacco instead of tea for tea-smoked style foods. Both seem like potential ways to get burnt tobacco flavor into things.

edit: also, if doing a flaming float of high proof, tobacco infused liqueur would bring out some of the toasted notes.

Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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I have tried. As far as I can tell, you have not. If you have, there's $100 in it for you if you're willing to try again and you are right.

I haven't? That's interesting. :rolleyes:

Are there any bitters that are at least partly oil-based?

Are you speaking of oils in this regard - http://www.baldwins.co.uk/Essential-Oils/Essential-Oils/344 - ?

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Are there any bitters that are at least partly oil-based?

Are you speaking of oils in this regard - http://www.baldwins.co.uk/Essential-Oils/Essential-Oils/344 - ?

I was thinking of something (branded or not) that was a recognized bitter used in drinks (even something that was once often used, but may have fallen out of fashion). Anything like that exist? I'm familiar with essential oils, since fragrances are another area of interest for me, but most aren't safe for consumption, even if the raw ingredient itself is not necessarily toxic, as extraction methods for perfumery/aromatherapy only need to be safe for dilute application to the skin.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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Are there any bitters that are at least partly oil-based?

Commercial? No idea. Is it possible? Absolutely. Our liqueurs use citrus oils, for example; I see no reason why one couldn't take the same macerations we use and simply dilute with water rather than redistilling/filtering/sweetening.

The more straightforward thing to do (if it is in fact the case that tobacco has different and more desirable fat-soluble compounds than alcohol-soluble ones) is to infuse into fat, drop the "tobacco oil" into a separatory funnel with some booze, let it fat-wash, and then titrate/strain out. Note: Iam not recommending that you make tobacco infusions! Just an idea.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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I was thinking of something (branded or not) that was a recognized bitter used in drinks (even something that was once often used, but may have fallen out of fashion).

Sorry, I think my link confused you. I wasn't clear if you were talking about oils in that regard.

There are a number of essential oils that are safe for consumption that could theoretically be used in bitters for example. There are a great number of bitters (and liqueur) recipes calling for oils of this type.

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There are a number of essential oils that are safe for consumption that could theoretically be used in bitters for example. There are a great number of bitters (and liqueur) recipes calling for oils of this type.

I also meant to add, there are commercially available bitters brands that use essential oils in their recipes.

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There are a number of essential oils that are safe for consumption that could theoretically be used in bitters for example. There are a great number of bitters (and liqueur) recipes calling for oils of this type.

I also meant to add, there are commercially available bitters brands that use essential oils in their recipes.

Thanks, that was exactly what I wanted to know!

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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  • 1 month later...

fellow bitters makers: a question, or rather a recurrent situation which, if properly solved will help me (and i would imagine others) understand something which presently confounds me:

i'm attempting a peychaud's substitute (among other things), we'll use this as our example- here's my first attempt:

20.75g caraway

20 anise

20 fennel

20 hibiscus

15 coriander

15.55 lemon peel (good amount of pith)

15 orange (good amount of pith)

2.9 gentian

3.1 nutmeg

.8 white cardamom seeds (no husk)

no added sugar

this mixture was steeped in an 80%abv (500ml 96% + 100ml water) solution of ethanol and water for 2 weeks. the solids were strained/squeezed (425ml of 80% menstruum set aside) and simmered in 800ml water for 10 mins, then steeped for an additional week. this is a standard method with which i'm sure you're all familiar.

after the week of water/solids steeping, i combined 425ml of 80% menstruum with 255ml of tisane (this would result in a solution of 50%abv). this mixture was shaken to combine and left undisturbed for 5 days. as is typical, a large gelatinous floating layer arose. the jar was placed in a freezer for several hours and then filtered through double cheesecloth. the resulting liquid measures 530ml, is crystal clear, and the desired shade of rose.

i assume that the gelatinous layer are oils and perhaps pectin that have precipitated out of solution--

my question is: out of which liquid have they emerged? the answer is probably both, but is there a bias? has more oil/pectin come out of the water solution or the alcohol solution?

the piece of information i'm trying to nail down is, what is the %abv of this 530ml resulting liquid?

if i assume that all the gelatinous material precipitated from the water, the math is easy-- 425ml @ 80% + 105ml water @ 0% = .64%abv

if it's all from the alcohol then- 295ml @ 80% + 255ml @ 0% = 45%abv

if it's an even split, then the abv is hovering in the 50% range.

vinometers don't measure abv this high, and normal spirit alcohol meters are flummoxed by anything more than ethanol and water.

how do i determine the abv of these resulting solutions?

my nose and tongue tell me that the solution is at least 50%, but any additional information or experience that y'all could provide would be much appreciated.

cheers,

alex

p.s.- the resulting flavor is much too anise-heavy, i need to balance the anise and add more fruitiness (cherry or cranberry?) to get closer to peychaud's. and yes, i understand that the original is fine just the way it is, but i'm in istanbul and the likelihood that peychaud's will ever be imported to turkey is practically nil. hell- we don't even have angostura yet.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I saw a reference to a drink recipe that calls for "almond bitters". Apparently it's an old recipe (the person didn't share any information about the drink but referred to it as a "vintage cocktail"). Is this a type of bitters that existed at one time or is it more likely to refer to something like bitter almond extract? Again, I have no information about the drink itself but I am curious about what the almond bitters might have been.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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  • 2 weeks later...

fellow bitters makers: a question, or rather a recurrent situation which, if properly solved will help me (and i would imagine others) understand something which presently confounds me:

i'm attempting a peychaud's substitute (among other things), we'll use this as our example- here's my first attempt:

20.75g caraway

20 anise

20 fennel

20 hibiscus

15 coriander

15.55 lemon peel (good amount of pith)

15 orange (good amount of pith)

2.9 gentian

3.1 nutmeg

.8 white cardamom seeds (no husk)

no added sugar

this mixture was steeped in an 80%abv (500ml 96% + 100ml water) solution of ethanol and water for 2 weeks. the solids were strained/squeezed (425ml of 80% menstruum set aside) and simmered in 800ml water for 10 mins, then steeped for an additional week. this is a standard method with which i'm sure you're all familiar.

after the week of water/solids steeping, i combined 425ml of 80% menstruum with 255ml of tisane (this would result in a solution of 50%abv). this mixture was shaken to combine and left undisturbed for 5 days. as is typical, a large gelatinous floating layer arose. the jar was placed in a freezer for several hours and then filtered through double cheesecloth. the resulting liquid measures 530ml, is crystal clear, and the desired shade of rose.

i assume that the gelatinous layer are oils and perhaps pectin that have precipitated out of solution--

my question is: out of which liquid have they emerged? the answer is probably both, but is there a bias? has more oil/pectin come out of the water solution or the alcohol solution?

the piece of information i'm trying to nail down is, what is the %abv of this 530ml resulting liquid?

if i assume that all the gelatinous material precipitated from the water, the math is easy-- 425ml @ 80% + 105ml water @ 0% = .64%abv

if it's all from the alcohol then- 295ml @ 80% + 255ml @ 0% = 45%abv

if it's an even split, then the abv is hovering in the 50% range.

vinometers don't measure abv this high, and normal spirit alcohol meters are flummoxed by anything more than ethanol and water.

how do i determine the abv of these resulting solutions?

my nose and tongue tell me that the solution is at least 50%, but any additional information or experience that y'all could provide would be much appreciated.

cheers,

alex

p.s.- the resulting flavor is much too anise-heavy, i need to balance the anise and add more fruitiness (cherry or cranberry?) to get closer to peychaud's. and yes, i understand that the original is fine just the way it is, but i'm in istanbul and the likelihood that peychaud's will ever be imported to turkey is practically nil. hell- we don't even have angostura yet.

Alex, I'm not sure I understand the question: I think you're asking how much alcohol being trapped by the pectin mass when you strain the pectin out? I would guess the pectin would trap water and alcohol in roughly equal amounts, so your ABV should be roughly the same as it started out.

Kevin

I blog about science and cooking: www.sciencefare.org

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So I just finished reading all 31 pages of this thread. A few notes:

- There was a discussion upthread about the impact of a bitters' ABV on flavor.

Water is a highly polar solvent; alcohol is mostly polar, but with a non-polar tail, which means it is better at dissolving things like essential oils, which are non-polar. There are also many other compounds found in plant material, such as oleoresins, phenols, esters, and complex carbohydrates (such as pectin).

The ratio of water to ethanol used to extract flavors will impact the rate at which various compounds are extracted. Therefore, using differing ratios of alcohol to water will result in extracts that have slightly different flavor profiles, assuming the plant material is not completely extracted. (note, though, that that is an assumption I have not proven).

- There have also been discussions relating to whether bitters should be produced by combining individual tinctures/essences/extracts, or whether plant matter should be combined in a final recipe together with an extraction medium

Scientifically, the best way to make bitters would be to optimally extract each individual ingredient and then blend those extracts into the exact desired flavor profile.

However, I think the reason many bitters seem to turn out better when all the material is extracted together may be due how the extraction of a chemical from certain plant matter affects how much of a similar chemical is extracted from another.

For example: let's say you want to make bitters using cinnamon and cinchona (quinine). Let's pretend that each material has only two chemical components - (1) a floral note and (2) a bitter note. Extracted separately, you might get 30 units of floral and 30 units of bitter from cinnamon; ditto with the cinchona. Combined, though, the bitter units of the cinnamon might extract more quickly than the cinchona's bitter components, so the finished product looks something like

30 parts floral cinnamon

20 parts bitter cinnamon

30 parts floral cinchona

10 parts bitter cinchona

The result would be a bitters product that could never be produced by extracting ingredients individually.

I'd love to hear if any folks w/ chemistry backgrounds can verify my thoughts

-Kevin

I blog about science and cooking: www.sciencefare.org

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  • 1 month later...

I really like Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bokers Bitters. Has anyone tried San Francisco Bitters Company's Bokers Bitters? How do they compare?

I didn't know these guys existed until I looked them up just now. Judging by the botanical listing for their recipe they haven't done any research into the Boker's company and/or the original bottling. They've got things in there that weren't in the original.

They also make some strange claims regarding Khoosh Bitters ("a British proprietary tonic that was used in saloons along the Cocktail Route of San Francisco in the 1890s") considering they were never imported into the United States. We know of only two bottles of Khoosh in the World, and I have one of them, so I'm pretty sure they've never obtained a sample and/or the info required to produce a faithful reproduction.

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Well, I happen to be sitting here sipping a Manhattan made with Dr. Adam's Bokers

Glad to hear it. Ot of curiousity what ratio/ingredients did you use?

If you get the chance visit the recipe archive on my bitters webpage (see my signature below) for a host of vintage and original Boker's recipes, as well as drinks calling for the rest of my line.

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  • 7 months later...

So, out of the many (many, many, many) bitters on the market today, what are ones that people here consider essential, underrated, or particularly suited to certain tasks?

My impression from reading the many (many, etc) pages of this thread, as well as from my own use, is as follows:

Essential:

Angostura Aromatic & Orange
Peychaud's
Regan's Orange No. 6
Bittermens: the whole line, but especially Mole and Grapefruit
Dr. Adam: the whole line, but especially Boker's, Dandelion & Burdock, and Aprhodite

Not essential, but best in class/perfect for particular uses/beloved by some:

The Bitter Truth Celery, Creole, and Lemon
Bitters, Old Men Great in '28

Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla

Additionally, I'm a fan of Bittercube's Jamaican #1 bitters for imparting allspice aromatics to tiki and egg white drinks, but I wouldn't call them essential, especially if you already have allspice dram (I don't).

Am I missing any? Any exceptional products worth highlighting? Any that I or others should stay away from?

I'm not a fan of the Fee's products generally for reasons discussed at length upthread. I can see how they have their uses as flavorants, but too many of them strike me as overly artificial. That said, their Old Fashion/Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters are useful when you want to impart a heavy clove/cinnamon note.

Edited by Rafa (log)

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I think a great many of the bitters on the market today are horribly overrated.

As for underrated or insufficiently know, I would nominate Dutch's Colonial Bitters. It's a bitters that can be used in all the non-exotic contexts in which you might use Angostura, but without bringing all those island spices to the table.

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It may be too low a bar, but I'd say if I'll replace them before running out (or immediately thereafter), they must be pretty good. Most of the ones that meet that criteria are already on your list, though Bittercube's Orange & Bolivar, and Miracle Mile's Forbidden Bitters would be the latest that meet that standard for me.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

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Essential

Angostura Aromatic

Peychaud's

Regan's Orange No. 6

The Bitter Truth Orange

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Boker's

Bob's Abbott's

Not essential, but best in class/perfect for particular uses/beloved by some:

The Bitter Truth Celery, Grapefruit, Mole, Jerry Thomas

Elmegirab's Spanish and Christmas

Fee's Whisky Barrel and Peach

Dutch's Colonial

Mozart Chocolate

Chartreuse Elixir Vegetal

Probably others I'm forgetting. I will consult my collection at home.

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So, any opinions on Cocktail Kingdom's Wormwood bitters? I'm kind of curious.

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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