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guajolote

All About Bitters (Part 1)

594 posts in this topic

Balma, I am not familiar with Dr. Field's medicinal Bitters. Please tell me more. I'm interested.

Not much I can tell you, I'm afraid - actually I only know them through the bottle, which is a distinctive shape and apparently somewhat collectible. Wait a minute... wait a minute... am I confusing Dr. Field with Dr. Fish? Oy, how embarrassing, I might be. If I am, please forget the whole thing...! Anyway, the bottle dates to early 20th century at least, and the good doctor's (whichever doctor he is, eek) name and likeness, along with the word "BITTERS," are embossed on the glass itself. Found one at a yard sale once, bought and cleaned it out well, and filled it with Mrs. Knot's as a gift to a friend who goes through the latter pretty quickly, using it in his own formulation of gin-and-bitters.

Fish...? Field...? Fish...? Field...?

Uh-oh.

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No problem, there. I think Fish is right. You are not alone. There is a rich history of mistranscription of bitters in the cocktail world too. First cocktail guide ever published, Jerry Thomas, 1862. When recipes called for aromatic bitters, the text cited Bogart's Bitters. People had been searching them out for years. Problem was, they never existed. It wasn't 'til the new typeset in the 3rd edition of 1887 was it altered to read, correctly, Boker's Bitters. If the Father of the Cocktail can make that mistake, you're in good company!

You folks ARE aware of Fee Bros. Orange Bitters are you not?

Fee Bros. 1-800-961-3337 Rochester, N.Y.

Their website is here.

Warning. Theirs is not as complex flavor-wise as the Baker bitters (or, dare I presume, the Mrs. Knot's Naked Cat Orange Bitters) but they are proudly orange, proudly bitter, and can be adjusted with ease as the basis of other formulae.

So between the availablity of Fees and the anticipation of Regan's, I'm pleased to say we don't live in a world that's gone totally mad.

Gravely, :laugh: --Doc.

Edited for clarity in the face of early morning groggies.

(and edited once more to make for a smooth transition to the new thread. Sorry Doc! -- JAZ)

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You know, when I was at my favorite spirits shop the other day, I saw that they had Fee Bros. mint bitters and peach bitters too. Anyone tried these?


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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I was the brain behind Fee's peach bitters. It was a history thing. There were about 30 cocktails calling for peach bitters not made since the 1930s, and Jack Fee and I were talking about it. It had always been his dream, too, to reintroduce them, but he had no formula. I just happened to have a vintage bottle of peach bitters which I unhesitatingly sent right to him. Analyze it! I said. He did, and now we again have peach bitters. Some folks don't like 'em, but I think they're the Bee's Knees.

Mint Bitters, I believe they have discontinued. They were especially compounded for julep-type drinks. It would have been sad to see them go if they weren't so gut-wrenchingly, gorge-risingly horrible. Hope I didn't put too fine a point on that.

--Doc.

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I was the brain behind Fee's peach bitters. It was a history thing. There were about 30 cocktails calling for peach bitters not made since the 1930s, and Jack Fee and I were talking about it. It had always been his dream, too, to reintroduce them, but he had no formula. I just happened to have a vintage bottle of peach bitters which I unhesitatingly sent right to him. Analyze it! I said. He did, and now we again have peach bitters. Some folks don't like 'em, but I think they're the Bee's Knees.

Mint Bitters, I believe they have discontinued. They were especially compounded for julep-type drinks. It would have been sad to see them go if they weren't so gut-wrenchingly, gorge-risingly horrible. Hope I didn't put too fine a point on that.

--Doc.

Well, then, I guess I'll pick up a bottle of the peach, but not the mint. Too bad; I had hopes for the mint.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Oh, g'wan. You need a bottle of mint bitters just to say you have them! You may be the first to make a palatable cocktail with them!

:laugh: --Doc.

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I was the brain behind Fee's peach bitters. It was a history thing. There were about 30 cocktails calling for peach bitters not made since the 1930s, and Jack Fee and I were talking about it. It had always been his dream, too, to reintroduce them, but he had no formula. I just happened to have a vintage bottle of peach bitters which I unhesitatingly sent right to him. Analyze it! I said. He did, and now we again have peach bitters. Some folks don't like 'em, but I think they're the Bee's Knees.

That is so cool! What a great story.

So where does one buy same? Remember, at the time of my original heartrending bitters quest (would have been just over 10 years ago, I think), there was nothing to be found ANYWHERE in these parts - except Angostura, of course, which you can get at any supermarket.

Peach Bitters! I can hardly wait.

EDIT to add: and thanks, JAZ, for breaking out the thread - very wise and efficient. I was concerned about getting so far OT, but just couldn't quite drop the subject.... :rolleyes:


Edited by balmagowry (log)

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Well, safest is to order it from them - unless you live in Los Angeles - in which case I can advise you, or NYC in which case I bet someone else can. Otherwise try Fee Bros. 1-800-961-3337 Rochester, N.Y. http://www.feebrothers.com/ In the interests of full disclosure, MY only problem with the peach bitters is lack of bitterness. I've heard from others that they seem more almondy than peachy... but I think they're PERFECTLY peachy! :biggrin:

Good Luck! --Doc.

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Well, safest is to order it from them - unless you live in Los Angeles - in which case I can advise you, or NYC in which case I bet someone else can. Otherwise try Fee Bros. 1-800-961-3337 Rochester, N.Y. http://www.feebrothers.com/ In the interests of full disclosure, MY only problem with the peach bitters is lack of bitterness. I've heard from others that they seem more almondy than peachy... but I think they're PERFECTLY peachy! :biggrin:

And besides, peach and almond are pretty much the same thing, as discussed in - oh no, that was via PM, wasn't it - anyway, as you probably already know, they and plums and apricots and cherries are all part of the prunus branch of the rose family. One big happy... yes, well, anyway. Actually, I am within easy reach of NYC - and so far as I know their site doesn't support on-line ordering. And what really got me going was when JAZ referred to happening to spot it at her local store....

So... anyone know where?

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Well, safest is to order it from them - unless you live in Los Angeles - in which case I can advise you, or NYC in which case I bet someone else can. Otherwise try Fee Bros. 1-800-961-3337 Rochester, N.Y. http://www.feebrothers.com/ In the interests of full disclosure, MY only problem with the peach bitters is lack of bitterness. I've heard from others that they seem more almondy than peachy... but I think they're PERFECTLY peachy! :biggrin:

And besides, peach and almond are pretty much the same thing, as discussed in - oh no, that was via PM, wasn't it - anyway, as you probably already know, they and plums and apricots and cherries are all part of the prunus branch of the rose family. One big happy... yes, well, anyway. Actually, I am within easy reach of NYC - and so far as I know their site doesn't support on-line ordering. And what really got me going was when JAZ referred to happening to spot it at her local store....

So... anyone know where?

If you call them they will tell you or do what I did and order by the case of small bottles and sell to friends. I'm known as the orange bitters guy because you could not get it in Calif. Now the local market has it so I guess I'm no longer in demand. We used it for Martinis.


Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I just got a box of yellow, thick skinned pnk grapefruit from my parents in Arizona. the skins are really thick; i was thinking about tossing a bunch of pith and zest in a bottle of vodka before this thread popped up. Could i make Grapefruit bitters? Should i make grapefruit bitters? These fruit are really good but their pith is incredibly bitter (probably from way too much sun)

mark


"The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom."

---John Stewart

my blog

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Zest but never the pith. Let us know how it turns out. Try a lemoncello recipe.

http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blr0321.htm


Edited by winesonoma (log)

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I dunno...seems to me that a bit of the pith would, if anything increase the bitterness, and since bitters are what we are discussing...

Trick is to make the FLAVOR of an equal footing with the bitterness - and something you can see benefiting, in dashes, an aperitif or a cocktail. I'd think about some small additions of bolstering ingredients to fill out the flavor. Still grapefruity, but perhaps a bit richer.

Mint, anis, coriander, orange oil, lemon balm, ginger all have been used as background flavors in bitters. Lemon balm sounds pretty good, and to control the bitterness, perhaps burnt sugar, molasses or invert sugar? You could even do the infusion in rum or brandy for a rounder flavor.

Mmmm. Sounding better all the time!

--Doc.

Edit for spelllink


Edited by drcocktail (log)

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okay... zest, little or no pith. got it.

i don't know how big limoncellos are, but 15? how much peel do i need to do 1/2 batch? i was planning to do my favorite cheap vodka- monopolowa, will that do? (remember i'm still in college, tho i just turned 21, so i can do this all legally, at last, but not expensively)

my roommate has some fine homemade tennessee sorghum molasses...

this sounds like a great idea.

i can't wait to try my new manhattans:

Pappy van winkle 12yr lot B

homemade grapefruit bitters

preserved Rainier cherries in syrup (homemade too, but not my home)

sweet vermouth....

holy jeezus... this is gonna be fun.

mark


"The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom."

---John Stewart

my blog

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I am laughing! No, limoncello is something that guy wanted you to MAKE. He wasn't paying attention to the title of the thread. (Unlike ME who always...er, nevermind).

Anyway, USE some pith. You WANT bitter!

Sure, use that raw and wonderful potato vodka! The molasses you mention will probably have a few members here knocking upon your door too. :rolleyes: But do this: go to the grocery store and buy some of at least one of the booster ingredients because, you may get bitter, but you may wonder why you messed with it unless you civilize it with some balancing flavor!

--Doc.

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Not to worry! The pith-only maceration really works!

I had the same thought, and currently have lemon pith

soaking in vodka in my fridge; no rind, only pith.

It's been macerating now for about a month, and

I've got to say that it tastes absolutely delicious!

Go for it!

Audrey

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I dunno...seems to me that a bit of the pith would, if anything increase the bitterness, and since bitters are what we are discussing...

Funny, I was thinking much the same, a propos of the relative lack of bitterness in the Baker recipe. Course orange pith is a lot less bitter than grapefruit pith, and there's proportionally less of it, so I'm not sure how much difference it would make with orange (in fact, as it is, I'm already using most of the pith - I always figured that was what made it as bitter as it is). Unless one had Seville oranges, where the fruit itself is bitter. Maybe a little artemisia? Rue, perhaps? That's bitter as all hell, and I have all too much of it growing.

With rue my yard is laden....

Mint, anis, coriander, orange oil, lemon balm, ginger all have been used as background flavors in bitters. Lemon balm sounds pretty good, and to control the bitterness, perhaps burnt sugar, molasses or invert sugar? You could even do the infusion in rum or brandy for a rounder flavor.

Hang on a sec there, Doc. Burnt sugar? burnt sugar to affect flavor? Last I looked, burnt sugar doesn't taste of anything, to speak of. I use it for color - for darkening gravy - and orange bitters too, of course.

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It's a big lie. NOTHING doesn't affect flavor. Taste the burnt sugar by itself. Pretty wonderful, eh? Great to tame bitters. "They" add caramel coloring to Cognac. No one will tell ME no flavor shift results! (Hey, maybe a GOOD one!)

That said, the section about the burnt sugar was not about flavor -- it was about controling the bitterness, get it? But it all works part-in-parcel!

I'm a fan of pith AND skin maceration because I'd add the oils in later even if I WAS only using pith! I'm a MAJOR sucker for using orange oils in almost everything. If you can taste it, I added too much, if not it's like heavily restrained vanilla -- it has a fleshing out action that tends to render 2d flavors in 3d.

--Doc.


Edited by drcocktail (log)

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It's a big lie. NOTHING doesn't affect flavor. Taste the burnt sugar by itself. Pretty wonderful, eh? Great to tame bitters. "They" add caramel coloring to Cognac. No one will tell ME no flavor shift results! (Hey, maybe a GOOD one!)

I guess it depends on the degree of burntness. (First-degree burn?) Caramel is one thing, burnt sugar quite another. When I said it didn't taste of anything, it wasn't because I'd read something to that effect; it was because, having read something to that effect and not believed it, I tasted my burnt sugar once I'd made it, and sure enough it didn't taste of anything much. Didn't taste anything like caramel, that's for sure. If anything, it has a hint of bitterness in itself, which is one reason I couldn't quite grasp the idea of it controlling bitterness. :huh:

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Drinkboy, I see you lurking! YOU are the king of burnt sugar in bitters in MY book. Why and how do they work for you?

--Doc.

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Doc, I wasn't lurking, just felt that you had the conversation well in hand, and didn't see that there was anything specific to add :->

If you fully -burn- the sugars you don't end up with anything even remotely useable. However when we refer to burnt sugar culinarily, we are actually talking about carmelized sugar, similar to the "burnt sugar" topping of a creme brule.

I use carmelized sugar as the final stage in making bitters. Actually, once I carmelize the sugar, I turn this into a simple syrup by dissolving it in water (thats a lot of fun when the sugar is still hot :-) and then mix that with the tincture of herbs, spices, and flavorings that is the base for my bitters.

You could just use simple syrup, but the carmelization allows the sweetenting to be a rounder flavor with more depth then just simple syrup by itself. In fact I usually keep some straight carmelized simple syrup also on hand for adding just a little more interesting flavor to some drinks that I might otherwise use simple syrup, or sometimes even drinks that don't normally call for it. The sidecar for instance has nice flavor profile when just slightly enhanced with carmelized simple syrup.

-Robert

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That's what I meant! (See? It just takes an articulate sorta guy to say what I mean!)

Thanks Robert!

--Doc.

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Hmmmm... full dark caramelized simple syrup might be interesting to use in place of regular simple syrup for some drinks. Thanks for the idea.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Speaking of peach bitters...

As Doc said, there are a limited number of classic recipes that use this. But that doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to that.

I like using them as a "garnish" on a Bellini. Once the drink is fully made, just add a dash to the top, and they provide a nice ofactory note that enhances the drink. (I'll assume of course you are making a "real" bellini, with just champagne and peach puree).

I've also come up with a few recipes of my own that were specifically designed to make use of peach bitters which I happen to be quite proud of.

Trident

Gotham

Renaissance

All of which you can get to from this page on my site:

http://www.drinkboy.com/LiquorCabinet/Flav...achBitters.html

The "Trident" is in itself an interesting cocktail since all of the ingredients it uses are ones that are often hard to find in a bar. Dry Sherry is probably it's most common ingredient, but Aquavit can be a little scarce, and Cynar is extremely rare to fine, rarer to find it actually being "used". And peach bitters of course is so rare that I have to bring some along with me if I have any hope of getting a drink with it.

At the Zig Zag Cafe here in Seattle, they have the Trident on their cocktail menu, and serve so many of them that the manager of one of the liquor stores dropped in one day just to find out what the heck they were doing with Cynar that would make the Zig Zag go through more Cynar then all of the other bars in Washington State combined :->

-Robert

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Oh man, we cocktail nuts are DEEP into the sweetening choices. Besides white sugar and simple syrup I also have on hand turbinado sugar, gum syrup (with gum arabic as an emulsifier) Lyle's Golden Syrup (an invert sugar) Black Treacle, Honey, a BIG ole tub of molasses. Robert, anyone - in 'cooking' sugar, have you experimented between white and brown? Just curious.

--Doc.

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