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All About Bitters (Part 1)

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It may be cloudy because the water interacts with the citrus oil, which creates a louche-like suspension.

Let it sit for about 2 weeks and it should clarify nicely.


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

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It may be cloudy because the water interacts with the citrus oil, which creates a louche-like suspension.

Let it sit for about 2 weeks and it should clarify nicely.

one of the vermouth's i make louches. its kinda wierd. i'd prefer it not, but i guess you just gotta hype the "devil's water" effect... voodoo... i like a crystal clear sexy drink... i need to learn more about what beer brewers do to fine and filter their products...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Certain spirits -- notably absinthe and pastis -- contain large amounts of dissolved oils that have good solubility only above a certain percent alcohol. When water is added to these spirits, it reduces the percent alcohol. Eventually the percent alcohol is reduced below the threshold of solubility, the oils precipitate out of solution and cause the liquid to go opaque. This precipitation and clouding as a result of a chance in percent alcohol is "louching."

bostonapothecary, unless your vermouth is so high in proof that it would no longer qualify as a "vermouth" -- I don't think it's possible that it louches. Perhaps you are thinking of a chill haze? Under what conditions do you typically observe this change from clear to cloudy?

Regardless, there is no amount of fining or filtering that can prevent a liquor from louching if this is what it does.


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Certain spirits -- notably absinthe and pastis -- contain large amounts of dissolved oils that have good solubility only above a certain percent alcohol.  When water is added to these spirits, it reduces the percent alcohol.  Eventually the percent alcohol is reduced below the threshold of solubility, the oils precipitate out of solution and cause the liquid to go opaque.  This precipitation and clouding as a result of a chance in percent alcohol is "louching."

bostonapothecary, unless your vermouth is so high in proof that it would no longer qualify as a "vermouth" -- I don't think it's possible that it louches.  Perhaps you are thinking of a chill haze?  Under what conditions do you typically observe this change from clear to cloudy?

Regardless, there is no amount of fining or filtering that can prevent a liquor from louching if this is what it does.

its 18% alcohol... but you might be totally right about it being chill haze. isn't chill haze what happens to ice tea when you put it in the fridge or it goes from hot to cold too fast? it seems to happen to our ice tea at work all the time. what exactly is happening?


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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its 18% alcohol... but you might be totally right about it being chill haze.  isn't chill haze what happens to ice tea when you put it in the fridge or it goes from hot to cold too fast? it seems to happen to our ice tea at work all the time.  what exactly is happening?

It's my understanding, that some of suspended/dissolved organic materials in tea (tannins and the like) are shocked out of suspension/solution when the temperature changes rapidly. Seems to happen more with certain kinds of tea, or strongly steeped tea. If you let tea come to room temperature on its own, then refrigerate, it usually won't cloud when iced.


---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Temperature can also affect solubility. Chill haze is caused by the precipitation of tannin and protein compounds at low temperature. These compounds can be filtered out without greatly effecting flavor, and most beers and whiskeys are "chill filtered." Unfiltered whiskeys (e.g., Booker's) throw a chill haze over ice.

I'm not sure whether or to what extent chill haze is affected by rapidity of chilling. In Eric's slowly cooled and then chilled iced tea example, it's possible that the slow, gentle cooling simply allows many of the haze particles to settle to the bottom of the pitcher.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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i need to learn more about what beer brewers do to fine and filter their products...

The thing is that the reason for clarification of a bitter and a beer are different. Most beer cloudiness is due to proteins. Because of this, isinglass, irish moss and even sawdust (aka "Beechwood Aging") help to bond the proteins together into larger clumps which are then filterable.

Slkinsey hit it on the head with the reasons for why bitters and other high alcohol/high oil mixes get cloudy - the oil moves out of solution and creates a pearlescent "louche". In this case, Buechner funnels, filtration, or any of the other beer techniques will not work to clarify the mix. In fact, a Buechner funnel's filtration paper might actually change the end product as it will absorb some of the suspended oils. In my opinion, just wait and eventually it will clarify itself.


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

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When my bitters was initially setting in the high-alcohol mixture, it wasn't cloudy. (In fact, it was a beautiful clear caramel color.) Then I boiled the solids and let that sit in the water which is when it developed an undesirable opacity. Finally mixing the two liquids it was still cloudy. That was a week ago and my bitters show virtually no sign of clarifying. I'm on vacation for a week, so I'll see what has happens when I come back.

So Avery, are you using the same method and seeing the bitters turn cloudy at the same point? And are you saying that the oils will eventually emulsify over time as opposed to settle to the bottom?

I'm using Regan's recipe, and I know Charles H. Baker has a recipe in Jigger, Beaker. Are there other published sources of bitters recipes? Or unpublished recipes?

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To clarify, I recommend a Büchner funnel filter for bitters because, depending on the spices used, they can often contain a suspension of microfine particles that causes a cloudy appearance. Unless the amount of bitters filtered is very small, I don't believe that there is any danger that the filter paper will absorb significant oils from the bitters. If this is a concern, I'd recommend sending the bitters through a fine sediment filter before it is diluted -- or in the case where there is an infused alcohol component and a boiled water component, they can be filtered separately before they are combined (most likely only the water component will need filtering anyway).


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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So Avery, are you using the same method and seeing the bitters turn cloudy at the same point? And are you saying that the oils will eventually emulsify over time as opposed to settle to the bottom?

Actually, the process we use is very different, but the result of having a higher proof bitter with a high volatile oil percentage is the same. We've experimented since then by just taking pure essential oils in high proof then adding water, watching it louche, then waiting to see it all fall out of suspension at room temperature. It takes about 2 weeks, but eventually it's crystal clear (or at least it is for us).


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

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One interesting point, (well, at least to me,) regarding the Absinthe Louche...

Absinthe fanciers have long maintained that to get a proper louche on, a very slow drip is necessary. Say a 5 minute drip by drip procedure to add the water to your Absinthe. Others had pooh poohed this idea, saying it was just some sort of placebo type effect.

I've kind of noticed that if I just use my refrigerator tap to add water to Absinthe that it really isn't the same as if I slowly drip it out of a water bottle. But, I'd never experimented with it.

However, over at the Wormwood Society, one of the members performed an experiment, adding the same amount of water to a couple different kinds of Absinthe, one dripping slowly and the other slowly pouring the water in.

He discovered that with some brands of Absinthe there was a visually apparent difference between the expression of the louche of the slowly and quickly dripped Absinthes.

So perhaps rate of titration, or some other factor, also affects the way these substances fall out of solution.


---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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When my bitters was initially setting in the high-alcohol mixture, it wasn't cloudy. (In fact, it was a beautiful clear caramel color.) Then I boiled the solids and let that sit in the water which is when it developed an undesirable opacity. Finally mixing the two liquids it was still cloudy. That was a week ago and my bitters show virtually no sign of clarifying. I'm on vacation for a week, so I'll see what has happens when I come back.

When I made my Hess bitters both the alcohol mixture and the water mixture was fairly clear, but it went very cloudy once I had combined the two. No amount of filtering with my Büchner funnel helped that, though last time I looked at the bottles it had cleared a little - still cloudy though. I'll check them tonight and see if they have settled any more, it's a while since I last looked.

Troy - I'm glad you found your Regans' No. 5 bitters similar to mine, makes me more confident I actually did it correctly!


Jay Hepburn

Oh Gosh!

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So I am working on the Spring Bitters for The Violet Hour. It will be with citrus and, strangely enough, violet. The summer bitters are grapefruit and lavender and I am looking to do something in this style that is more floral and fresh but with more depth than the Summer. I am eschewing the warm herbs and botanicals except couple of anise like things. I also bumped up the bittering agents for Spring to go with what will be a gin and rum heavy cocktail menu. I will be giving it a taste in two days and tweaking again.

Will keep you updated,

Toby


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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What base alcohol do people use for their bitter? Only I'm planning to make my first batch of orange bitters soonish.

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has anyone ever used woodruffe in a bitter? i was thinking of doing some kind of may day bitter... i know they put the fresh sprigs in rhine wines and drink it on the first of may... beer brewers are also quite fond of it...

supposedly woodruff develops its aromatic qualities as it wilts and keeps it when dried out... will have to play with it... maybe as a component of a peach bitter?

She--"Fresh Woodruff soaks

To brew cool drink, and keep away the moth."

--_A. Austin, Poet Laureate_.


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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What base alcohol do people use for their bitter? Only I'm planning to make my first batch of orange bitters soonish.

I followed Gary Regan's recipe for my orange bitters, so I used grain alchohol (Everclear).

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What base alcohol do people use for their bitter? Only I'm planning to make my first batch of orange bitters soonish.

Everclear is probably the right way to go, since it grants maximal compound extraction and doesn't lend its flavor. But it depends on the type of bitters. A particular spirit can contribute a lot to the flavor, so I'd use what you think would match.


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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I suppose it would depend somewhat on the technique employed in making the bitters. Some of them start out being steeped into alcohol and then the solids are strained out and simmered with some water which is later added into the infused alcohol. When using this technique, it would seem to make some sense to use 190 proof grain alcohol. You are extracting the alcohol-soluble compounds into the alcohol, and the water-soluble compounds into the water, then combining the two. If you are doing a straight infusion, it would make sense to use something at around 100 proof so you get equal extraction of the alcohol- and water-soluble compounds. Of course, perhaps you don't want the water-soluble compounds. That's a matter of choice. For sure, a single-stage infusion into grain alcohol that is then diluted down to 100 proof will taste different from a single-stage infusion into 100 proof alcohol.


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We did alot of experimenting over here - to get good extraction, we always had to be well over 100 proof to get decent extraction... even when heat is involved. I've also found that extracting at low proof ends up reducing the shelf-stability.

You have to be careful, because depending on what you're extracting, over 150 proof can end up extracting too much oil out too quickly, leaving a bitter almost resin-like taste.

The only technique that I have seen when working with 100 proof or below is to run it through a still... but then again, if you're using lots of fresh peel or anything sugary, that can be a real pain in the backside to clean.

- Avery


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

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I suppose it would depend somewhat on the technique employed in making the bitters.  Some of them start out being steeped into alcohol and then the solids are strained out and simmered with some water which is later added into the infused alcohol.  When using this technique, it would seem to make some sense to use 190 proof grain alcohol.  You are extracting the alcohol-soluble compounds into the alcohol, and the water-soluble compounds into the water, then combining the two.

I got the impression that he's making the orange bitters linked to above-thread, which use this technique. Correct?

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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On my second batch of bitters. My first was Regan's #5, and this time I'm using the same base recipe, but replaced the dried orange peel with dried tangerine and goji berries from a Chinese herbal shop, so I think I'll call these my Qi Tonic bitters, since all of this is purely medicinal, you know.


Edited by jmfangio (log)

"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

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So now The Bitter Truth are releasing a celery bitters (I was lucky enough to try some, and they make a fantastic Martini!), does anyone have any old recipes that use them? The only one I've found is the Celery Sour from The Ideal Bartender, but it doesn't really sound all that interesting. A look around my (admittedly limited) bookshelf doesn't turn up anything... are there any other classic recipes that use them?


Jay Hepburn

Oh Gosh!

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So now The Bitter Truth are releasing a celery bitters (I was lucky enough to try some, and they make a fantastic Martini!), does anyone have any old recipes that use them? The only one I've found is the Celery Sour from The Ideal Bartender, but it doesn't really sound all that interesting. A look around my (admittedly limited) bookshelf doesn't turn up anything... are there any other classic recipes that use them?

I came across one in The Gentleman's Companion the other day, if I can find it tonight I'll post it, but it was essentially (as I recall it) a Manhattan with a dash each of Angostura, Orange, and Celery Bitters. The ________ Regiment Cocktail, or something to that effect.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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