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All About Bitters (Part 1)

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Second, [Jamie Boudreau] claims using a Buchner funnel gave him the worst hand cramps he has had since he was 11.  It wasn't a place he wanted to visit again.

This is why you want to get an aspirator. The hand pump thing makes no sense to me.

Third, in regard loss of aromatics, he said something like, c'mon, even if there is some loss of aromatics when using a charcoal filter, the flavors we are playing with in bitters are so strong, how much does that small loss matter?

He may (probably does) have a point there. I guess the proof would be in doing side-by-side blind comparisons between unfiltered and filtered bitters.

As for those who think that a tiny little carbon water filter is going to strip away all flavour, be aware that every distillery filters before bottling. A lot. Woodford Reserve, for example, puts its whiskey through 40 filters.

But what kind of filters? There are many different kinds of filters. A sediment filter, for example, is not the same thing as an adsorption filter like you get from activated charcoal. Indeed, I would be extremely surprised of any bourbon is filtered through activated charcoal at any point during the process, especially since this would be a kind of Lincoln County Process, which is what distinguishes bourbon from Tennessee whiskey. Rather, it is likely that bourbons such as Woodford Reserve are sediment filtered, then chilled down to a few degrees above zero and run through a filter with 40 layers of paper. This does remove some flavor (many scotch distilleries refuse to do it) but nowhere near the amount of volatile aromatics that would be removed by an adsorption filter like activated charcoal. I would be fairly shocked to learn that any spirit other than vodka is filtered through activated charcoal prior to bottling. Indeed, I would be fairly surprised to learn that any spirit other than vodka and Tennessee whiskey and the occasional rum which is having the color stripped out is filtered through charcoal at all.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Indeed, I would be extremely surprised of any bourbon is filtered through activated charcoal at any point during the process, especially since this would be a kind of Lincoln County Process, which is what distinguishes bourbon from Tennessee whiskey.  Rather, it is likely that bourbons such as Woodford Reserve are sediment filtered, then chilled down to a few degrees above zero and run through a filter with 40 layers of paper.  This does remove some flavor (many scotch distilleries refuse to do it) but nowhere near the amount of volatile aromatics that would be removed by an adsorption filter like activated charcoal.  I would be fairly shocked to learn that any spirit other than vodka is filtered through activated charcoal prior to bottling.  Indeed, I would be fairly surprised to learn that any spirit other than vodka and Tennessee whiskey and the occasional rum which is having the color stripped out is filtered through charcoal at all.

Interesting discussion of charcoal filtering of bourbon:

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5196


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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Interesting, although it's not clear to me that filtering with activated charcoal is actually all that widespread, and also that it may be through such small amounts of charcoal that it amounts mostly to an enhanced sediment/chill filtration.

I found this interesting:

At the Buffalo Trace Distillery, we filtered our bourbon through activated charcoal for several decades. We now chill filter our bourbons (that excludes those that are uncut/unfiltered). We found that charcoal strips both color and flavor from the whiskey. Our quantitative tests showed that chill filtered bourbon was 17% darker than the charcoal filtered product. A blind taste test revealed that the chill filtered bourbon possessed a greater intensity of flavor.

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Thought I'd give an update on this batch:

Tweaking the Hess House Bitters again:

1 cup brandy

1 cup vokda

30g raisins

15 g ginger (julienne)

6 g dried gentian

2 g cloves

2 g allspice

2 g star anise

7 g green cardamom pods

7 g cinnamon

10 g mahlab

2 g mace

Burnt sugar later.

Several days ago I strained and filtered this brew, then added the sugars. I ended up with a combination of Vietnamese burnt sugar, molasses, and demerara 2:1 simple. I didn't measure but I think that it was about 1T of each.

I'm very happy with it so far. I can definitely taste the additions of mahlab and raisin, and though I'd like a bit more allspice and clove, I have learned to be wary of those two, especially the latter. I think it'll be a good fall bitters.


Chris Amirault

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Although all the information I need might be buried in this long thread (I'll start reading the thing from the start if people tell me it's there), could someone give me some advice for commercially available bitters. A bitters buying guide, if you will.

I've got the two standards already: Angostura and Peychaud's. I've got both the Fee and the Regan orange. Do I need the Angostura orange as well? Is it that different?

From what I can tell, Fee Brothers and Bitter Truth seem to be the other two bitters companies. Which of their products are worth it? Many look quite interesting, but I've also tasted some Fee bitters that are pretty artificial.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Unless you're a real bitterphile, you can do quite nicely with Angostura (still the greatest bitters there is), Peychaud's and an orange bitters of your choosing.

Most other bitters tend to fall into one of three basic categories:

1. "Angostura alternatives" with warm spices such as clove, cinnamon, allspice, etc. prevalent. Almost every bitters maker has one (Bitter Truth, Fee's, Hermes, etc.).

2. Citrus bitters such as grapefruit, lemon, etc. Fee's makes orange, grapefruit and lemon bitters; Bitter Truth makes lemon and orange bitters.

3. Ecclectic bitters such as celery, "mole," mint, peach, etc. These are frequently impossible to get, and some that are available (Fee's Mint Bitters, I'm looking at you) are unadvisable.

Once you have the "big three" of Angostura, Peychaud's and orange, that's all you really need. Anything more is a luxury. You want 5 different kinds of orange bitters? I do! But you don't "need" more than one.

For some of these other styles, if you find yourself enjoying bitters that much, you might consider making your own. There are the "Angostura alternatives" such as Hess House and Abbott's bitters, among others. You could make your own citrus bitters. Or whatever.


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Once you have the "big three" of Angostura, Peychaud's and orange, that's all you really need.  Anything more is a luxury.  You want 5 different kinds of orange bitters?  I do!  But you don't "need" more than one.

For some of these other styles, if you find yourself enjoying bitters that much, you might consider making your own.  There are the "Angostura alternatives" such as Hess House and Abbott's bitters, among others.  You could make your own citrus bitters.  Or whatever.

I've come to really enjoy drinking sparkling water with a few dashes of bitters in the afternoon. So I'm willing to invest in more than what I strictly need to make drinks.

Which of the esoteric variety do you like?


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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You mean homemade or commercial? If the latter, I think Fee's whiskey-barrel aged bitters are outstanding.

At this point, I'm just looking at commercial bitters.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I wouldn't call Fee's barrel aged bitters "esoteric." They stand firmly in the "Angostura alternative" camp.

They are excellent, I agree.


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Absolutely in the Angostura camp, but esoteric if you mean (as does Mirriam Webster's) "of special, rare, or unusual interest" and " limited to a small circle." That stuff is hard to come by round these parts....


Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I wouldn't call Fee's barrel aged bitters "esoteric."  They stand firmly in the "Angostura alternative" camp.

They are excellent, I agree.

Sorry. My mistake. I was asking for suggestions in the "eclectic" category as defined by Sam above. I wrote "esoteric" by mistake.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Meanwhile, using that Hess variation above and some killer mole paste that I can get here at an area Mexican market, I'm kludging out this attempt at a mole bitters:

1/4 c mole paste

1 c Hess variation bitters

1/2 c Flor de Cana gold

1/4 c Cruzan blackstrap rum


Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Personally, I find Fee's Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters to be very good. I know it's in the "Angostura alternatives" category, being an aromatic bitters, but it bears little resemblance to Angostura. It has some citrusy notes along with the spice, making it different enough from both orange bitters and Angostura bitters to give you one more choice. I find it works well with spirits that are often paired with citrus ingredients, such as tequila or gin, for example, whether or not the cocktail actually has any actual citrus ingredient in it.

I've just ordered Angostura Orange from Kegworks because I can't find it in stores, yet. Damn, that stuff is expensive. I wonder why it's nearly double the price of the Angostura Aromatic. I also added a couple other Fee's bitters to the order, which will bring my bitters count up to a total of eight. :smile:


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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I'm pretty happy with those mole bitters, given that they're based on the half-assed Reese's culinary principle (peanut butter + chocolate = ...). I've yet to have the Bittermen's version for comparison.

It got me thinking about the sorts of drinks I'd want a more savory bitters in, and many of my non-tequila thoughts turned to drinks involving rum and pimento dram. That got me thinking about an apricot jerk bitters: rum base, lots of spice (including pimento/allspice, of course), black pepper, orange peel, dried apricot, and a scotch bonnet or three. Anyone seen anything like this? Any ideas to contribute?


Chris Amirault

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At Tales of the Cocktail, I was given a sample of a new Fee's product -- Rhubarb Bitters. (This was my reward for brazenly introducing myself at a party to the guy in the pith helmet -- turned out to be Joe Fee himself...who apparently carries around bottles of the stuff in his cargo shorts pockets!)

It sounds delightful to me. I wish I could report back how it tastes, but airport security confiscated them, unopened, from my carry-on. DOH! :shock:

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That got me thinking about an apricot jerk bitters: rum base, lots of spice (including pimento/allspice, of course), black pepper, orange peel, dried apricot, and a scotch bonnet or three. Anyone seen anything like this? Any ideas to contribute?

I think of thyme as being a major flavour component in jerk rubs. That would also make it pretty compatible with bianco vermouth, which (to my palate, anyway) has a significant thyme component. Are green herbs ever used in non-potable bitters?


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I have a question about making peach bitters I guess I was just wonding how to go about making it. I have made bitters twice before and would like to learn more about it. Thank you for your help

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There are many ways to approach making bitters, and some of them have been discussed elsewhere in this thread. That said, it would be helpful to know what methods and ingredients you have experience with and what type of bitters you have made before.

Regards,


Tim

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I just reread the entire topic (quiet afternoon at work) and couldn't find any information on using fresh fruit in bitters. Do you do a fruit infusion first and then use that alcohol for the rest of the process? Or everything at once? Or...?


Chris Amirault

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