Friday, 14 April 2017

Its a 'BITTER-sweet' symphony

Cocktail bitters are an essential part of a well put together cocktail. Serving a cocktail without bitters would be like baking a cake without the sugar… bland! Saying this there are one or two exceptions to the rule where bitters aren’t that necessary like a Pornstar Martini for example doesn’t traditionally contain bitters, you could also get away with serving something like a Cosmopolitan or Sex On The Beach without bitters too. I remember when i first learned what cocktail bitters were and feeling a sense of impending doom on how and where to use them correctly but fear not i will shed some light on the situation. In this post i hope to make you feel comfortable and confident in using bitters and therefore upping your cocktail game. Bitters do provide balance to your drink if in doubt I would recommend making two of the same cocktails and adding bitters to one and comparing, you will be amazed by the difference a few dashes of these mystery bitters will make.
Just to confuse you all more there are so many variants of cocktail bitters out there ranging from Angostura or aromatic that work well in nearly every cocktail to more niche flavours like cardamom, olive and celery. The brilliant news is that you can pick up a bottle or set of bitters at a price that won’t break the bank and will go a long way. So lets review;

Angostura Bitters (44.7% ABV)
Originally used as a medicinal ‘cure all’ remedy these bitters give off notes of clove, cinnamon and tamarind. Angostura bitters work amazingly well with most cocktails. Whiskey cocktails such as an old fashioned or a Manhattan or Rum-based cocktails like mojitos, daiquiris or zombies simply would not fit the bill without a couple of dashes of these bitters. Simple drinks such as a good old Gin and Tonic can be ‘tarted up’ with the addition of Angostura bitters, they are a must have for any aspiring mixologists purely because they are so versatile.

Aromatic Bitters (39% ABV)
Ideal for whiskey based cocktails (I can’t have a Manhattan without a few dashes of aromatic bitters) they contain notes of gingerbread and clove with an anise, cardamom and cinnamon flavouring.

Orange Bitters (39% ABV)
Orange bitters work amazingly well in a lot of different cocktails especially when there are already elements of orange flavourings like when triple sec (Cointreau / Gran Marnier) is an ingredient for example. Cocktails where they work exceptionally well are Margaritas, Cosmopolitans, Long Island Iced Teas and a classic Old Fashioned.

Jerry Thomas (30% ABV)
Jerry Thomas bitters are named surprisingly after a man called Jerry Thomas who published the first ever book of cocktail recipes. These bitters are very widely used as, like Angostura bitters they work in a lot of different cocktails. Whiskey, rum and gin cocktails are very nicely complimented by the addition of these bitters. They contain notes of ginger, orange, almond, and dried fruit.

Just for fun I will list a few more bitters that are available below along with what cocktail I would best pair with them.
Cherry Bitters – Singapore Sling
Chocolate Bitters -  White Russian
Coffee Bitters – Espresso Martini
Cranberry Bitters – Cosmopolitan
Olive Bitters – Dirty Martini
Wood Bitters – Old Fashioned
Celery Bitters – Bloody Mary

I matched those bitters with these specific cocktails as i feel they would bring an extra dimension to the cocktails. A White Russian for example contains coffee liquor and as we all know coffee and chocolate compliment each other famously. As we also know gin contains many botanicals so in a cocktail where gin is the predominant base spirit a more herbal or earthy bitter would be best suited. Some bitters also work well collaboratively for instance when making an Old Fashioned I would use both Angostura and Orange bitters, if in doubt try a few combinations but use your head… mixology is all about experimenting.
I could literally talk about bitters all day but I fear I’m losing you all already, Like I said there are many different variants of bitters out there, I have listed the ones above because they can be used in so many different cocktails from martinis and sours to daiquiris and negronis. I hope some of you have found this post useful and informative and have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Just remember guys cocktail bitters are an essential part of a well-balanced cocktail and like i said previously they are quite inexpensive ranging from about £8-12 per bottle. You can also pick up sets of four for around £17-22.

Until next time
Peace Out!!
‘The Honest Bartender’

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