The same night that I dragged Brad out to the paint store and we painted our dining room Shy Cherry, I was feeling ambitious. In addition to wearing a ridiculous painting outfit, I felt like throwing together another infusion for my Mixology Monday collection. I had a few grapefruit lying around, so I decided to get back to what really got me started me on this infusion kick. Cocktail Bitters.
Cocktail Bitters are what bartenders call the salt and pepper of the cocktail world. You can make a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned without it, but it would be like eating a steak that hadn’t been seasoned at all. You can maybe tell it’s a good piece of steak, but there could be so much more flavor if the chef hadn’t skipped that one step. Bartenders, learn how to use your bitters!!
They were most popular in cocktails before Prohibition, when many different varieties were widely available. It was a main ingredient in the popular cocktail of the time, which was simply liquor, bitters, sugar and a very little amount of water. Sounds pretty good, right? But in the second half of the 20th century, fruitier and sweeter drinks became more popular and that white Angostura bottle behind most bars was rarely used.
Enter Sex and the City and the Cosmopolitan. See you later, Pink Gin.
Bitters were once considered medicinal, but are now well known as digestifs and a mixologists’ secret weapon. In the 1800s, they were often given to sailors to cure seasickness. Some of my other favorite uses for bitters?
Take a lemon wedge and cover it in sugar. Top with a few drops of bitters. Suck on that for a minute and your hiccups should disappear. Trust me, it works.
Bitters have long been known for easing nausea. Next time you’ve had a few too many the night before and your stomach isn’t feeling too hot the next morning, add a few drops of bitters to soda water. Works like a dream.
My infusion curiosity was sparked by an article in Food & Wine magazine a few months ago about how Bitters were making a comeback and how you could make them at home. The recipes they gave were incredible mixes of cherry root and herbs and spices I’d never heard of and have no idea where to find, but my interest was piqued.
While I was brainstorming Pumpkin Spice Rum and Peppercorn Vodka, I was also on a quest to find a great bitters recipe. Bitters were something that maybe even Brad could enjoy a splash of in his soda water, so it would be an experiment I could actually share with him…
Using a recipe found on Chow, Brad and I got cooking.
You will need
1 medium grapefruit
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup vodka
1 cup Campari
3/4 cup Sweet Vermouth
And an awesome Shy Cherry wall to take pictures against. So. Much. Red.
Halve the grapefruit. Juice one half, keep the juice and throw away the rind. Coarsely chop the remaining half and save.
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, and let syrup simmer until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
Add chopped grapefruit and cook until the grapefruit releases all its juice, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Combine cooled grapefruit syrup (including chopped fruit), saved grapefruit juice, Campari, vodka, and sweet vermouth in a large container with a tightfitting lid. Stir well, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.
And always let the dog feel like she’s helping….
Now Brad most definitely can’t drink this because it’s about 99.9% alcohol, but I’ve been sampling it on my own. Best part about bitters? You don’t have to wait a month to try them.
I am impatient when it comes to my booze.
All weekend I have been making myself Sparkling Grapefruit Cocktails and I’m looking forward to trying out a few news recipes tonight over at Mixology Monday at R+D. I feel like bitters are this simple little hidden gem that so many bartenders don’t take advantage of. I’ll give you the scoop on what worked and what flopped tomorrow along with a couple of delicious recipes!