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#1028 - Bitters for the Bar
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Traditionally, a good chef not only had to be adept with the preparation of food, he also had to be a dab hand at assembling a creative mixed drink. Not only do ardent spirits come into play, but also liqueurs, cordials and that piquant elixir, bitters. And as Jerry will point out, there is an enormous variety of bitters out there, all of them quite useful.
Bitters are an alcoholic infusion of herbs, spices, fruits and other flavorings that are used as accents in mixed drinks. They also can be used in cooking. Bitters, being very concentrated, are used literally a drop at a time. Today there are literally hundreds of products in this category, each with its own distinctive flavor.
Angostura Bitters, the original, was created in 1822 in South America. Based on the bitter root gentian, it became a favorite remedy for seasick sailors who spread its fame. By the late 19th century, Angostura was making its way into the cocktail in a number of recipes, best known, the Manhattan.
Here's a recipe, a bit time consuming, for making your own bitters.
* 2 cups grain alcohol
* 8 oz dried orange peel, minced
* 1 tsp cardamom
* 1 tsp coriander
* 1/2 tsp caraway or anise
* 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1. Put spices in a mason jar and cover with Everclear grain alcohol. Seal the jar, and let it stand in a dark place for about 2 weeks, giving it a shake every day.
2. Strain the infused alcohol into a second mason jar, saving the solids.
3. Place the solid ingredients in a deep sauce pan and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, the reduce to simmer, cooking for 10 minutes to infuse the water. Pour all this mixture into a second mason jar, and let this sit for a week, once again shaking it daily.
4. After a week, strain the infused water, and discard the solids. In a sauce pan, make a simple syrup with the sugar and infused water, cooking it long enough to make it brown in color. Pour this into the alcohol mason jar, seal it and let it sit for a further five days.
5. Give the infusion a final fine filtration through cheese cloth. To bring down the proof of the bitters, add water, measured as one half the volume of the alcohol, then decant into small bottles.