Now, you young folks won’t remember this, but back in my day, when you wanted to make a cocktail, and you needed some cocktail bitters, you went to the soda-pop aisle of your grocery and found the shelves dedicated to mixers for adult beverages, and if you were lucky, you’d see a bottle of Angostura right there sitting next to the lime cordial and the sour mix and the tonic water.
Then about eight years ago, the bartender and booze writer Gary Regan formulated the newest and greatest recipe of his orange bitters, sensing a need in the marketplace, and so it came to pass that Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 became available to bartenders and cocktail nerds.
These days, you kids are spoiled for choice. I decided one day to count the number of upstart companies producing bitters, and I had to stop when I got to 30 because I can’t count much higher than that.
I’ve heard a rumor that in other parts of the country, the weather is turning colder, leaves are starting to drop from the trees, mountain men and other rustic types are gathering wood for their fireplaces, and drinkers are turning their bloodshot eyes toward the brown spirits.
Me? I have the air conditioning on as I type this. It’s about 80°F out there. Then again, my bloodshot eyes never turn away from brown spirits even when the temperatures crack the triple digits, but I’m unusual that way.
A few months ago, I provided a primer on Scotch terms. Today, I thought I’d turn my gaze inward and explain a few things about good old bourbon whiskey.
[Fill 'er up!]
Next time you’re at the gym or the salon or the grocery, and someone says it’s a sacrilege to mix Scotch into a cocktail, promise me you’ll grab that person, take him or her out back, and…
[Want to know my picks for five essential Scotch cocktails? Read on!]
Harry Craddock only wrote one book, the Savoy Cocktail Book, but many of the cocktails in that book are justly renowned and worth adding to your repertoire. The Corpse Reviver #2 is probably the most famous, but we’ve written about that drink many times before, so we’ll move on to a few other cocktails from Savoy that you should know.
I‘m sure you guys are pulling out your favorite new Scotch terminology at cocktail parties, and using those distillation terms in every Saturday’s crossword, but now that we’ve covered the basics, I wanted to focus in on a certain kind of distillation—the kind that takes place in the pot still.
What’s a pot still? Why does it matter? Well, I’m glad you asked. Today we’ll chat about this distillation equipment’s origins, what it does, and how it’s used.
When you start looking through vintage cocktail books, one thing you’ll quickly notice are the names of obscure ingredients—products with names like Caperitif and Hercules. And if you’re anything like me, you’re curious about these products. What were they? What do (or did) they taste like?
My latest at Serious Eats. [Read on!]
My piece on ingredient substitutions at Serious Eats.
Here’s a … neat idea: the Neat Ice Kit, by a couple of guys out of New York City. For those who care about the clarity of ice they use in cocktails, here’s a way to make perfectly clear ice at home, without wasting any of the cloudy stuff.
See, ice normally freezes from the outside in, which forces gas into the center of the ice. That gas clouds up as it freezes. There’s not normally any way around this, unless you insulate the ice tray in some fashion. (Camper English has done A LOT on this topic, if you want to know more.)
What this kit does is insulate the sides and bottom of a brick-shaped ice mold. The ice freezes top down, forcing the gasses to the bottom, where they freeze cloudy. The top freezes clear. So you lop off the top, use it for cocktail presentation, and use the cloudy bottom for crushed ice or for shaking drinks or whatever.
(Don’t touch my cloudy bottom, though. Mrs. Bitters will have words.)
The kit, if the Kickstarter pans out, will include the mold, an ice chisel, a mallet/muddler, and a bag in which to hammer ice into crushed form.
I’m not normally all that bothered by cloudy ice at home, but even I think this is a nifty project.
By the way, these guys have a track record of successful Kickstarter products, if that matters to you. The Glif iPhone holder/tripod looks really cool to me.