A weblog detailing cocktails, spirits, liqueurs, barware, bars, and bitters. Maintained by Michael Dietsch, a writer and hobbyist mixer in Brooklyn.
Repeal Day came and went this year, with nary a comment from me. What can I say? Bad blogger. Today, though, I want to revisit a cocktail I first explored four years ago, for Repeal Day 2006: the Thistle. The Thistle is a simple cocktail; my version came from Robert Vermeire’s Cocktails: How to Mix Them, and it calls for 2 parts Scotch, 1 part Italian vermouth, and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters.
Wait a minute. Scotch, sweet vermouth, and bitters? Yes, you’re going to say the same thing someone else said in 2006, and that Erik “The Obscurist” Ellestad noted earlier this year: that’s a Rob Roy. Okay, it’s a Rob Roy. It’s a Thistle. It’s a York. You can call it a peppermint patty for all I care, it’s a fine damn drink.
I don’t know how to admit this to you, dear readers, but I actually prefer a sweet Thistleroy to a sweet Manhattan. Even made with rye, a sweet Manhattan simply tastes too sweet to me. For it to be truly tasty, I have to make the perfect variation on it: 2 oz. rye, 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth, and 1/2 dry vermouth. Scotch, though (even a blended variety), brings enough smokey character to the cocktail to rise up and tame the sweet vermouth.
Four years ago, I used Dewars for the scotch, and Cinzano for the vermouth. This time, I went a different route, and came up with something my wife and I loved. First, I wanted to play with a single malt in this instead of a blend. I used Knockdhu Distillery’s An Cnoc 12, a well-balanced and relatively inexpensive Highlands whisky.
For the vermouth, I chose a product that wasn’t even available to me (or anyone in the United States) in 2006: the French Dolin Rouge. I’m really starting to shun the available-everywhere products like M&R or Cinzano, in favor of more bitter and herbal vermouths such as Dolin or Carpano Antica, the latter of which I have to schlep from Boston. I found that the Dolin’s bittersweet herbaceous qualities married well with the An Cnoc.
Finally, I rounded the drink out with Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters from the Bitter Truth. I remembered, too late, that I had drained the Angostura the previous evening. But it’s okay, because I like the Christmas-spiciness of the Jerry Thomas.
In all, the Yorkeroy is a great drink that deserves a regular spot in my drinks rotation, and it’s proven itself as open to experimentation as a horny college student. I’ll have another.
(If you’re joining me from Serious Eats, welcome aboard. Look around, kick the tires, poke the cats, and pour yourself a stiff one.)
Sam Harrigan and crew have chosen a winner and it’s Blair Frodelius of Good Spirits News! Blair, Sam will contact you directly to arrange shipping. Congratulations, Blair, and thanks to all who entered! (sorry if anything looks wonky on this post. I’m using the WP app for the iPhone, as I’m currently on an Amtrak train in Connecticut.)
Tell the world what a bittered sling you are! The Beefeater 24 bitters contest ends today at 11:59pm ET, so get moving!
This is the final week, ladies and germs, to enter the Don’t Be Bitter contest. We’ve had fewer entries than I expected, which means I hope you’re all just a bunch of procrastinators like I am. Go back to the original post to review entry guidelines. Also, if you have entered, please check back in the original post to make sure either that there’s a pingback to your post or that you’ve left a comment with a link to your post. Or both! You have a rare bottle of bitters to lose, so a belt-and-suspenders approach makes sense.
We’re midway through the month, people, and we don’t have many entries yet. Get on (or behind) the stick, or you’ll lose out! I know there are some of you who groused, when Samantha ran the earlier contest on her blog, that you couldn’t get to a New York or San Francisco bar to be photographed with a bottle of these bitters. Stop complaining and enter this contest! You don’t need to get to SF or NYC, you only need to move your mouse to your bookmark bar and click the bookmark for your blog’s dashboard. How hard is that, really?
Don’t make me break out my grrrrrr face. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Don’t be bitter! We’ve got a very rare bottle of bitters in our hands—and we’re looking to give them away. “We” in this case are me and Samantha Harrigan from Nova Marketing and the Cocktail Culture blog. The bitters are specially made for Beefeater 24 by the fine folks at The Bitter Truth. There are currently only 100 bottles in the United States, none of which are actually for sale. Not much is known about the bitters, but check out what Beefeater 24 Brand Ambassador Dan Warner had to say about them:
In order to produce the bitters we send Stephan [Berg, of The Bitter Truth] high proof, straight off the still Beefeater Gin and he uses this as a base. The recipe is Stephan’s secret but he did tell me that lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, and ‘a few different types of citrus’ are featured. They work amazing in martinis and I’ve also been dashing them in my G&Ts.
Interested in giving them a try? Well, to win this bitter collection gem, you’ll have to participate in Beefeater 24’s “Don’t Be Bitter” contest. All participants will be given an equal shot at winning the bitters—as the winner will be randomly selected from the group. Here’s what you have to do to participate:
Post a submission on your blog or website and include the photo of the Beefeater 24 bitters (please download it here and host it yourself) and the title “Don’t Be Bitter” to make it official. Then, use the post as a “shout out” to another cocktail blogger—discuss a time when you were jealous of (or “bitter” about) another blogger’s booze collection, prized bottle of liquor, a cocktail-related trip they took, or an experience they had. Put any bitterness aside and share the link-love with your fellow cocktail bloggers. Make sure you link back to this post so your name gets thrown in the hat. You’ve got the whole month of October to get your post up [final deadline: 11:59pm Eastern time, 10/31/09] and the winner will be announced here the first week of November. Get on board, bitters-lovers!
I think Sam’s handling the actual mechanics of this, in terms of making the random pick, having the bitters shipped out, and so on. Any questions, please get them in to us by the end of the day Friday. Sam’s getting hitched on Saturday and will be on her honeymoon for the week following her wedding.
Oh, and you want to know what I’m bitter about? That I can’t win my own freakin’ contest!
This month’s Mixology Monday is all about twists on classic cocktails, that for one reason or another do an even better job than the drinks upon which they are based.
This could be as simple as a classic Margarita with a dash with a special touch that completes it, or maybe as complicated as a deconstructed Hemingway Daiquiri with a homemade rum foam/caviar/jus/trifle. It might be taking a classic like a Manhattan and using Tequila instead of Bourbon?
In that spirit (ho ho!), I’m offering up the Ruirita, a rhubarby twist on the Margarita. First, lemme give you fools the recipe, and then I’ll tell you how I came up with it and which unsuspecting dolts I thieved my ideas from. So!
- 2 oz. tequila, blanco (make sure it’s 100% agave; I used Inocente–why? because I had a free sample and the bottle’s sexy, but also because it’s a good tequila)
- ½ oz. Cynar
- ½ oz. lime juice
- ¼ oz. simple syrup
- 3 dashes Fee’s Rhubarb bitters
- 2 drops orange flower water, to rinse glass
Shake over ice. Rinse chilled glass with orange flower water. Pour the flower water into the sink, and fill glass with love.
Now, I had been thinking about this drink over the weekend, trying to decide what I wanted to do. I remembered the rhubarb bitters Jen bought me a few months ago, and how I hadn’t really used them much. I then started thinking how I’d like to try them with tequila. Off to Google!
I didn’t find many rhubarb/tequila pairings, but the first thing I found was from Jacob Grier, who put up a drink with tequila, port, rhubarb bitters, and Benedictine. That sounded fabulous, JG, but wasn’t the way I was headed. (Jake revisited the tequila/rhubarb bitters idea in his post for this very MxMo, so be sure to check it out on Jacob’s site. Again, we’re headed in different directions, but he’s done a man’s job with his drink.)
However, Jacob did point me in another direction that I wanted to explore–Cynar artichoke bitter liqueur. Yes, artichoke and rhubarb. Jacob’s post mentions a drink that Robert Simonson discussed last year. Robert’s quaff inspired me to try Cynar and rhubarb, but it was my own warped psyche that led to the tequila, rhubarb, and artichoke delight. Jen and I love Cynar, and I don’t think I make enough opportunities to play with it.
The final element that I cribbed from another blogger was the orange flower water. A post on Kaiser Penguin has a drink with a glass rinse of the rhubarb bitters and the flower water. I wanted the orange to hint of the orange liqueur you normally find in a margarita, but orange flower water can quickly overpower a drink, so I chose the rinse. Rinses tend to engage the nose more so than the taste buds, so that seemed the way to go. However, I wanted the rhubarb bitters incorporated into the flavor of the drink, so I didn’t use them in the rinse.
So, I built the Ruirita in a mixing glass, stirring and tasting. I added the tequila, Cynar, lime, and bitters first, not wanting to deviate far from a traditional margarita. But Cynar’s more bitter than a Cointreau or another triple sec, so I needed a bit of sweetness. I didn’t want to add another liqueur–frankly, with tequila, Cynar, rhubarb, lime, and orange, there’s already enough going on with the drink’s flavor. So I added a touch of simple syrup, to provide neutral sweetening.
What resulted was a pretty damn good drink, I thought. Well balanced and complex, but not confused. The flavors melded very well. Jen was surprised, in fact, and wondered what demon had infested my soul to suggest this particular combo of ingredients. (That’s exactly the way she put it, by the way: “Man! What demon haunteth thou so that you blendeth these ingredients in yon tail of the cock! I shalt call upon the church for an exorci— Hey, this is pretty good. Wow.”)
So, try it please, and let me know what the hell you think.
(Photograph by Jennifer Hess.)
Commentor Robert Kraus writes:
How much is a dash of bitters? I always measure mine by the drop. I want my drink using bitters to taste the same as it did the last time.
This is a very good question. I usually just do a quick dash of the bitters bottle into my shaker for a single dash, which isn’t very precise, but seems to give approximately the same amount of bitters each time.
For ingredients that don’t come with that little cap with the hole in it–for example, for recipes calling for a dash of pastis or Cointreau–I measure out about an eighth of a teaspoon. Now “about an eighth” is imprecise in itself since I don’t have a one eighth measuring spoon, but I’m nearly always making two drinks at once, and I do have a one-fourth teaspoon measurer, so for those recipes, I can maintain some precision.
Some folks say one eighth of a teaspoon is too much for a dash, but it seems about right to me. I’d like to get some discussion going here, so tell me…
How much is a dash?
Wow! 21 entries this time! That’s a great turnout, and I hope I didn’t miss anyone. Pardon the roughness of my prose here, but I wanted to get this post up so everyone can start reading through the entries. Consider this a rough draft. I’ll clean up the links and correct any errors later, so feel free to comment if I’ve screwed something up. And of course if I missed including you, let me know that as well.
Good work, everyone!
First off the gate is Married with Dinner! Cameron brings us his variation on a Manhattan. Although I’ve have many good Manhattans, I’ve never tried either the Carpano Antica nor the Hermes orange bitters. My Manhattan experiences are incomplete!
Macky’s Delectations serves a fine cocktail, the Adonis.
Aussie Anna does her due diligence and hits from down under with the Coco Baby Bitters cocktail, a yummy-sounding creamy, coconut-based drink.
Over on eGullet, Erik Ellestad follows the old fashioned through the years. The Cole Porter lyrics are a fun touch, and as a one who loves both old fashioneds and Cole Porter, I’ll have to track down that song! They’ve got a great conversation going in that thread about the history of bitters–it’s very much worth a read. I don’t necessarily think that MxMo needs to revolve around cocktail recipes, as long as people are sharing their enjoyment and knowledge with others. So a bit of discussion about the formulation and history of bitters is very welcome!
Darryl, a.k.a. the natural born cynic, brings us the Pegu Club cocktail. It seems that Darryl is entirely new to bitters, but has since learned how versatile a bottle of Angostura can truly be. Welcome to the cult, Darryl!
Matt, from My Bar Your Bar, offers the Gloria cocktail. Hmmm, looks like I have everything I need for that… G-L-O-R-I-A! Gloooooooooria!
Michael C. experiments in his midnight kitchen with different formulations on two classics: the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. It’s always good to see people tweak their drinks recipes to fit their own tastes, so check out Michael’s efforts.
Haalo, who’ll apparently cook almost anything at least once, uncaps her Peychaud’s for a cognac-based Sazerac. Although that drink is now usually made with rye whiskey, the cognac formulation has good pedigree. I’m eager to try one myself! Ah, and I notice that she can apparently get real absinthe down in Melbourne. Lucky Haalo! I’d love to try a Sazerac with real absinthe. My green fairy is envious!
I’m honored to help Seamus inaugurate a new blog at Bunnyhugs, where he braves a new spirit, Suze, a gentian-based potable bitter. I think you’ll have a swell time reading Seamus’s tale of acquiring and experimenting with the spirit Suze.
Meeta chimes in from German with a Manhattan. Her tales of photography woes ring a bell with my foodie wife, who reports similar frustrations getting her food photos just right.
Another from the Antipodes! Mary brings us a couple of yummy-sounding, lightly fruity drinks.
Then Imbibe Unfiltered offers a creation of Boston bar manager Jackson Cannon, The Metamorphosis, inspired by Kafka.
At The Art of Drink, Darcy taste-tests five bitters and describes their flavor profiles.
Rick at Kaiser Penguin also does a face-off, testing Angostura versus Fee Old Fashioned, and Fee Orange against Regan’s Orange. (Good to see you again, Rick.) Check it!
Handy Snake’s Kurt brings out his first MxMo post with a couple of gin cocktails.
Back at eGullet, thirtyoneknots chimes in with the Bijou and Tailspin cocktails.
That old bittered sling Paul weighs in at Cocktail Chronicles with a Martini and a Manhattan.
Mike S. (another Mike! we’re taking over!) is another first-timer in the MxMo field, and he offers us the Periwinkle, the Giles Goatboy, and his own recipe for lavender bitters. That’s a hell of a concept, Mike, and I’d like to try that myself some time.
Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour serves up another Manhattan, his made with the Fee Old Fashioned bitters.
Finally, although Robert Hess doesn’t participate in MxMo, it’s worth noting that he also did a bitters-based post today.