Saturday, September 8, 2012

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Bitters Tasting Table in the Meadow

As you build your cabinet of cocktail bitters — or, at any rate, put together a handful of stalwarts you want always to have on hand — keep in mind that any proper liquor store will carry common brands such as Angostura, Regan's No. 6 orange bitters, and possibly Peychaud's, that old New Orleans favorite essential to a Sazerac. Here and there, stores may also carry Fee Brothers bitters or tiny, single-shot, paper-wrapped bottles of Underberg, digestif bitters from Germany that are so good after a heavy meal (or a stein too may of beer). Truly well stocked stores with robust selections may offer modern bitters from Bittermens, Adam Elmegirab, Berg & Hauck, The Bitter End, and more.

These are the stores to patronize.

Go on; taste. And again. And again.
San Diego is not awash in an ocean of bitters, so I keep my cabinet stocked with commercial stuff through a combination of combing local stores and mail-order sources as well as doing lots of pre-travel research on which bartenders, bars, and bar supply houses to hit when I'm on the road. When I'm in Portland, Oregon or Manhattan, for instance, I make a point of dropping by The Meadow. Owned by Salted author Mark Bitterman, The Meadow offers fresh flowers, salts, chocolates, and bitters. When I was in the Manhattan store recently, my obsessions over the last two caused a shameful amount of money to flow from my pocket to Bitterman's register.

Most of the brands were familiar or even old hat to me, but the flood of new labels over the last five years has caused even bitters geeks to fall behind in the latest offerings, bottlings, iterations, and experimental batches. The Meadow's way around shoppers' potential unfamiliarity with brands is to offer a tasting table where one bottle of every bitters in stock is open. Drinkers who want to compare brands of celery, old fashioned, orange, or other bitters are welcome to do so.

The Meadow isn't the only place to offer tasting bottles, but it does have one of the largest range of bitters to smell and taste on site. In the Manhattan store, 50-60 open bitters bottles stood ready for walk-ins to sample. Local bartenders get a professional discount; visiting writers do not.

Now, if only there were a way to sample them through the mail...

Meanwhile, most of the stock is for sale online here.

The Meadow — New York 
523 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014

The Meadow — Portland 
3731 N. Mississippi Avenue
Portland, OR 97227
Tel: 503.288.4633

Toll free for both stores: 1.888.388.4633

Goes well with:
  • Bitter Disappointment from Japan, in which a much-anticipated package from San Francisco barman Neyah White arrives smelling so good. Wait...why does it smell at all?
  • My take on Brad Thomson Parsons' 2011 book Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas. In a nutshell: good, but not as good as it might've been with better editing.
  • Pink lemonade; you can buy pink powder in a canister...or you can empinken your drinkin' like a grownup with aromatic bitters. Also, check out "Cocktail" Bill Boothby's getting in his digs at temperance charlatans making vats of the stuff for circuses, fairs, and churches in another look at pink lemonade. He's as subtle as a whack upside the noggin with a loggerhead, but Boothby's insinuation that saloons were far better and safer places to drink than church fairs wasn't far off the mark — at least as far as some saloons and some churches were concerned.


Aaron said...

No discount for writers?! How outrageous.

But I love the Meadow, and the bitters tasting table? In and of itself that's an afternoon in the store.

Matthew Rowley said...

What a world; what a world.

I could *almost* spend an afternoon at the tasting table if it weren't for the proximity of Fatty Crab with its own siren call of cocktails (and not too shabby meals, either).