Saturday, June 14, 2008

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M.E. Steedman's Bitters

A brief note today since I'm catching up on work after five days of houseguests.

Even those who know me casually know that, like any cocktail geek worth his/her salt these days, I've got a thing for bitters. I'm down with potable bitters such as Campari and Averno that you might drink on their own, add in large doses to mixed drinks, or hit with a splash of soda over ice for hot-ass muggy days.

Aromatic cocktail bitters, though, I hold in especially high regard. These are intensely-flavored and mouth-puckeringly bitter liquids that come in small bottles and dashers and are intended to complement and lift the flavors of other spirits. I have more than I need, but use all those in the bar larder. In fact, I scored two 10-oz bottles of Regans' orange bitters No. 6 from Hi-Time Wine Cellar when I was in Costa Mesa, California a few weeks back. More than enough to last me through year's end, but I'd been eking out what I could from the smaller bottle I'd gotten in 2006. You don't just walk into a grocery store and pick some up in these parts.

With my geeky affection for an old-timey ingredient, it's little surprise that I plunder old books and diaries for recipes to make one's own bitters. This simple bitters comes from a vest-pocket English publication (no date, but I'm guessing 1890's-1910 from the graphics and fonts):


Crush 1 oz. gentian root and half oz. of husked cardamoms together, and mix with 2 oz. of thinly pared Seville orange rind. Half fill some wide-mouth glass bottles with these ingredients, fill up with brandy, cork tightly, and infuse for a fortnight, then strain, and rebottle.

~ Home-Made Beverages and American Drinks
M. E. Steedman (nd) The Food and Cookery Publishing Agency, London.


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