Sunday, July 14, 2024

Build Your Own Bitters class

March 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Spirits Events

Mark Bitterman hosted a “Build Your Own Bitters” class at The Meadow on 21 March 2012, warming up the crowd with an almost-Manhattan (just rye and vermouth) to show how flat the cocktail would be without the addition of bitters. Mark then had people add to their drink from a set of about 10 or so of his favorite bitters, so folks could see what effects could be had from different flavors.

Mark briefly touched upon the history of bitters, from the plethora that existed pre-Prohibition, to the few left standing after, to the new makers who began to appear on the scene about 10 years ago. But this class was less on history (that’s what a seminar like The Emperor’s New Bitters at Tales of the Cocktail is for), and more about actually trying our hands at making bitters, so we proceeded on to that adventure.

Ingredients from which we could each choose included anise, cardamom, clove, coriander, gentian, ginger, Kaffir limes, kassia, Meyer lemons, orange peel, witch hazel, wormwood, and about another 10 or so. For the class the botanicals were infused in Everclear, but other solvents can be used, most often rum or whiskey, or even glycerin, like the Fee Brothers do.

We proceeded around the room, adding ingredients drop by drop until our concoctions were done to our liking. Mine ended up earthy and spicy. Ms. Boozenik’s was more citrus-ginger and lighter. Mine for whiskey. Hers for gin.

An interesting note: For experimenting in this class, of course, the ingredients were infused separately. But despite the difficulty of dealing with ingredients that infuse at different rates, most manufacturers macerate or infuse their ingredients together instead of separately. They just have to balance the amounts of ingredients to make sure that they get the results they desire.

The Meadow hosts classes of this sort in both Portland and New York. It’s well worth looking at their class list.

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