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mr randal View Drop Down
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    Posted: 07 Nov 2019 at 5:46pm
 Something non-denim related I've been into for the last couple of years is making bitters. There was a bitters renaissance at the fancier bars and restaurants a few years back- most places that prided themselves on having an edgy bar would have some house-made bitters on hand for a signature drink or two. Usually these were good, occasionally great, and sometimes it would have been better to stick to Angostura, frankly. That wave has passed a little, but the process can be fun and quite rewarding. Nothing tastes as good as an Old Fashioned mixed with bitters you planned out and brewed up yourself.

 The process is pretty straightforward: a combination of (typically) dried or fresh fruit, spices, roots, herbs and bittering agents are added to a menstruum (a dissolving/extracting fluid, in this case alcohol). Different ingredients might be added at different times during the extraction process- early for difficult to extract ingredients like nuts, most dried spice and some dried fruit, or closer to the end of the process for things which are easier to extract flavor from, like most herbs or soft fresh fruit. The extraction usually sits for 1-6 weeks, depending on ingredients and is often shaken daily to speed the process along.

 Next the solids are filtered out of the alcohol and added to a little water. This mash is boiled or simmered, then either let to extract for some time or immediately added into the alcohol. The reason for the double extraction using both alcohol and water is that different menstruums extract different compounds and flavors, to some degree. This step also cuts down the ABV of the finished product. After allowing the mixture to sit for a while (the flavors are believed to blend together more fully over time, and some makers will use a oak barrel to age the bitters or add wood chips to the mix for this step) the bitters are strained, filtered, sometimes marginally sweetened, and then decanted into smaller bottles.

 Here are the bitters I am using most at the moment:




*first time using imgur*

 From left: apricot, Jerry Thomas, mole, fig, and baking spice. The larger far left and right bottles are in their final test phases, and are having some final tinctures of solo ingredients or sweeteners added and tasted until I consider the blend to be satisfactory, at which time I'll decant these to smaller, labeled bottles.

 Anybody else tried this process out?

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Mainwaring View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mainwaring Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2019 at 12:17am
An experiment not yet attempted. What ABV are you striking?
I had a small Angostura bottle in the cupboard, and would occasionally find it pleasant to have several drops straight on the tongue.

Reminds me of Hemingway too...

After Thomas Hudson had made the drink and shaken a few drops of bitters in it from the bottle that had a gull’s quill in the cork, he raised his glass and then looked down the bar.
….He stood there, holding the long, pleasantly bitter drink, tasting the first swallow of it, and it reminded him of Tanga, Mombasa, and Lamu and all that coast and he had a sudden nostalgia for Africa.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CSL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2019 at 12:35am
A couple of years back I made a record (CD) in Nashville with another pianist & a drummer. The recording engineer was an expert mixologist. We drank Old Fashioneds throughout the session & ended up calling the record Old Fashioned. It featured a couple of tunes with Old Fashioned in the title. Anyhow, I do believe he made his own bitters. Another cool thing he had going was that he made ice cubes that were completely clear & without bubbles. Very stylish, like a cube of glass in the drink. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2019 at 2:04am
mainwaring- I usually use everclear 120 (the highest proof available in California) for the first menstruum, and roughly one half that amount of the infused water, so what’s that, 80 proof?

As both you and CSL eluded to, there is something especially evocative about the old fashioned. Its status as the first modern mixed drink I suppose, its rich early history in the American east coast down to New Orleans involving tropical spices and snake oil, the exotic, complex nature of the bitters rubs up nicely against the simplicity of the drink (bitters, sugar, whiskey, ice cube, stir) especially when compared to many new school cocktails...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote likeacannon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2019 at 3:59pm
Boy I love me some Jerry Thomas, almost as much as Boker's and Angostura. I have yet to try my own bitters, but I've made a few different liqueurs (most recently rhubarb) and they've always turned out well. Now you've peeked my curiosity mr randal! I'll report back in 1-6 weeks.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CSL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2019 at 6:47pm
I go occasionally to a place in St. Louis where the bartended sometimes makes his own tonic water. It makes for a very interesting G&T.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote shredwin_206 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2019 at 7:50pm
Originally posted by mr randal mr randal wrote:

mainwaring- I usually use everclear 120 (the highest proof available in California) for the first menstruum, and roughly one half that amount of the infused water, so what’s that, 80 proof?

As both you and CSL eluded to, there is something especially evocative about the old fashioned. Its status as the first modern mixed drink I suppose, its rich early history in the American east coast down to New Orleans involving tropical spices and snake oil, the exotic, complex nature of the bitters rubs up nicely against the simplicity of the drink (bitters, sugar, whiskey, ice cube, stir) especially when compared to many new school cocktails...


I’m an old fashioned fanatic. Would like to see your recipe!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mainwaring Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Nov 2019 at 5:33am
80 proof produces a good ring. What whiskey for your preferred old fashioned? Or do you use whisky?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Foxy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Nov 2019 at 5:46am
Also on my list of possible future projects/hobbies to dive into once I’ve sorted my liquor cabinet: vermouths, gins, (gin based) cocktail mixing and making bitters to go with it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote bartlebyyphonics Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Nov 2019 at 7:51am
made one once when into vodka martinis...
mostly extraction of desiccated orange peel then left to rest with cardamon and other spices / cumin seeds... simple but effective.
[mostly prefer neat whiskey alongside decent ale these days...]
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