Make better cocktails with bitters

  • Fri Apr 25th, 2014 10:52am
  • Life

Associated Press

Cocktail expert Adam Lantheaume is here to tell the bitters truth. Making drinks without a dash or two of bitters is like cooking without seasoning.

Rhubarb, macadamia nut, papaya, chocolate bitters? Yep. There’s even one made from a single-malt scotch.

Angostura is the granddaddy of the bitters world, created by a doctor in Venezuela in the early 19th century as a “digestive.”

Some bartenders are even making their own bitters by macerating various ingredients in high-proof alcohol, then straining off the bitters. Another trend is barrel-aging bitters to further tease out flavors.

All bitters serve essentially the same purpose — to unify and highlight other ingredients, mostly in cocktails, but sometimes in food. They are made by distilling herbs, seeds, roots and other ingredients, and — true to their name — have a bitter or bittersweet taste and potent aroma.

Swedish Mule

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3- to 4-inch strip of orange zest
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • 2 dashes cardamom bitters
  • Ice
  • Ginger beer, cold
In a tall glass, combine the vodka, orange zest, mint and cardamom bitters. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to bruise the zest and mint. Add ice, then top with ginger beer and stir gently to combine.

Makes 1 serving.

Dark night

A fresh chili gives this scotch-based cocktail just a hint of bite. Select a chili according to your heat tolerance. A jalapeno would work for most people. But if you like it hot, try a habanero.

  • 2 ounces scotch
  • 1/2 ounce coffee liqueur
  • 1/2 chili (ribs and seeds removed, if desired)
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters
  • Amarena cherries, to garnish
In a tumbler, combine the scotch, coffee liqueur, chili and chocolate bitters. Stir and muddle the chili with a spoon or muddler. Remove and discard the chili, then add a couple cherries.

Makes 1 serving.

Green Mountain

  • Maple sugar, to garnish
  • 2 ounces apple cider
  • Ice
  • 1/2 ounce Tuaca liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce apple brandy
  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 2 dashes maple bitters
Moisten the rim of a cocktail glass with a bit of the cider. Dunk the moistened edge in the maple sugar to rim the glass.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the cider, Tuaca, apple brandy, bourbon and maple bitters. Shake vigorously, then strain into the prepared glass.

Makes 1 serving.

Summer Rain

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ounce sour orange juice (or 1/2 ounce each of lemon juice and orange juice)
  • 1/2 ounce orange liqueur
  • 1 ounce reposado tequila
  • 2 dashes rhubarb bitters
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the thyme with the sugar. Add the sour orange juice, orange liqueur, tequila and rhubarb bitters. Add ice, then shake vigorously. Strain into a small glass.

Makes 1 serving.

Recipes by Alison Ladman, Associated Press