Tuesday, February 10, 2009

clementine bitters

Since clementines were in season, I decided to develop some bitters based on them. In my one ounce tester trials [1], I noticed that licorice and tea leaves worked rather well as did some nonsurprising ones like gentian, cinnamon, and chamomile. The flavors in the clementine peel were not very conducive to strong bitter flavors, so I had to tone down the levels as compared to my other bitters.

One of my first scale ups used Darjeeling Muscatel tea leaves and this turned out to be way too bitter as an alcohol-based extraction. Instead I used a steeped version as the water portion of the bitters, although I could have had the tea leaves in a tea ball and removed them after a day or so.
Yarm's Clementine Bitters
• 82.4 grams clementine peels (3-4 clementines)
• 1.2 grams juniper berries (split)
• 1.2 grams wormwood
• 5.4 grams chamomile flowers
• 5.4 grams licorice root
• 3.7 grams cinnamon stick
• 3.6 grams gentian root
• 7.2 grams dried orange peel
• 3.6 grams cardamom pod

• Infuse in 12 oz of Bacardi 151 + 6 oz of Darjeeling Muscatel tea (cooled) for 5 days. Filter through a coffee filter.
• Final volume: 13 oz
• Added: 4 oz caramelized sugar syrup (take 3 oz sugar by volume, caramelize in a pot it over a medium heat, and add 6 oz of boiling water to dissolve the sugar) to make the final volume 17 oz.
• Bottle (6 bottles x ~3 oz.)
The caramelized sugar part made the bitters a lot like Fee's style which are rather sweet due to their use of sugar and glycerol and are very flavor forward and low on the bitter ingredient levels. The effect was an initial sweet taste, followed by a wave of clementine and other flavors, and then bitterness on the swallow. The batch that got bottled used inferior clementines as compared to the ones I had at the beginning of the season. Three of the better peels weighed the same as four of these not to mention having a sweeter and more flavorful taste. Other changes I might do next time is to use a more herbal tea such as jasmine. And perhaps cut out or reduce the juniper berries which added too sharp of a note at the end. The licorice could have been upped a little although it was definitely detectable and added a great flavor at this concentration.

I bottled this batch on Sunday and did not have a chance to experiment with them at home before delivering a bottle to John Gertsen at Drink. He asked what I was in the mood for and I told him something with Old Tom Gin. John asked if an old school Martini would work. I replied with a request for sweet vermouth instead of dry, and John countered by lifting up a bottle of Dolin sweet vermouth to my delight!
• 2 1/4 Hayman's Old Tom Gin
• 3/4 oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth
• 2 dash Clementine Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist lemon rind over the top of the drink, rim edge of glass, and discard.
The clementine notes were rather strong at first and married well with the lemon oil. Later, the more bitter notes started coming out in the drink and interacting with the vermouth. One of the most intriguing ones was how the accents of the wormwood from the bitters mirrored the hints of wormwood in the Dolin vermouth.

Overall, I am pleased with the results of these bitters although I am not finished with tinkering with this recipe. I am curious to see how these bitters would do in a whiskey drink of some sort with a good starting point being an Rye Old Fashioned perhaps with a dash of Angostura to round out the bitters profile.

[1] Generally, I do 6 one ounce trials using the same alcohol and flavor component in each and vary the rest with 2-4 other botanicals. Usually it is a bittering agent or two and an aromatic agent or two (some ingredients do fall under both categories). Everything is weighed out; however, my scale is not very accurate around 0.1-0.2 grams so things are approximate. I do tasting notes every day or so using a cocktail straw to pick up a few drops and note which flavors work well and which do not. And note which flavors need to be toned down or boosted in level. From there, I pick the best ones or parts of the best ones (generally from the best 2 +/- 1) and combine it in a recipe with the addition of other botanicals that might fill in the gaps. My scale-up is usually to a 16-24 oz range (although the output volume is often lower due to losses in dried botanicals absorbing liquid and losses in filtration).


Mark said...

Im a old school bartender,so im also in to tha " bitters" thing, I am going to try your "clementine bitters" recipe.I am down in houston is there a well known store that you know about to pick up thoses supplies? my drink is club soda & bitters

frederic said...

Online, I get my bitters on eBay through the Frendzco store. They're rather hippyish (they market their botanicals for spells and the like) but it's food grade and relatively very fresh. I know that other bitter makers order stuff through Mountain Rose Herbs. Good luck!