Tuesday, August 5, 2008

boker's bitters

I recently became interested in making my own cocktail bitters in part to revive some old recipes I had been finding and in part to try my hand at creating some new ones. To do the latter, I wanted to try some of the former first.

Besides a few recipes in Imbibe, there were three good online resources that I found. Jamie Boudreau's How to Make Bitters post was the first I found and it gave the general breakdown of the bittering agent, the flavor, and the solvent besides giving a few recipes. The Art of Drink's bitters recipes collection was the next one that I discovered. I used the wide variety of bitters to plan out my botanicals order. And the last was a recent article I found in the
blog although I had already started my bitters project by the time I discovered this resource.

I started with Boker's Bitters which was in Boudreau's, Art of Drink, and Imbibe. The recipe in Imbibe gave a tip on halving the water added at the end to convert these old stomach bitters (meant to be drunk straight) to cocktail bitters (meant to be added dash-wise). I had ordered a bunch of herbs from the Hippies (read a livejournal post I wrote about it) to make this recipe and others, and a digital scale from eBay.
Here's my scaled down version of the recipe:
Boker's Bitters
• 5.6 grams Quassia
• 5.6 grams Calamus Root
• 5.6 grams Catechu (Betel Nut)
• 3.8 grams Cardamom Pods
• 7.5 grams Dried Orange Peel
Add 8 oz Bacardi 151. Stir daily. Let infuse for 10-14 days. Filter through a coffee filter. Rinse the botanicals twice with 8 oz of water and filter. Total volume is 24 oz. Bottle.
After the 12 days of soaking and two water rinses, these herbs looked rather pale like soggy wood chips instead of this bounty of color.

After bottling it, it was time to try it in a cocktail. CocktailDB had 5 recipes using Boker's. This is the one that Andrea and I made last night:
Submarine Cocktail
• 1 1/2 oz Gin
• 1/2 oz Red Dubonnet
• 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
• 1 dash Boker's Bitters
Stir in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
The bitters did not disappoint. A very aromatic and flavorful one that has some similarities to Fee's Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. It worked rather well in a Manhattan when I was monitoring the bitters progress after 4-5 days, and took the drink to a new level as compared to Angostura.
The finished product. I used 100 mL European-style dropper bottles bought from a company John Gertsen recommended called SpecialtyBottle.com. The total yield was 6 bottles (the bottles easily hold over 100 mL).


http://www.qmixalot.blogspot.com/ said...

Thanks for the recipe, I'm on a mission right now to make Boker's bitters.

sc'Que? said...

Just curious which Cardamom you used: green, black, white... or a blend?

CocktailVirgin said...

Green cardamom.

White cardamom is just bleached green cardamom which is an unnecessary step in bitters making (more important in baking). Black cardamom is a different flavor (and when it is used with green, it is used as a lesser component as an accent).

sc'Que? said...

I beg to differ on the white cardamom. Having worked in a Sichuan-focused restaurant for over 10 yrs, the white cardamom my boss used was a different shape and different flavor than any of the green cardamom I've purchased anywhere. (I'm a craft bartender and also a tea-blender for a few area coffee shops.) Our restaurant was the only place I'd ever even seen white cardamom before. Perhaps white cardamom is rare and unscrupulous people bleach green to sell as a knockoff?