Making Cocktails – Why to Always Have Bitters on Hand

So, in the real world, you may, at some point, be called upon to entertain clients. One way you can impress them is by providing their favorite drink for them. This may be as simple as pouring some Laphroaig into a glass, or it could be a gin and tonic, or it could be a mint julep, it could be anything.

So, you don’t need to be able to make some crazy flaming concoction, but you should know how to make a basic cocktail. I am NOT an expert, but I have been learning. I have been listening to Tim Morrisson’s Behind the Bar Show which is a podcast available on iTunes. I have learned so much from listening to that podcast, and now I will be going back through them and trying some of the recipes he lists.

One very basic point I have learned in the past, and put to use today is this:
Use Bitters.

Bitters are basically a heavily flavored liquid, that is only used in very small amounts. The measuring amounts for bitters are dashes, so it is not much (to imagine a dash, think about those soy sauce bottles with the tip that has a little hole so it shoots out of it…that’s a dash, but a bitters bottle has a much smaller hole)

I was unsure of the necessity of bitters, and I thought it would only be used in classic cocktails, nothing modern or sweet. I thought “in a manhattan, sure, in a rum and coke, no way” Boy was I wrong.

I made myself a Cuba Libre just now. A Cuba Libre is basically a rum & coke with lime. I made it this way

  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 oz. Bacardi Rum
  • Coca-cola to fill
  • 1-2 dashes of bitters

In a drinking glass half full of ice, I squeezed the lime juice into the glass, then added the 2 oz. of rum, and 2 dashes of bitters. Fill with Coke.

I tried it without the bitters, and it was good…very good. I then added a couple of dashes of bitters, and it woke up the drink like nothing else. Let me make this clear…you do NOT taste the bitters. Adding bitters to a cocktail is like salting your food, you don’t want to taste the salt, but the salt can enhance other flavors.

I know there are a fair number of spices in Coke, so it blended well with the bitters. I have been talking about all of this with Angosturra Aromatic Bitters. There are many kinds of bitters, but I think you really only NEED one. Angosturra is a good basic bitter to have. You can graduate to Orange bitters, and Peychauds bitters if you wish. I have not tried either of those (I will be) so I cannot comment.

Mr. Martini (Tim Morrisson) from Behind the Bar Show is a HUGE advocate of orange bitters in a martini (that’s gin, because that’s what a real martini is, if you want it with vodka, it’s a vodka martini) I imagine it could also help wake up some flavors in a gin & tonic, as well as other drinks where a citrusy flavor is used. I cannot speak to this at this point, this is only my theory as of now.

I will have more udates in the future, but my simple advice is:
Go out and get a bottle of bitters…and experiment with it, you will not regret it.

P.S. I put together a marinade today (a recipe from my mom’s friend) and it is half a can of orange juice concentrate (the other half was mixed up…now I have an extra mixer…I’m thinking tequila sunrises :D), a half cup of darm rum (I just used captains spiced, but a very dark rum is advised) and I put a few dashes of bitters in as well. I’m hoping the flavor will go well with the spiced rum, and bring out the flavor. I used this on 2 pork tenderloins, I will pan-sear and roast them tomorrow.

Drinking Alcohol!!!

Well, I turn 21 on Wednesday. I plan on going out with some co-workers and getting a couple of drinks. This will be the third time I’ve turned the legal drinking age in the jurisdiction I was in at the time. It happened in Italy and Austria as well. I am excited to legally be able to purchase some good beers, it will be great. I hope they carry Dogfish Head around here, I am excited to try their famous IPA!

I will gleefully be drinking over the next few weeks, but I’ll be doing it responsibly. By responsibly, I do NOT mean that I will not be getting drunk, but I KNOW my limits, so I know I will not be getting to a dangerous level. I will be friends I know and trust, and I will ALWAYS have a Designated Driver (seriously, it sounds like a record on repeat, but seriously, why would you decide NOT to have a DD?)

I know everyone has heard the spiel about responsible drinking, but have you heard this one? You should NOT mix energy drinks and alcohol. Some people have, and yet, they still continue to drink their jagerbombs. I don’t understand it. Basically, you’re putting an upper, and a downer in your body at the same time; this is dangerous, and puts a MAJOR strain on your heart.

For a collegiate article, check this article from the State University of New York (chosen for readability, and credibility. There are more out there from Brown, Vanderbilt, etc.). Mixing Alcohol & Energy Drinks May Spell Disaster

I am NOT saying people should not drink alcohol, and though it’s bad for you, I’m sure people will continue to drink their Jagerbombs, or Red bull and Vodkas, or whatever energy drink mixture you want, but those who down 4-5 in one sitting, should SLOW DOWN. I have a friend who likes to drink them to energize himself. I’d say, slow down, and take a bit of the strain off your heart.

To another topic. I am considering, once I turn 21 of course, developing a series of “college cocktails” videos. I will take cocktails–both famous and my own creations–and turning them into college level cocktails. College cocktails have taken the form of cheap, crappy vodka, covered up as well as possible. What happened to cheap Gin, cheap Whiskey, cheap Tequila??? Tequila doesn’t have to be shots, rum doesn’t have to be mixed with Coke, Gin isn’t just for martinis, Whiskey is DELICIOUS. These other alcohols have character: Vodka aspires to be water, these other liquors are their own thing!

Anyway, I will go more into detail in the series. Let me know if you have any suggestions, or questions about this!