Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mr. Bitterness - Part the first

A few weeks ago I was having a post-work constitutional beverage of a spirituous nature at Cantina, and made an offhand joke about a particular type of bitters that I thought would be hilarious should it actually exist. Ever the helpful one, the rakish Duggan McDonnell enthusiastically encouraged me to give it shot. I laughed it off (with the help of another cocktail) but found that the next day the idea was poking at my brain. Could it be done? How would I get the primary flavor in? Would it taste as bad as one would think?

After a few days of mulling it over, I decided I would go ahead and give it a shot. I was thinking about which method to go about using to make the bitters - Another visit to Cantina and a bit of a chat with Duggan convinced me to go the route of making several tinctures and then mixing them to taste. So it was that I found myself traveling about the city collecting Vodka, jars, and spices. By the time I was done I had amassed a collection of allspice, cloves, bitter orange peel, star anise, cinnamon, and rose hips. They've been infusing for about a week and a half now, and last night I decided to try them and see if they were ready for stage two. Here are my highly scientific tasting notes in the order in which I, uh, tasted.

Cloves - They all smelled fantastic, so this is the only time I'll say it. It smelled fantastic. As soon as it hit my tongue it was like I had been assaulted with a baseball bat wrapped in a pound of cloves. Then the secondary burning began. If you've ever had the old timey Clove gum well, this is about twenty times more potent. So far so good.

Allspice - At first this one seemed rather tame. I was afraid I had not put in enough allspice, and that this would be a bust. Then it hit. Slow at first, then building to a mouth crushing level. I tried to get the flavor off my tongue, but found that I couldn't. It was as though I had just been assaulted by some sort of spicy napalm. It took several swishes of water to finally free myself from the clingy prison.

Rose Hips - Smelled like shit. Tasted even worse.

Cinnamon - From a straight tasting perspective this was my favorite. The cinnamon flavor was intense, but not overwhelming and the burn was mild and even. Of all the tinctures I made, this is the one I am planning to make another batch of for use in mixing. I could see a small amount of this in a drink making for a fairly interesting addition.

Star Anise - Sweet Jesus! It was as if God himself had reached down from the heavens, pulled black licorice from the very firmament, and made it manifest. Either I used too much anise, or that stuff infuses like a motherfucker.

Bitter Orange Peel - I was a bit doubtful that this wouldn't be bitter enough. Fortunately that wasn't a problem. Like some sort of oral booby-trap it took a split second before the full force of the peel began to careen into my system like a semi full of bowling balls. If nothing else I can be sure these bitters are going to be bitter.

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