Entries in make your own (2)
I'm very excited to announce that I'll be doing a 3 hour online class through creativeLive next week on Friday, November 8th from 12:45PM - 4PM. I'll be showing you how to make your own bitters and limoncello for holiday gifts. The class with also touch on ways to use both, batch cocktails and aperitifs, as well as fun gift ideas that use what you've made.
The class is part of a series that includes all sorts of DIY holiday projects like crocheted snowflakes and pinecone ornaments. A few weeks ago we all gathered in the studio the shoot a promo video and if that experience was any indication of the classes they're all going to be a ton of fun.
You can sign up to watch all four or just one live the day they're taped for free or you can purchase the option to have unlimited access to the classes. Here's a link to my specific class, Homemade Liquor Infusions and Cocktail Bitters or the whole series, DIY Holiday Crafts & Cocktails. Be sure to check out the video for a taste of kitschy, wackiness that is in store.
This past weekend I gave two demos in the making of bitters at Oakland's Eat Real Festival. I had a great time and we got huge turn out of enthusiastic folks asking all sorts of questions. Dan and I walked away feeling like this could really work, people loved the tastes we were pouring, and wanted to know all about bitters and cocktails.
I had a few folks ask if I would post some of the information I was dispensing, so this is more or less what I was sharing with folks.
Bitters are the spice rack of cocktail making. They highlight or down play flavors, bring disparate flavors together, and add depth to your cocktails. More specifically they are a mixture of herbs, spices, botanicals, and fruits steeped in a booze base. A tincture or extract in the simplest of terms.
To create your own bitters start by thinking of what types of booze you normally drink or what kind of cocktail you intend to use it in, then pick one or two flavors that go well with it. For instance my aromatic bitters focuses on dried cherries, walnuts, and ginger. I made a lime corriander bitters to use in gimlets, a cardomom bitters to go in fall cocktails with apple juice and vodka. For vodka and tequila lighter, brighter flavors are better, for rum, bourbon and whiskey rich, spicey, and nutty flavors work best.
Once you decide on a flavor or two to highlight then you select spices and herbs to complement. In my aromatic bitters I use warm baking spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla. Flavors like lemon and lime work with corriander, black pepper, hops, and basil. Oranges and apples go with clove, cinnamon, and vanilla. The combinations are endless and only limited by your creativity.
The last part is deciding the bittering agents. I use gentian, quassia and black walnut leaf primarily. Gentian is the strongest and most bitter with an earthy, musty flavor. Quassia is also quite bitter, but has a much cleaner flavor, almost grass like. I use more of the quassia so it hits you up front with a clean, sharp bitterness, and a little gentian to help it linger on the palate. Then I use the black walnut to round out the flavor and add a sweet bitterness to the mix. However, there are many things that can be used to bitter your bitters. Wormwood and cinchona bark are also quite common. Then things like hops or the pith of citrus can also be used to add bitterness.
When you decide all the ingredients you place them in a container with your base alcohol. 100 proof more or less is ideal, watered down Everclear always works, but in many cases 100 proof bourbon or rye is also a great choice. You're roughly looking for a ratio of 1 to 4, solids to booze, but bulkier ingredients like nuts or citrus peel may take up a bit more space. Bittering agents should be used in 1/4 - 1 tsp measurements. Spices in the 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbsp range depending on how strong a flavor. If using fruit try the peel of one or two whole pieces, or a quarter cup chopped. All this should go in 2-3 cups booze.
The rest of the steps are as follows:
Step 1: All ingredients (botanicals + booze) go in the jar and sit for 2 weeks. Shake occasionally.
Step 2: Strain solids from booze. Set booze aside in a sealed container. Simmer solids with 1 - 1 1/2 cups water for 10 minutes. Let water and solids sit for 1 week.
Step 3: Strain and discard solids from water. Mix booze and water together. Add 2 tbsp simple syrup*. Let sit for 3 days.
Step 4: Filter bitters through cheesecloth. Use generously.
*Simple syrup is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water simmered until sugar is dissolved.
There was a lot experimentation and questions about how much of each ingredient and what goes together, but the truth is there is no one answer. I encourage you to play and test.