Bitters Part II
After some discussion with my friend Ben, who's been involved with some people making their own spirits and reading various recipes, I've decided to begin my Bitters by infusing the various herbal ingredients I purchased at Kalustyans in individual vials in grain alcohol. I found a blog by Jamie Boudreau called Spirits and Cocktails he gives a concise explanation of what bitters are and how to make them. What impressed me most about this blog was how to control the flavor of your bitters. Each ingredient will release it's flavor at different rates and you don't want one herb over powering the rest. This is what lead me to using individual vials for each ingredient. He also gives two recipes, one for Cherry Bitters and the other for Bokers Bitters. I highly recommend reading this blog, it's got some great cocktail recipes on it as well. It looks like he also opened a bar in Seattle in June of 2011
I used some of the ingredients listed in the recipes on Spirits and Cocktails along with the ingredients my friend Ben gave me and went shopping at , Kalustyans hahahaha ~ it's hard not to buy more than you came for. This is a great place to get a vegetarian lunch, upstairs they have a cafe. Here you can find 100's of types of hot sauce, dozens of bottles of bitters, 100's of herbs in various sizes, dozens & dozens of different types of rice, the best pine nuts you can buy anywhere, homemade hors d'oeuvres size vegetable samosas, dry chili peppers, oils, beans, grains, specialty flours, citric acid, tapioca and other additives for all kinds of things, incense, soaps, candy and sweets etc etc etc.
I purchased 8 different ingredients: Calamus Root, Cinchona Bark , Wormwood, Quassia chips , Gentian, Dandelion Bark , Sassafras Root , and Elderberries. I chose the first 5 ingredients because I found them either listed in bitters recipes I found online or as an ingredient listed on some of the dozens of bottles of bitters sold at Kalustyans. Most of these ingredients also have historical medicinal properties and great bitter flavors. I bought the dandelion because I thought it might be a good flavor, Sassafras because I like root beer and some bitters have a coffee like flavor but I didn't see anything with Sassafras in it. Over the past 4 years when I feel a scratchy throat coming on Elderberry aka Sambucus Syrup to be the best thing (along with Zinc lozenges). All winter I like to drink Elderberry leaf tea, whether it's psychosomatic or not I don't care, it makes me feel like I'm boosting my immune system (as any cold I feel coming on goes away within a couple of days). I also like the flavor a lot!
The infusion process has begun and as you can see in some cases the alcohol has already taken on the color of the herb within the first hour.
Before crushing grinding or just breaking apart, I tasted all the ingredients. It's amazing how different bitter can taste. Each one is special in it's own right. I found that Quassia (the bottle in the photo with the bark looking stuff) tastes like Tonic. I have no idea if it's like quinine which is what gives Tonic it's flavor but I like it.
The process will be to shake each bottle every day for one week. Then using a dropper I'll see if I can taste whether each has been infused enough. At some point I'll strain each one. I'll have to figure out how to blend them but I'll figure that out after I strain them.
Have Fun & Enjoy