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Mixology Monday: Brown Bitter and Stirred

It has been a while since our last entry into Mixology Monday and our prior, heck it was our first entry, was one our first real posts … the lead off if you will to this little adventure of ours.  Five months later and theSpeakista feels slightly less timid (100% admission time, I am still totally nervous about my writing, topic selection, etc but thankfully I write about a subject that allows me, well, to get up a little courage with just one sip) and we are joining this months little party which is being hosted by Lindsey Johnson from Lush Life Productions and her blog Brown, Bitter and Stirred. Lindsey has chosen a theme that matches the title of her blog … so on we go to mixing up something that is not only brown and not only bitter … it is even going to be stirred.

Will it include an Amari? Maybe.  A heavy dash of bitters? Could be.  Fortified, aromatic wines or liqueurs?  More likely than not.  Should we tinker with a classic or create a new one?  See what I mean … the field is wide open.

In the interest of full disclosure – I have never really been a big fan of bitter tastes.  My thought was always, “why should I like the taste of something bitter?”  Hell, despite being a novice imbiber for some time now it was only a month and a half a go, mainly out of my bitter fears, that I finally made my second Negroni (and now I can’t make enough … can’t wait for cool weather to once again descend upon the Big Apple) and fully embraced all that it offers.  So it was in this limited or more aptly said new found appreciation for the bitter-ness inside of me that I thought about options.

So how then did I move from my membership in the “Hey Man Bitters Hater Club” to a probie in the “Bitters are Cool Foundation?” It all started with my beloved drink, the Manhattan.  As a babe in the woods the first drink I settled on as defining my journey into cocktails was the Manhattan but I of course was led far astray from the promise land.  Countless poor variations at bars and restaurants led me to think it was supposed to taste like sweetened bourbon and not a complex drink.  Later I discovered that bitters could elevate my drink in terms of an added layer of complexity and an ingredient which compelled the other participants to offer more.  Much later I discovered that there was more to sweet vermouth – I came across Carpano Antica and my drinking life was changed for the better.  Floral, herbal, bitter, sweet and wonderful … all at the same time.  In the classic mixture of rye, sweet vermouth and bitters I found what I had been longing for, and yet missing, all of those shameless years … simple goodness in a glass.

Now our journey finds us writing about drink related subjects and bittering agents so do I turn to my history and highlight the Manhattan?  Seemed way too obvious as a selection.  Maybe then the aforementioned Negroni or my first thought which was to do a re-try of the totally amazing drink centered on bitters, the Trinidad Sour.  This drink turns on its head that which you think a drinks composition should be and leaves your palate aching for more. Again these two drinks seemed like they would be all too obvious selections and my writing would likely not do too much justice to their soundness as selections.

In the end, being torn between two candidates that kept popping up, I opted to make and write up both.  **Yeah, bonus points for us!**  The reason for two is that both highlight for me – one is recreate of an existing drink and one is an attempt at something new on my part – what I now like and look forward to in bitter-containing drinks.  The first drink offered is my riff on the Doral Cocktail; a fantastic cocktail created by Cameron Bogue at Bar Pleiades that mixes aged rum, rye, amaro and maraschino to great results.  The second is a riff on what I’m sure is an already existing drink but an exact match on name wasn’t available.

Doral Cocktail
Recipe created by Cameron Bogue at Bar Pleiades in New York City (original recipe eyed by theSpeakista one night while imbibing at the bar) and adapted below by theSpeakista

•    1 1/2 oz Santa Teresa 1796 rum (Zacapa 23 was used in this version)
•    1/2 oz Rittenhouse Bonded Rye
•    1/2 oz Amaro Nonino
•    1/2 oz Maraska Maraschino Liqueur
Garnish: orange twist
Glass: cocktail glass
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon and a julep strainer

Assembly: Combine all of the ingredients in the mixing glass, add plenty of cracked ice and stir for at least 30 seconds until well chilled, strain the mixture into the serving glass. Express the oils from the twist over the glass and add.  Sit back, sip and enjoy the complexity of a well balanced drink.

The verdict: As noted in our original write up of the Doral the drink is a nicely crafted cocktail.  The Doral serves up several different types of flavors from each component and as I sipped over several minutes I began to taste the drink and not its parts (something I look for in a drink).  Rum is clearly the key ingredient providing a lush richness to the mix while the rye and amaro provide a stable backbone of supporting flavors.  In this go I used the Maraska called for in the original and the drink was far more pleasant to me then my prior recreate — subtle funkiness remains but it is not screaming to be noticed.  At the end the palate is left with a soft, floral bitterness from the Nonino that lingers nicely on the palate.  Perfect once again.

One down, one to go.  For some completely off the wall reason I have felt a deep desire to do a tequila based drink for this theme. I have no idea why and I haven’t been able to shake this pull.  Rather then fight it I succumbed but was left with the typical response … “now what?”  Whereas the Doral highlights for me how a variety of disparate ingredients can come together to harmonize nicely in a glass and in the case of our theme today highlight a bittering agent’s more communal qualities the purpose of trying our next drink was to see what many different styles of bittering agents could do in a mixture.  Thus, the La Amarga Tres was born (I think it was born … I’m pretty sure that there is a drink out there matching the below but I didn’t find a 100% match).

La Amarga Tres
Recipe adapted by theSpeakista (my name until I find the real culprit)

•    2 oz Don Agustin Anejo tequila
•   1/2 oz Carpano Antica vermouth
•    1/2 oz Cynar
•    2 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
Garnish: lemon twist
Glass: champagne coupe
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon and a julep strainer

Assembly: Combine all of the ingredients in the mixing glass, add plenty of cracked ice and stir for at least 30 seconds until very well chilled. Strain the mixture into the serving glass, express the oils from the twist over the glass and add it to the mixture. Ahhh … lingering bitter goodness.

The verdict: Wow. If a wave of different flavors and “bitterness” was the intent then this drink has it and has it in spades.  Upfront you get a strong punch of vegetal and floral flavors that yields to several hits of bitter.  The strong flavor that is Cynar comes out first but is mellowed by of all things the unique flavor profile that is tequila. The Carpano adds not only sweetness to help tame the Cynar’s punch but creates a nice balance of floral and bitter notes.  If I’m awash in “the waves of bitterness” references here it is because you cannot escape it — which I think was the purpose. I like this drink … it seems to work and I’m curious to see what you think of it?

There you have it – two different drinks highlighting how nice it is to be bitter.

So thanks again to Lindsey for hosting our little get together and be sure to go to her site to check out all of the other entries.

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