Hornbuckle’s Ginger Bitters

It may be out there, but we have not personally seen a commercially available ginger bitters, so we had to make one ourselves. Ginger is one of our favorite flavors, and we think it’s extremely versatile. Plus, after we’d made all of the recipes in Brad Thomas Parson’s Bitters book, we also thought it was high time that we had a signature bitters that we could call our very own. We’ve tried some other original recipes. Some were interesting (I’m looking  at you, dill bitters), and others flat out failed.

The ginger bitters are a creation of which we are extremely proud.

In our first batch, we used Everclear (pure grain alcohol) for our base, but we are starting a new batch this weekend that uses 151 rum. We’ll let you know how that goes. You might also experiment with using a different sweetener instead of regular sugar. We suspect molasses or demarara syrup would work really nicely with this.

Ginger Bitters 1Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Three 32-ounce mason jars
  • 24 ounces of Everclear or 151 rum
  • 2 thumbs ginger root – sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon cassia chips
  • ½ teaspoon devil’s club root
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 3 stars anise
  • ¼ cup sugar

Step One:

  • Combine all ingredients (except sugar) in the first mason jar
  • Let this sit for 2 weeks in a cool, dark place
Step Two:
  • Strain out solids with cheesecloth or mesh strainer
  • Conserve the alcohol solution in one of the other mason jars and set aside
  • Put solids in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil
  • Remove from heat
  • When cool, add contents of saucepan to one of your empty jars
  • Let this sit for 1 week

Step Three:

  • Strain out solids from the water mixture with cheesecloth or mesh strainer
  • Mix the two liquids together
  • Strain it one more time for good measure and then let this sit for another three days

Step Four:

  • Make a simple syrup with the sugar (1:1 water and sugar)
  • Add to mixture in mason jar and shake
  • Funnel into dropper bottles

Bonus Bitter Ginger Liqueur

The first time we made this recipe, we  added too much Everclear in step one and filled up the entire mason jar. This, of course, would have left us no room to add the water solution or simple syrup in the following steps.
So, what to do?
We separated those extra eight ounces of gingery liquor and added an equal amount (8 ounces) of simple syrup. Tada! Bitter Ginger Liqueur!
Join us soon for part two where we post some original cocktail recipes using the ginger bitters and the bitter ginger liqueur.

Back to Basics

Since we are teaching a bitters class this week, we thought we would go back to basics and revisit the original cocktail recipe – base liquor plus sugar, water, and bitters.

The Whiskey Cocktail is the original Old Fashioned, before Don Draper ever thought of ordering the drink that now goes by that name. This cocktail is as simple as it sounds. Start with whiskey, add sugar (we prefer simple syrup because it dissolves better), add bitters, and stir with ice (the water in the equation).

In the late 1800s, it became fashionable to fill cocktail glasses with a variety of fruits, but true believers would go into a bar and ask for “one the old fashioned way,” meaning NO FRUIT, just a basic cocktail. Over time, this understanding became muddled like the hunks of cherry and orange you see at the bottom of an Old Fashioned today.

Whiskey Cocktail 3Whiskey Cocktail

  • 2 ounces of good whiskey (bourbon, rye, Irish, whatever you prefer – but not Scotch)
  • 1/2 ounce of simple syrup
  • 2 dashes of bitters – if you can find them, use Jerry Thomas bitters or Boker’s. Angostura will do in a pinch. Peychaud’s is good for variety.

Stir in a mixing glass full of ice until about 25% of the ice melts, then strain into a small rocks glass. Garnish with a piece of fresh lemon peel.

Another drink that is beautiful in its simplicity is the Champagne Cocktail, which is just about as old as the cocktail itself, but it became more popular than ever during the roaring ’20s.

Champagne Cocktail 2Champagne Cocktail

  • Put a sugar cube in a champagne flute or coupe glass
  • Soak the sugar cube with bitters – again Angostura will do fine, but be adventurous
  • Fill the glass with champagne, preferable a very dry one, but it needn’t be expensive

We do like to use an actual sugar cube  for this one because of the visual effect. As the bitters-soaked sugar cube slowly dissolves, the bittersweet combination begins to cascade up from the bottom of the glass. It’s not a crime to stir a little bit to help it along though.