The Bitter Truth class

Posted by TraderTiki on May 8th, 2008 — Posted in Concoctioneering, Events

This past Sunday was the first in hopefully a long string of classes hosted by Daniel and David at Teardrop Lounge. David and Daniel mixed drinks and discussed the history, lore, and craft of making bitters. The class was divided into chapters, each highlighting a bit of history and creation of bitters.


Chapter the first, Daniel offered a not altogether brief (his words) history of the origins of bitters and their introduction to cocktails. Served before us were 4-ways of the Pegu Club, traditionally served with Angostura, and tried with no bitters, orange bitters, Angostura bitters, and a combination of Orange and Angostura bitters. The history was fascinating, with tales of Roman council and many-herbed wines, British Pink Gin, and up to the inclusion of the use of bitters in the defining recipe for a “cocktail”. The cordial glasses with sampled bitters showed the positive aspects of using and combining bitters, the rich and spicy Angostura filling out the notes with the smokey orange flavors in Regan’s Orange Bitters, and of course, the orange and lime and gin in the cocktail. As noted in the class, Gin works as a great body for the bitters, as it has some notes of its own that will shimmer or darken depending on the flavors in the bitters. Local distillery House Spirits’ Aviation Gin is, of course, very highly recommended.


In Part the second, David went over the history of Lousiana’s own Antoine Peychaud, and his flight from Haiti to a pharmacy in Louisiana, where his own bitters became the basis of that most legendary of cocktails, the Sazerac. Served as a bit of the “history in a glass” was the Sazerac, one of the first served at Teardrop without their own Cherry bark and Vanilla bitters.

Division the Third (sadly not pictured) involved Daniel discussing the craft and care put into homemade bitters. Much discussed was the separation in bitters and tinctures, in that bitters including a bittering agent, such as wormwood, quassia, cinchona, or gentian. Tinctures are more of an alcohol-extracted monoflavor, such as sitting vanilla beans in high proof vodka. The drink served to sample was an Alaska two ways, one with the store bought Fees, the other with the Teardrop Pomelo bitters. You can’t really go wrong either way, but the Teardrop bitters had that bitter edge, deepening the flavor and making it last longer on the palate.

bitter_ch4_1.jpg bitter_ch4_2.jpg

For the fourth piece in this epic series, David discussed the inclusion of bitters in popular cocktails, highlighting the flavors brought out with hot and spicy bitters, such as Charles H. Baker’s Hellfire Bitters. The greatest purpose of bitters, it seems, is not the direct flavoring of the drink, but manipulation of the flavors that already exist within.


The epilogue of the event involved a sampling of bitters ingredients, and the “Fancy Tickler”, a sort of Bartender and Patron communal Omakase, with each cocktail matched to the patron’s specification. This was certainly the most popular time of the evening, I myself enjoying a Craig inspired Mezcal, Chartreuse, St. Germain, Grapefruit and Chocolate Mole bitters cocktail.

I’d go into further detail, but rather I’d recommend firstly that they run the class again, and second, that you come up for it. I myself recently finished a new batch of “Bridgetown Bitters“, when I then found out about Bittermens own Tiki bitters, also a Falernum-based bitters. Great minds think alike, but fools seldom differ, eh?

I hope you’re inspired to try an extra dash or two in your drinks tonight, or even afterwards in some Ginger Ale as a stomach calmative (and oh does it ever work!).

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Comment by Marleigh

Color me a bright shade of jealous…

Posted on May 9, 2008 at 10:23 am

Comment by Chris

Ditto on that - sounds like an awesome class.

I do love some bitters that’s for sure - your ginger-ale stomach settler is my standard way of drinking the stuff…


Posted on May 11, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Comment by Tiare

I dream about trying those Bittermen bitters..hope they will be available soon!

Well, my stomach settler is maybe odd, i use Campari AND added bitters..but i like it!

Posted on May 12, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Comment by Doug Winship

Actually, you might also want to try making a Pegu with the Peychaud’s Bitters. I’ve been trying it on and off for a while, and will do a post on it soon. You get a drink that looks like a fairly flamboyant Cosmo, but it tastes quite good. Totally different, but good.

Oh, and color me the same shade of green as Marleigh!

Posted on June 7, 2008 at 11:37 am

Comment by TraderTiki

That’s a lovely idea Doug.

I honestly have nothing on the top of my skull that asks for Peychaud’s other than a Sazerac. I’ll have to give that a shot!

Posted on June 7, 2008 at 1:34 pm

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