If you landed here because you scanned your bottle of small batch, hand crafted bitters welcome to The Menu Meme!
What are bitters? What do I do with them?
Brilliant questions! Bitters are generally classified as a non potable spirit, meaning that although that little bottle in front of you is around 115 proof, and drinking it straight would not be a pleasurable experience. Bitters are meant to accentuate cocktails by adding a dash or two. (a dash = one half dropper full). The recipes for the bitters I created are based on the excellent book, Bitters, by Brad Thomas Parsons. The Menu Meme bitters are made with mostly organic roots, bark, fruit rinds, spices, quality high proof spirits and bittering agents. TMM bitters will last indefinitely, but have the best flavor within a year. Although your bitters have been exhaustively strained, there may be a touch of sediment in your bottle. Don’t fret–just shake it up.
Using bitters in cocktails does not mean you must start growing weird facial hair and don a leather apron. It does not mean you have to purchase hundreds of dollars of booze and bar equipment. You likely can start using your bitters right now with what you have in your house. The first two batches of TMM bitters are based on the most common and historic bitters commercially available: orange (Fee Brothers), and aromatic (Angostura)
Simple ways to use bitters without learning how to make a new drink:
Try 10 drops or so of orange bitters in a wheat or Belgian style beer.
Experiment with any type of bitters in a Vodka Soda, Vodka Seltzer, or in a Gin and Tonic
Aromatic bitters add great depth to a Rum and Coke, as well as any Whiskey and Coke
Try a few drops on top of vanilla ice cream.
Bitters have been used for their medicinal purposes for centuries. Try a few dashes of bitters in a glass of seltzer or water to ease indigestion or help you out of a food coma.
Some classic cocktails that are easy to build that use bitters:
Now we get to the part where a few extra items added to your bar, while not entirely necessary, make building these cocktails easier, especially when making multiple drinks.
Simple Syrup. Using sugar is perfectly acceptable, but many bartenders prefer using simple syrup because the sugar is already completely dissolved. You can buy simple syrup, but it is painfully easy to make: Put equal parts white sugar and water in a saucepan, heat to a simmer, remove from the heat and stir to dissolve. I make rich syrup (two parts sugar to one part water–same idea, just less water) and put it in a empty bottle of purchased simple syrup. It will keep in the fridge for a month or so.
Mixing Glass and Bar spoon and strainer Although it is popular to shake cocktails in a shaker, most cocktails that contain all spirit are traditionally stirred in a mixing glass with a long bar spoon. A pint glass and a teaspoon will do just fine. A cocktail strainer is the best way to strain ice from your drink. They are cheap and can likely be found in your neighborhood grocery store.
Large ice cube tray. My brother bought me one of these for Christmas last year, and I love it. Using one huge chunk of ice in your finished glass automatically makes the finished drink classy, it also melts slower, preventing your drink from getting too diluted. Winter is coming in the Midwest, and in lieu of using large ice cubes, bust a (clean) icicle off of your home or porch and put it in your drink.
Three classic cocktail recipes using bitters:
2 oz. Rye or Burbon
15 drops bitters
1/4 ounce simple syrup
In a pint glass, combine ice, Rye, bitters and syrup and stir for at least 30 seconds. Strain the drink into a Old Fashioned glass with one large ice cube (or a few smaller ones) and garnish with a lemon or orange peel. Experiment using different bitters (or more than one) and syrups. Maple syrup or molasses used instead of simple syrup adds different complexities.
2 ounces Rye or Burbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth (red label)
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash aromatic (Angostura) or The Menu Meme’s house bitters, or Cherry Pomegranate Vanilla bitters.
In a pint glass with some ice, combine the Rye, Vermouth, and bitters and stir for at least 30 seconds. Strain the contents into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a cherry or lemon peel.
Martini The classic martini has always been made with Gin until the 50’s or so when Vodka became popular. Gin and Vodka are the same spirit, the difference being that Gin has had certain botanicals (juniper is classic) extracted into the pot. There is no shame in replacing Vodka with Gin, or do as The Lovely and others do at my bar and request half gin, half vodka. Orange bitters are the classic here, but experiment with what bitters you have to determine what you prefer.
1 1/2 ounces Gin or Vodka
1/2 ounce dry vermouth (green label)
1 dash orange bitters
In a pint glass full of ice, add the Gin, Vermouth and bitters and stir for at least 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe or martini glass and garnish with a lemon peel.