Hell-fire Bitters

We’ve been getting requests for spicy drinks, so I am starting a new batch of Hellfire Bitters for South at SF Jazz.

I also realized I had only ever written about Hell-Fire Bitters on eGullet.org (in 2005!), never on the blog.

Posted 10 November 2005 – 10:38 AM
The most recent Sunday NY Times Style magazine featured an article on bitters talking with Joe Fee and about Regan’s Orange bitters.

Coincidentally, I’d been reading through Baker’s “Jigger, Beaker, and Glass” and decided I would give making his “Hellfire Bitters” a try.

This is my take on it. So far it smells quite nice. I’m not exactly sure what kind of peppers I used. Some sort of bird chile, I believe. The small, festively colored and very hot ones that are available here in late summer and fall still attached to their little bushes.

Hellfire Bitters a la Charles Baker Jr.

2 Cups Very Hot Chiles
2 Cups Vodka
2 TBSP Molasses
2 Limes (Quartered)
1/2 tsp. Cinchona (Quinine) Bark Powder
8 Allspice Berries, Crushed

It all goes in the blender and then into a sterilized jar to age for a couple weeks, shaking periodically. Squeeze through cheesecloth and bottle.

Anyone else experimented with making their own bitters?

-Erik

Ah, way back in 2005, when making your own bitters was something a little unusual! So young! So innocent!

Here’s the actual recipe from Charles Baker Jr’s Book, “The Gentleman’s Companion”.

“HELL-FIRE BITTERS or CAYENNE WINE, another Receipt from the Island of Trinidad, in the British West Indies, and Now and Again Used in Gin-and-Bitters, & Other Similar Sharp Drinks instead of routine Bitters by Stout Englishmen with Boiler Plate Gastric Linings

“This is an old, old receipt dating to 1817 in print right here before us–and likely long before that, because the British knew Port of Spain a century and a half before. In fact we have just been diving up coins, cannons, shot, crystal goblets and other miscellaneous relics from HMS WINCHESTER, 60 guns, 933 tons, commanded by one John Soule, and while bound from Jamaica to England, sank in a gale on a certain coral barrier reef, 24th September 1695–and have the loot to prove it–And photographs; and cinema film.

“This Hell-Fire Bitters is an excellent cooking and seasoning sauce for fish, salads, soups and meats, when mixed half and half with strained lime juice and stood for 2 wks in an uncovered bottle, before using–a fact which has been disclosed in Volume I.

“Pound up 2 cups of scarlet round bird peppers, or small chilis or cayenne peppers. Put in a saucepan with 1 cup of tart white wine; simmer up once and turn everything into a pint jar, add 1 cup of cognac brandy and seal jar tight. Let steep for 14 days, strain through several thicknesses of cloth and bottle for use. When used solely for seasoning food, put everything through a fine sieve. These peppers have a vast amount of flavor in their scarlet skin and flesh, entirely aside from the intense heat of their oils. Seeds fro their home growth in ordinary window boxes, flower pots, or rusty tin cans!, may be bought at any half-way seed store. If no fresh peppers are possible simply stir 1/4 oz of ground cayenne pepper into the wine-brandy mix. Claret and brandy, claret alone, sherry and brandy, sherry alone, and brandy alone, are also authentic steeping fluids. Actually it is not a “bitters” at all unless a little chinchona bark is added–and 1/2 drachm or so is plenty, strained out at the last along with the pepper pods.”

And here’s a similar recipe, based on my earlier one. I like to use overproof rum and some spices along with the chiles. It looks like Neyah White started adding coffee to his version of Hellfire Bitters when he was at Nopa, (Mexican Standoff and Hellfire Bitters). Since he borrowed from me, I’ll borrow back from him. I’m leaving out the limes, since citrus wasn’t really a part of the original recipe.

image

Hellfire Bitters, 2013

1/2 Cup Birdseye Chile (using dried here), stemmed.
4 Facing Heaven Szechuan Chile Peppers, split.
4 Allspice Berries, crushed
5 Whole Cloves
1 Tablespoon Whole Coffee Beans
1 pinch Chinchona Bark.
1 Pint of Wray & Nephew Rum (or other similar overproof rum)

METHOD: Combine ingredients in a jar and allow to sit until flavor is well infused. Strain out solids.

Curious to see how they will work in the Carter Beats the Devil Cocktail.

Café Kirsch Cocktail

Cafe Kirsch Cocktail

Café Kirsch Cocktail

The White of 1 Egg
1 Liqueur Glass Kirsch (1 oz Trimbach Kirsch)
1/2 Tablespoon of Sugar (1 teaspoon Caster Sugar)
1 Small Glass of Cold Coffee (1 oz Peet’s Kenyan AA, Melitta Drip)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Weird. I expected to like the last cocktail and expected to dislike this one.

Wrong on both accounts.

This is tasty and pretty! I’ll take this over a Red Bull and Vodka any day.

Of course I’m going to regret drinking it, when I can’t sleep tonight at midnight.

Couple Additional Notes:

If you don’t have decent strong drip coffee for it, use espresso.

In the US a number of the larger liqueur companies market something they call Kirschwasser. If you look at the ingredients on the back, you will discover that it is typically artificially flavored and sweetened neutral spirits. I’ve tried a couple (they’re cheap) and they are truly vile. Think, cherry cough drops dissolved in kerosene.

Kirsch or Cherry Eau de Vie is almost always sold in 375ml bottles and is relatively expensive. It is distilled from a “wine” made from fermented cherry juice and is (usually) an unaged clear spirit. In the US, Clear Creek, St. George Spirits, Peak Spirits, and others make acceptable versions.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.