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.
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?
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.
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.
I’ve always liked the Rum drink called “3 Dots and a Dash” but never learned to make it.
A friend of mine, who also has a cocktail blog, wrote it up last week (Matt Robold over at Rumdood.com: 3 Dots and a Dash), so I figured it was about time I learned to make the damn thing.
A sort of Rum Punch, it is a delicious mix of potent rum flavors and drinkability.
3 Dots and a Dash
1 1/2 oz Neissen Ambre Rhum
1/2 oz El Dorado 5 Year Demerara Rum
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Orange Juice
scant 1/2 oz Honey Mix*
1/4 oz John Taylor Falernum
1/4 oz St Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1 scoop crushed ice (about 6 oz)
Blend or shake very well, until the outside of the mixing tin or glass frosts. Pour into a collins glass and garnish with a pineapple spear and 3 cherries.
*Honey Mix: Combine Honey 1-1 with warm water and shake to combine.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of 3 Dots and a Dash, so this Tabouleh will have to suffice:
I was looking through the fridge the other day and noticed I had a rather large, and totally forgotten, bag of uncooked bulgur wheat towards the back. Realized I hadn’t made Tabouleh in quite a while, so I figured now that tomatoes are starting to come into season, it would make a fine side salad for a roasted chicken.
Tabouleh is an interesting salad to play with, I’ve had them made all over the map. From basically all Parsley to almost entirely Bulgur. It’s sort of left to your interpretation. The mandatory elements, to me anyway, are: Cooked Bulgur Wheat, Parsley, Tomatoes, and olive oil. After that, the sky’s the limit.
Cook bulgur wheat according to the directions on the package it came in. Cool Bulgur, draining if necessary. Get out a large bowl. Finely mince a clove or two of garlic, pour in a couple tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice. Add a similar amount of olive oil. Chop your herbage and add it, being quite generous. Sometimes this dish is more an herb condiment than a salad. Chop a ripe and tasty tomato and throw it in with the herbs and garlic. Slice a green onion or two and add. Salt generously and toss to mix. Peel and chop a cucumber, (or other crispy vegetable,) and add. Toss again and check seasoning. Add bulgur wheat, maybe some crumbled feta cheese, and freshly ground pepper. Toss, allow to stand at room temperature for flavors to marry.
It is really easy to scale this up and down, it makes a totally classic hippie dish for a potluck. In fact, I believe, in certain cities, like Madison, WI and Berkeley, CA, if, through a bizarre set of coincidences, someone fails to bring Tabouleh as a “Dish to Pass”, all you have to do is close your eyes and say, “Tabouleh,” and it will appear on the table.
Over the last few years, Mr. Arnold has won a reputation as the cocktail demimonde’s own Mr. Wizard, passing alcohol through a variety of elaborate gizmos and coming out with something purer, more potent, and arguably better on the other end. His experiments have influenced many modern bartenders, but Booker & Dax will be the first tavern where he’ll have direct control over the drinks program.
While I went with the safe choice of a bottled Manhattan, Mrs. Flannestad picked out the more adventurous Mustachi-Ode, described on the menu as follows.
When she quite enjoyed the drink, I promised to do my best to make it at home.
Not knowing the proportions, I tweeted to the Booker and Dax account and, surprisingly, received a reply with a fairly exact recipe.
“1oz 101 bourbon .5 Becherovka .5 nardini .25 lemon 1 pistachio syrup (ours is centrifuged) ango decoration. Cheers!”
Becherovka is a Czech Herbal, well mostly spice, bitter:
Becherovka (formerly Karlsbader Becherbitter) is a herbal bitters that is produced in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, by the Jan Becher company. The brand is owned by Pernod Ricard.
Becherovka is flavored with anise seed, cinnamon, and approximately 32 other herbs. Its alcohol content is 38% ABV (76 proof). It is usually served cold and is often used as an aid to digestion. It may also be served with tonic water, making a drink that is known as a beton (BEcherovka+TONic) (Czech for “concrete”).
Amaro Nardini is an Italian Amaro made by the Nardini Company, which is known primarily for its Grappas:
DESCRIPTION Digestive after-dinner liqueur with a pleasant and distinctive liquorice finish. Can be served straight, chilled or with ice.
INGREDIENTS Grain alcohol, bitter orange aroma, peppermint and gentian.
APPEARANCE Intense color of dark chocolate.
NOSE Perfect balance of aromatic components, intense scent of liquorice and mint.
PALATE Bitter, with an excellent fruit and herbal balance. A fresh impact of mint, the gentian offers a pleasurable finish of liquorice.
SERVING SUGGESTION A pleasant after-dinner drink, can be served straight, chilled or with crushed ice and a slice of orange.
Since I already had both Becherovka and Amaro Nardini in the house, the only real challenge here is the Pistachio Syrup.
Having had success previously (Orgeat: Tales Version) making Orgeat based on Francis Xavier’s Almond Syrup recipe, I figured I would simply attempt to apply his FXCuisine Orgeat Recipe to Pistachios.
274g Washed Raw Sugar
(process a bit in blender)
2 cup water
Bring to a near simmer (at least 140 F), cool and steep overnight.
Strain out nuts with a cheesecloth.
Add equal amount of sugar for every 1gr of strained liquid. Put the pot on a low flame and stir to dissolve sugar. Bottle, cool, and refrigerate.
I guess I see why they Centrifuge this, given the kind of unappealing brown-green color.
The only real problem is I don’t know the sugar saturation level of Booker and Dax’s Pistachio Syrup. If that “1” in the recipe means 1 Ounce, I think they must be making more of a “Pistachio Milk” than a Pistachio Syrup.
However, the Orgeat Recipe from Francis Xavier at FXCuisine is crazy saturated, so there’s no way a whole ounce is going to work.
Pistachio Syrup in tow, I lugged my bottles of Pistachio Syrup, Amaro Nardini, and Becherovka in to work at Heaven’s Dog for some experimentation.
After a few variation on the Booker & Dax recipe, this worked pretty well and got good responses from customers and coworkers:
Mustachi-Ode, West Coast Stylee
1 oz Old Bardstown Estate Bourbon (101 Proof)
1/2 oz Amaro Nardini
1/2 oz Becherovka*
1/2 oz Homemade Pistachio Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Egg White
Dry Shake vigorously for a few seconds. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and apply Mustache shaped Angostura Decoration.
I think the next step is the Mustachi-Ode Flip! Though, by that point, maybe it should be a Van Dyke!
*The Becherovka used in this post was provided by an agency promoting the brand.
Combined 1 1/2 oz infused vodka with 1 1/2 tablespoons Malted Barley Syrup. Man that stuff is sticky. Added a tiny squeeze of lemon juice and an egg white. Dry shook it for a few seconds. Added Ice and shook the crap out of it.
Strained it into a pint glass and topped up with soda water.
Hey, it’s kind of neat, the bubbles in the carbonation are forming little waves of froth floating up the liquid, almost like Guinness.
Uh right, what is that?
It is remotely beer-like, but maybe reminds me a bit more of an Egg Cream than a beer.
First you get the roasty taste of the grains, then the sweetness of the barley malt. Finishes with a nice touch of hop bitterness and then the annoying aftertaste of highly distilled alcohol from the vodka.
On the plus side, it is neither the worst cocktail nor the worst beer that I have ever drunk.
Don’t know what shrubs are yet? Visit the Ark, Oh Parched One… and read up about this almost lost (and recently revived) art. Then get ready to learn from bartenders extraordinaires, Jennifer Colliau of Small Hand Foods and Aaron Gregory Smith of 15 Romolo, they will share their recipes for vinegar-based shrubs using delicious seasonal berries during this hands-on class.
The class will learn all about shrubs, particularly pre-prohibition style traditional shrubs, taste already made shrubs, make 2 shrubs of their very own and learn about how to use them in cocktails. They’ll each take home 2 quart jars of their own shrub made with fresh seasonal fruit (apricots, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) and herbs from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Also includes take-home booklet. (and yes, non-alcoholic options – and samples- of both will be available.)
At this point, none of these Shrub recipes really make sense to me, even enough to try making.
Things I know:
There are two things commonly called Shrub(b). One is fruit (typically citrus) infused booze. The fruit infused booze is sometimes spelled “Shrubb” and may be traditional in the Caribbean (or West Indies). The commercial example of this is Clement Creole Shrubb. The other Shrub is a flavored Syrup. Sometimes this flavored syrup has added vinegar, sometimes added booze. Presumably the booze or vinegar is added as a preservative, so the Shrub can be bottled for later use.
I guess the Rum Shrub below sounds vaguely like the process I’ve heard for the Caribbean (West Indian) Shrub(b), whole fruit aged with booze and sweetened.
The other recipes are interesting mostly for their complete lack of fermentation or vinegar, two things I had previously assumed to be necessary for the other style of Shrub. They basically seem like prepared cocktails, or flavored syrups.
I’m going to do some more research and attend an upcoming class that Jennifer Colliau and Aaron Gregory are giving at Cuesa.
CUESA & UKSF Class: Shrubs!Aaron Gregory Smith of 15 Romolo and the SF USBG! Thursday, June 23, 2011, 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM.
Hopefully, afterwards, Shrubs will make enough sense that I can get down with some Shrub related projects this summer.
I keep thinking a Rhubarb Shrub(b) might be fun…
To the thin rinds of 2 Lemons and the juice of 5, add 2 quarts of Brandy; cover it for 3 days, then add a quart of Sherry and 2 pounds of loaf Sugar, run it through a jelly bag and bottle it.
Put 3 pints of Orange Juice and 1 pound of loaf Sugar to a gallon of Rum. Put all into a cask, and leave it for 6 weeks, when it will be ready for use.
1 Pint of Sugar.
1 Pint of Strained Currant Juice.
Boil it gently for eight or ten minutes, skimming it well; take if off and, when lukewarm, add half a gill of Brandy to every pint of Shrub. Bottle tight.
White Currant Shrub
Strip the fruit, and prepare in a jar, as for jelly; strain the juice, of which put two quarts to 1 gallon of Rum, and 2 pounds of Lump Sugar; strain through a jelly bag.
This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.
On May 7th & 8th a line up of top San Francisco chefs will create a meal you can’t get anywhere else. Join us for a cocktail reception, a 6 course Japanese inspired meal with beer, sake, wine and cocktail pairings from some of the best in the business, while perusing the silent auction for local goodies. It’s a night to mix and mingle with some people in your community while helping a great cause.
Leaving aside the worthiness of the cause, if someone asks you if you would like to help out at a benefit featuring chefs which include: Michael Black (Sebo), Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese Food), Jake Godby (Humphry Slocombe), Jordan Grosser (Stag Dining), Robbie Lewis (Bon Appetit), Richie Nakano (Hapa Ramen), and Chat Newton (American Box) you really don’t say no. These are some of the most important names among San Francisco’s Restaurant and chef scene. What I’ve seen of the menu looks off the charts!
I’ll be contributing a punch to be served during the Cocktail Hour and silent auction which precedes the dinner. There will also be beer pairings by Jesse Friedman (of Beer and Nosh and Sodacraft), Wine and Sake pairings from Alex Fox and Alex Finberg, and Cocktails from Scott Baird and Josh Harris of Bon Vivants.
Whenever I’ve made my variations on Jerry Thomas’ California Milk Punch, I’ve always been struck by how similar the ingredients are to the famous San Francisco drink known as “Pisco Punch”.
While most people these days make Pisco Punch a la minute, especially since we have Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup at hand, it was originally a real Punch, prepared in a large batch and served out of a bowl.
When they asked me to contribute a Punch for the SF Chefs Unite Benefit, I returned to the quintessential San Francisco Beverage, and decided to return it to its roots.
I called up Encanto Pisco, and they agreed to donate some of their most excellent Pisco for the cause.
Here’s the plan, in a slightly smaller volume recipe:
16 oz Water
16 oz Sugar
4 tsp Japanese Sencha Green Tea
1 Quart Straus Farms Milk
Zest citrus and add zest to Pisco and Batavia Arrack. Juice Lemons and add to aforementioned liquid. Add Spices. Allow to infuse for 48 hours.
Heat water and add tea. Steep 6 minutes and stir in sugar. Strain tea leaves out of syrup and chill.
Strain Peels and Spices out of Liquid. Juice other two lemons and add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Heat milk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Allow to stand undisturbed for 30 minutes and filter through cheesecloth, removing milk solids. Add Tea Syrup to filtered booze mixture and pour into clean containers. Allow to stand for a couple days. Rack clear liquid off of any accumulated sediment into clean bottles and store. Chill well before serving. Serve on ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. Makes about a gallon.
Franklin’s Milk Punch recipe shares characteristics of two types of beverages–possets and syllabubs. Possets combine hot milk with ale, wine, or brandy, sugar, and spices. Heat and alcohol curdle the milk. Possets were used as remedies for colds, and were consumed from the spout of a posset cup, which let one drink the whey from the bottom and eat the curd later. Syllabubs combine milk with wine and lemon juice (or other acids); the acid from the wine and juice curdle the milk. Served in a glass, the foamy curd of the syllabub is eaten with a spoon and the punch drunk.
To make Milk Punch
Take 6 quarts of Brandy, and the Rinds of 44 Lemons pared very thin; Steep the Rinds in the Brandy 24 hours; then strain it off. Put to it 4 Quarts of Water, 4 large Nutmegs grated, 2 quarts of Lemon Juice, 2 pound of double refined Sugar. When the Sugar is dissolv’d, boil 3 Quarts of Milk and put to the rest hot as you take it off the Fire, and stir it about. Let it stand two Hours; then run it thro’ a Jelly-bag till it is clear; then bottle it off. –
As you can see, I’m not taking too many liberties! The brandy would have been cask strength at the time, thus I feel OK using a bit less liquid. I have to say, though, he was pretty liberal with the citrus!
When I was telling some public transport acquaintances, (riding the same bus, at the same time for several years, eventually even a taciturn curmudgeon like myself meets some people,) about my recent adventures in Milk Punch, they mentioned that it sounded similar to a traditional drink they sometimes make called Atholl Brose.
Given my long term interest in Grain Based Beverages and Food Stuffs, Atholl Brose had always tweaked my interest, but never really enough to research and undertake production. I mean, Honey, Scotch, Oats and Cream, how could it be bad?
But to back track a bit…
Almost every civilized human culture on the planet has some form of grain based beverage. After all, soaking grain in water is the easiest way to derive some small portion of nutrition from it.
The New World has its corn based beverages, which vary in substance and sweetness all the way from liquidy beverages to puddings and eventually forming the basis for tortillas.
Likewise, in Asia, rice and soybeans get this treatment, creating a spectrum of nutrient rich foodstuffs from beverages and porridges to noodles and cakes.
Europe was no different, basing many of its grain beverages on Barley. To this day, you can buy Barley Water beverages at UK import stores and someone might think to make a batch for their senile old uncle who lives somewhere in the attic. Easier to digest than bread.
(At this point, I shall skip a long digression regarding the evolution of Barley Water to the Almond based Syrup which eventually came to be known as Orgeat. I instead refer you to the writeup of the talk I gave at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008: Homemade Ingredients. Most of that information is covered there.)
In Scotland, Oats and Barley were grains of choice, but much of the culinary energy was spent making the Oat palatable. Oats and Oatmeal are used nearly across the board as porridge, cake, and in a few cases beverages.
One of the most famous of these beverages is Atholl Brose, a drink composed of Oats, Honey, Cream, and, nicely, Scotch Whisky.
The name is a two part word. The Brose part of the name refers to the Oatmeal Water leftover from soaking oats. A nominally nutritious beverage, which only becomes palatable if you roast the oats and sweeten it with honey or sugar. Atholl refers to one of the original Pictish kingdoms of Scotland. It was a mountainous region, and calling the beverage “Atholl Brose” was sort of like calling it “Back Country Brose” or “Mountain Brose”, in other words, where the Whisky Stills were.
In any case, a little liquor and honey will put that annoying dyspeptic Uncle to sleep a bit faster than plain old Oat Water!
Scanning the Internet, I didn’t find much commonality among the various recipes for Atholl Brose.
Some were trifle-like puddings, others beverages, some just spiked porridge.
I figured I might as well try my own hand at a variation, using ingredients I like.
1 Cup Goat’s Milk
2 TBSP SF Beekeeper’s Honey
2 TBSP Toasted Steel Cut Oats*
Scald Milk. Stir in Honey and Oats. Allow to stand over night. Strain oats out of liquid and discard. Warm and combine 2-1 with not too expensive Scotch.
*To toast steel cut oats, either put them in a dry pan over low heat and toss frequently until they smell toasty or pre-heat an oven to 325F, spread the oats on a sheet pan, and put in the oven, tossing occasionally, until they smell toasted.
Huh, that’s actually tasty! I started adding it to my coffee in the morning and to whatever other Alcoholic Spirits were handy at night. For the record: Scotch=Awesome. Bourbon=Awesome. Rum=OK. Irish Whiskey=Meh. Rye=Meh. It is even good warm or hot with no booze at all.
But I was soon out of that small batch of Brose and felt a twang of guilt about discarding the Oats. It nagged at my conscience as it just seemed out of the spirit of the Scots people and their famous thriftiness to discard the partially used oats.
So I made a larger batch.
1 quart Goat Milk
1 Cup Toasted Steel Cut Oats
1 Cup Decent Local Honey (It should be sweet on par with a liqueur.)
Scald Milk. Stir in Honey and Oats. Allow to stand over night. Strain oats out of liquid and reserve.
Use Brose to sweeten your coffee, drink, whatever.
The Oats can then be cooked for porridge:
Preheat oven to 300 F. Combine Drained Oats with 3 Cups Water. Bring to a simmer in oven proof pan. Cover and place in oven. Cook for an hour or so. Spoon into bowls. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers and microwave for quick oatmeal during the week.
I might add, this is definitely the most successful preparation of Steel Cut Oats I have yet made. Good texture and body with very little crunchiness. Definitely a way forward with an ingredient I have found stubborn in the past.
And to finish, I will quote Father Jack Crilly, a dyspeptic, alcoholic invalid if there ever was one. “DRINK! FECK! ARSE! GIRLS! CAKE!”