Category Archives: other spirits

how to make shrubs {aka drinking vinegars} | 3 refreshing recipes

Shrub. What a funny, little word.

When I passionately mention my newly acquired skill of shrub-making to my friends, the first thing that comes to their minds is usually that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the “Knights Who Say Ni” demand a shrubbery. Of course, the Knights desired a shrub of the green and leafy variety. If only I were there, when that demand was made. I would’ve had a much more exciting and delicious rendition of what they were asking for!

So, what does the word, shrub, mean, exactly? Michael Dietsch explains in rich detail the history of shrub-making, which dates way beyond even Colonial times, within the pages of his recent book, Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times. A shrub is basically fruit, or even vegetables, combined with two other components: sugar and vinegar. After the correct ratio of those ingredients integrate over a little time, the result is a perfect balance of tartness, sugar, acidity, and texture. Shrubs are mouth-watering and concentrated, and they taste amazing when combined with soda water or integrated into a cocktail.

how to make shrubs | holly & flora

The first time I even heard about shrubs, aka “drinking vinegars”, was on a recent trip to Oregon, back in the fall of 2013. I was working the Pinot Noir harvest with EIEIO & Co Winery, and I, along with the other members of the internship team, met up for dinner at Pok Pok, an award-winning Thai restaurant in Portland. Jay, the winemaker at EIEIO, insisted that I try one of Pok Pok’s drinking vinegars. I was kind of in the mood for a beer, but I acquiesced and chose the tamarind drinking vinegar from a list of about ten different, and often rotating, options.

I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical, at first. Drinking vinegar? I didn’t even know if that sounded appetizing. I was completely proven wrong, when I had my first, refreshingly vibrant sip. I quickly ordered another flavor and then thought about the possibilities of adding a shrub to a cocktail. I was smitten immediately, but it wasn’t until this past month that I became insanely obsessed with the shrub-making process.

how to make shrubs | holly & floraI promise you that you’ll be pleasantly surprised the first time you make or taste a shrub. They really don’t require a lot of work, just a little time and patience. Once you’ve made the shrub, strained it into a clean Mason jar, and let it rest for a week, the shrub is ready to drink. Shrubs will keep up to about six months, but discard if the shrub begins to bubble or ferment, or develops a slimy texture.

how to make shrubs | holly & flora how to make shrubs | holly & floraFor each of the recipes shown here, I incorporated the technique of making an oleo-saccharum during the shrub-making process. The phrase translates as “oily sugar” and is made by combining sugar with the zest of citrus and letting it integrate over the course of an hour or so. Adding this zesty sugar to a shrub recipe brightens the shrub and adds a depth of complexity to the mix. I especially noticed what the lemony sugar did to my raspberry-mint shrub – it added a punch of citrus and really balanced the flavors.

I learned this technique from the book, Shrubs, and it is super easy to follow.


how to make an oleo-saccharum


  1. Remove the zest of your citrus fruits with a vegetable peeler. You may use the skins of oranges, lemons, or grapefruits. Michael Diestch advises avoiding limes, since their skins are much more bitter.
  2. Be sure to avoid removing the tough, white piths of the citrus, when you’re peeling the zest away. The photo below shows the results you are looking for.
  3. In a bowl, combine the strips of zest with whatever measurement of sugar your recipe calls for. Using either a cocktail muddler or a sturdy, wooden spoon, really put some elbow grease into pressing the zest into the sugar.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour.
  5. Remove the peels, once the time has passed. Your oleo-saccharum or “oily sugar” is ready to use!

how to make shrubs | holly & flora how to make shrubs | holly & flora how to make shrubs | holly & flora


blood orange shrub


  • 5 or 6 medium blood oranges, peeled and juiced {yield is about 1 1/2 cups juice}
  • 1/2 cup turbinado or raw sugar
  • 3/4 cup Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  1. Following the oleo-saccharum method above, combine the peeled skins of the oranges {the colored part of the orange peels} with the sugar, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for at least one hour.
  2. Juice the blood oranges.
  3. Once the oleo-saccharum is ready, remove the pieces of orange zest and add the blood orange juice and the Champagne vinegar to the sugar mixture.
  4. Stir well to dissolve any sugar particles.
  5. Transfer the shrub mixture into a clean jar, seal it, and shake it to further blend the ingredients. Store the shrub mixture in the refrigerator. Allow 2 to 3 days for the flavors to meld, before enjoying.
  • A special thanks to Michael Dietsch for letting me post his recipe for an orange shrub! I agree with him that the orange flavor matches perfectly with the raw sugar and Champagne vinegar. The next two recipes are my own creation, but were influenced by the tips and steps within his book.
  • Tip: When I tried removing the orange peels from the sugar, I found that a lot of the sugar was sticking to the peels. I didn’t want to lose all that sugar, so I simply poured the juice and the vinegar into the bowl of zest and sugar. I stirred the mixture well and then poured it through a fine-mesh strainer. I then tossed the zest.

how to make shrubs | holly & flora how to make shrubs | holly & flora how to make shrubs | holly & flora


strawberry + peppercorn shrub


  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 2 lemons, peeled
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 30 black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  1. Using the oleo-saccharum technique, muddle the lemon peels with the sugar in a bowl. Cover the sugar mixture with plastic wrap and set aside for at least an hour.
  2. Once the hour has passed, remove the peels from the sugar and add the hulled and quartered strawberries, along with the coarsely crushed peppercorns, to the bowl. Stir to incorporate.
  3. Cover the strawberry mixture with plastic wrap, transfer to the refrigerator, and store for two hours.
  4. Remove the mixture from the fridge and muddle the mixture even further, getting out as much juice as possible from the berries.
  5. Add the vinegar to the strawberry mixture. Cover the bowl again, transfer the mixture back into the fridge, and store for two days.
  6. Remove the mixture from the fridge, muddle the berries again and strain through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer into a clean Mason jar.
  7. Store the shrub mixture in the fridge for a week to further integrate the flavors, before enjoying. Shake before using.

This recipe sounds a little labor-intensive, but follow the directions, and you won’t be disappointed with the results. This shrub has a sweet-tart strawberry flavor with a subtle, peppery finish.

how to make shrubs | holly & flora how to make shrubs | holly & flora


raspberry + mint shrub


  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 2 lemons, peeled
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  1. Prepare your oleo-saccharum by peeling the skins of the lemons with a vegetable peeler. In a bowl, muddle the peels with the sugar, cover with plastic wrap, and wait for at least an hour.
  2. Add the raspberries and mint to the sugar mixture and muddle the raspberries, expressing some of their juice. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer into the fridge. Let it sit for one day.
  3. Remove the raspberry mix from the fridge, muddle the fruit even more, and then add the vinegar to the mix. Stir to integrate and dissolve the sugar.
  4. Strain the mixture through a chinois or a fine-mesh strainer into a clean Mason jar.
  5. Store the shrub mixture in the refrigerator. Allow 1 week for the flavors to meld, before enjoying. Shake before using.

how to make shrubs | holly & flora

There you have it! Have you been smitten with the shrub-making bug like I have? If so, what tips do you have to offer? Any recipes you absolutely love? Clue me in! I can’t wait for gardening season to fully kick in. I have visions of celery shrubs, beet shrubs, and even herbal shrubs.

Oh! You probably want some ideas for how to actually incorporate those tasty shrubs of yours. I enjoy adding a shrub to a glass of ice and sparkling water, like the ones shown in the photos here, but they make amazing additions to cocktails. I like tossing in a small portion of shrub, say, an ounce, along with some gin and soda. Super simple. I did find a pretty good “cocktail generator equation”, via Bill Norris, contributor at Badass Digest:


basic shrub cocktail equation


  •  1 ½ to 2 parts base spirit {ex: gin}
  • 1 part complementary flavored liqueur {ex: citrus liqueur}
  • 1/2 part shrub
  • 2 dashes bitters {ex: orange or chamomile bitters}

Just combine those ingredients, along with ice, in a cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly and strain either served up or over ice, along with a dash of soda. Garnish with an herb sprig, slice of fruit, or citrus wheel. Enjoy!

Cheers to shrubs, discovering new preservation techniques, and to the laughter and silliness that the entire Monty Python movement brought us. Now, go and cut down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring! 😉

XO,

Jayme

two bowls of sherbet on a cutting board

blood orange + campari sherbet {vegan}

I’ve been in a seasonal slump lately. It’s definitely a product of the cold weather and shorter days. I’m doing all the usual advice, like getting up earlier, going outside for some Vitamin D, lighting candles at night, and listening to cheery music. I’ve also been filling up my kitchen with bowls of lemons, oranges, and limes. I will say that their pungent aromas and punchy colors do pick me up quite a bit. The fact that citrus season falls in mid-winter is kind of like a love letter from nature, letting me know that longer days, warmer weather, and summer are on their way.

My citrus obsession has led to a lot of fun experimenting with different recipes and means of preserving these prime winter fruits. I’ve dabbled with lemon curd, preserved  lemons, and a few versions of citrus salads. I even managed to make a tangy orange marmalade, despite the fact that I let the preserving pot boil over. Cleanup was not fun. Not too proud about that moment. And then I came across a recipe for orange sherbet, via the Brown-Eyed Baker.

Right then, I knew exactly what I was going to do with my last basketful of blood oranges.

And if I accidentally type the word, sherbert, instead of sherbet, please don’t scold. Does anyone else feel the need to add the “r” to the word? I don’t know if it is a southern thing or just an accidental pronunciation that caught on, but I still slip up and add the “r.” I suppose worse things could happen, right?

overhead view of blood orange sherbet with orange slices blood orange sherbet with orange slicesNo, I am not 100% vegan, yet. I do, however, consume copious amount of veggies and eschew products that promote animal cruelty. I have slowly been reducing the amount of dairy in my recipes and meals. Giving up cheese has proven to be a futile effort, since the likes of Manchego, the Drunken Goat, and anything Haystack Mountain permanently reside in my refrigerator. It is always tougher to avoid your favorite foods, if your housemate isn’t on board with you. I blame Steve.

Dirty confession? I have wound up on the floor of my kitchen, at some ungodly hour of the night, either shoveling cheese and crackers into my mouth or cutting to the chase and eating a slab of the stuff, like you would a chocolate bar. It’s my vice, my current addiction. It will be the last animal product to go, if/when I do commit to the vegan lifestyle.

Vegan or not, I swear you’ll go crazy for this sherbet. It has just the right about of creamy texture, fruity sweetness, and tart-y punch. The best part about this recipe? You don’t even need an ice cream maker. David Lebovitz told me so.

close-up of spoonful of sherbet overhead view of sherbet and flowered towel


blood orange + campari sherbet {vegan}


  • 1 tablespoon blood orange zest
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups blood orange juice {about 5 oranges}
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons Campari
  • 2/3 cup coconut cream {see notes}
  1. Wash and zest your blood oranges, until you have a firmly packed tablespoon of zest. I used my new Microplane zester that my mom sent me. It is amazing.
  2. In a food processor, combine zest with sugar and salt. Pulse until the zest is well-distributed and mixture is slightly damp.
  3. In a juicer, juice five or six oranges, until you have 2 cups of liquid. If you don’t have a juicer, you can peel and purée the oranges in a blender and run them through a sieve, if you’d like.
  4. Add the blood orange juice, lemon juice {I used a hand-squeezer for this small amount}, vanilla extract, and Campari to the sugar mix. Process for about a minute or until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. In a blender, whip the coconut cream until light and airy. How do you make the coconut cream? This is the best tutorial I’ve found.
  6. Add the coconut cream to the mixture and pulse until incorporated. See bullet below on how to obtain coconut milk needed for the coconut cream.
  7. Pour mixture into a deep baking dish or a large plastic container. I used a Tupperware-like rectangular pan, and it worked out perfectly. Place this in the freezer and set the timer for 45 minutes.
  8. Take the pan out of the freezer and stir or whisk the mixture vigorously or use a stick blender, breaking up any clumps. Place it back in the freezer. Repeat this step every 30 minutes, until the sherbet is frozen. The sherbet will be ready within 3 hours.
  • Freeze it right. Okay. Want to know what I did? Yes, this recipe incorporates David Lebovitz’s suggestions, but I actually didn’t stir the sherbet, after I placed it in the freezer. I wanted to see if it was even necessary. I have found that the texture is improved, when you whisk or blend the sherbet every 3o minutes; however, if this seems a little much for you, feel free to skip it. It still makes a great sherbet anyway!
  • Buy only organic. Always use organic citrus fruits, especially when incorporating zests.
  • Keep the zest! I apply a great tip from Local Kitchen on zesting. Anytime you have to juice or squeeze citrus, always zest your fruit before cutting it. Use any leftover zest and combine it with sea salt to make citrus-infused salts for seasoning. Here is the recipe.
  • Find the right coconut milk. Look for the cans of unprocessed and unsweetened coconut milk. Place a can in the refrigerator overnight, making sure to not disturb it. The next day, invert the can and open the top. The coconut cream will have separated from the water, and you can spoon it straight from the can! The Kitchn has a great breakdown of differences among canned coconut milk, coconut cream, boxed coconut milk, and coconut water.

close-up of sherbet two bowls of sherbet two bowls of blood orange sherbet with thyme sprigone bowl of blood orange sherbet with flowered towel

I have been researching wines for an upcoming series at the Kitchn on dessert wines, so I had a bottle of Moscato already open in the fridge. What a coincidence! It just so happens that sorbet and sherbet pair perfectly with this sweet, bubbly, low alcohol wine. And it’s absolutely perfect for brunch, since the alcohol sits comfortably around 8%. Steve and I have a tradition of starting a vacation off {a day off?} with a bottle of Moscato d’Asti, usually Michele Chiarlo’s “Nivole”. So, every time I open a bottle of this peachy nectar, I am reminded of vacations and taking it easy.

{Big thanks to my helpful wine colleagues, Sam Folsom, Bridget Witzell, and Steve Mason, for always keeping me in the loop, suggesting Mondavi, and keeping me stocked up!}

robert mondavi moscato d'oro


Robert Mondavi, Moscato d’Oro, Napa Valley, 2013


  • On the eyes  –  This lightly sparkling wine is a pale, golden straw color.
  • On the nose  –  You’ll immediately notice bright floral notes, with aromas of ripe peaches, and orange blossom. This wine will transport you to summer in an instant.
  • On the palate  –  It showcases notes of honeyed peach, lychee, and a serious mouthful of orange blossom. The acidity is medium in intensity and provides a refreshing contrast to the sweet style of this wine. Its gentle bubbles also pair well with the sweetness of the Moscato di Canelli grape.
  • On the table  –  I’d pair it with this blood orange sherbet, of course! The Moscato d’Oro would also go perfectly alongside a citrus semifreddo, a fruit tart topped with lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, a lemon olive oil cake, or a bowl of summer berries.
  • On the shelf  –  This bottle sits around $25 for a 375 mL {half-bottle} size.
  • On the ears  –  Of course, I paired it with some music. This album has been out since 2013, but I have recently gotten into it. And by “into it”, I mean playing the album on repeat a few times through. The Stroke’s Comedown Machine has gotten me out of a winter funk on a couple of occasions this year. I would definitely say the personality of this wine and dessert exemplifies the track, “One Way Trigger.”

If you are ever out in Napa Valley, visiting the Robert Mondavi Winery is an absolute must. It is a rite of passage for any wine lover. Mr. Mondavi revolutionized the wine industry in California and brought Napa Valley to worldwide acclaim. Plus, the facilities and property are just plain gorgeous. The barrel room is one of the most pristine examples I’ve seen. And the winery is more than happy to schedule a tasting and tour.

blood orange sherbet with moscato

For a decadent and easy treat, pour moscato over the blood orange sherbet.

I have to share some of the gems I’ve found from the internets on preserving and preparing blood oranges. At least pinning these recipes and dreaming about them has brightened up my week:

empty bowl of sherbet with spoonsI’ll close with a few Instagrams from the past week. One of my New Year’s goals was to start seriously studying calligraphy and hand-lettering. My foray into calligraphy has proven to be a challenging, yet incredibly fun, process with a very steep learning curve. Learning to ebb and flow with the pressure-release action of a calligrapher’s pen is not a task one perfects within a few months’ time. I have a great respect for letterers, who have mastered this graceful technique.

My original goal was to practice daily throughout the month of January, but I’ll continue to practice an hour a day, since I’ve basically established the habit. I am already seeing progress and have a better feel for the pen. I’ve also been dabbling with the medium of a digital pen to produce some fun hand-lettering pieces. The one below was prompted by a hand-lettering challenge, hosted by Miranti, of the blog and company, Pen and Peplum. Her work rocks, and her once-a-week challenge keeps me focused on my practicing.

What resolutions or intentions have been sticking for you?

Have you used the no-ice-cream-machine method for making sorbet, ice cream, or sherbet?

Do you have a recommendation for a machine?

And please send me a link to whatever citrus projects and recipes that have been inspiring you. As if I needed another excuse to go out and buy a bag of citrus!

Cheers!

Jayme

hand-lettered winter words

two glasses filled with caipirinha cocktail

caipirinhas + new year’s intentions

Happy 2015!!

As I write my first blog post of the new year, I am compelled to revisit and thank this past year for what it gave me. 2014 was a spectacular year, filled with new friends, amazing writing opportunities, much dreaming of the future, breathtaking travel, lots of hard work, necessary goodbyes, and painful growth. I pushed myself to reach new goals, sometimes a little too hard, but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned along the way.

I took some time over the past few days to meditate on what it means to truly learn from both our successes, as well as our perceived failures. It’s a challenge to look at our failures eye-to-eye. But the fear of failing dissipates, when we realize that failure is almost always a prerequisite to success.

I am also learning that there is no such thing as an “overnight success.” Everything that I choose to do is propelling me toward the next goal. I am building upon what I’ve already done, and I am learning from my mistakes. As J. K. Rowling once said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” Pause and let that sink in.

I also recently read the book, Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. His philosophy of putting yourself out there, failures and inchoate stages and all, really works. People are drawn to someone, who embraces an amateur-like stance, always learning something new and maintaining a teachable attitude. People love to see the actual process and behind-the-scenes photos or documentation of artists, makers, or business owners, for example.

So, I chose three words to conceptualize my goals for 2015. My friend, Kristy Gardner, wrote a post on compiling such a collection of words. I wanted to choose words that were measurable, positive, and conveyed action. I wanted them to resonate with my personal life, creative life, spiritual life, professional life, and physical life. What are my three words?

  • Create. I want to delve into projects that feed me on all levels and to try new techniques and applications.
  • Release. I tend to put a perfectionist slant on almost anything that I do. That’s a plus but also a crippling negative, at times. I want to live freer and write fluidly and even draw or paint or cook with a looser hand.
  • Share. Back to Austin Kleon’s book, I want to openly share my progression. That is VERY challenging to me, for I only want to submit or post the final and best piece. But we lose the opportunity for connection and lose that in-the-moment, on-the-floor feel and liveliness of our work.

What are your three words for 2015?


“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”

– Robin Sharma


Alright. On to that refreshing, mid-winter cocktail I mentioned a few paragraphs back! I’m sure we have all had our fill of bourbon cocktails or ciders or hot toddies. Maybe some of us are still enjoying them. I needed a break. Something that reminded me of summer and let me know that spring is on its way. Enter the caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil.

Cachaça is the base spirit for this drink. It is a Brazilian rum made from fermented sugar cane juice that is distilled. The cachaça is muddled with fresh, quartered limes and raw sugar, yielding a tart and sweet cocktail. It’s simple to make and superbly refreshing. Let’s get our muddling on!


caipirinha cocktail


  • 1 lime, quartered
  • about 2 teaspoons raw sugar
  • 2 ounces cachaça
  1. In a pint glass or mixing tin, muddle the quartered lime with raw sugar until pulverized. {I just love that word!}
  2. Add cachaça and ice. I used about 8 ice cubes, but I’ve seen some caipirinha recipes use crushed ice.
  3. Stir to integrate.
  4. Pour contents into a double old-fashioned glass or “bucket”, and if you have a sugar cane handy, use it as a garnish!
  • If you are unable to find cachaça at your spirits shop, you may substitute rum. I use 10 Cane Rum, when I don’t have any cachaça on hand.
  • What are my favorite cachaças? Boca Loca, Leblon, and Beija.
  • Not a fan of cachaça or rum? Try making a caipiroska, which is a caipirinha made with vodka.


“In the midst of winter I finally learned

that there was in me an invincible summer.”

– Albert Camus


Cheers to a creatively inspired 2015! How are you making your resolutions stick? What is your mantra or three defining words? I’m super excited for all that this upcoming year has for each of us. It’s all about how we plan, react, and hit the ground running, despite the detour of a fall.

XO,

Jayme

brandied summer cherries

I have been patiently waiting for cherry season. As soon as I spied some sweet, ripe, organic cherries, I grabbed about two pounds’ worth and headed home, bursting with ideas on how to capture their ripeness. Of course, I couldn’t resist selecting a handful of the ripest, juiciest ones I could find, right there in the car. It got messy pretty quickly, but I really could have cared less.

I have been thinking about preserving cherries, ever since I saw Kristy Gardner’s bourbon-soaked cherries a while back. She pretty much writes the book on all-things-bourbon, so that’s definitely another upcoming project. For now, since I had some leftover brandy from a recent sangria experiment, I went with a juiced-up, brandied version. They’re super easy and delicious, and they will go perfectly with one of my barrel-aged Manhattans {debuting in my kitchen in about a month!}.

If you have ripe cherries at your fingertips, use them; otherwise, frozen cherries will work just fine. I did walk away with a few tips from the cherry-pitting process:

  1. Wear an apron. If that is not an option, drape a towel over yourself. You’ll thank me.
  2. Maybe invest in a cherry-pitter. I tried using a paperclip, but I ended up loving a simple kebob skewer.
  3. Pour yourself a nice, big glass of wine, find a friend to help, and play a good set of music. This takes a while. I drank a little of this deliciousness {Stolpman “l’Avion” Roussanne, 2011, Santa Ynez Valley, one of my fave summer wines ever} and listened to this {Etherwood’s self-titled, gorgeous drum-and-bass album, on repeat right now}.

Alright, let’s make some brandied cherries!


Brandied Summer Cherries


  • 1 pound ripe, organic cherries {I used Rainier}, and a little extra for juicing {optional}
  • 1/2 cup freshly juiced cherries {you may substitute water}
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/8 cup Cardamaro liqueur
  • 3/8 cup Solerno blood orange liqueur
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 pieces orange peel

If you want to keep it simple, just use brandy as your spirit component. I had a few interesting liqueurs on hand, so I went a little crazy. Another good option is to use 3/4 cup brandy with 1/4 cup orange liqueur, for some added bright citrus notes.


Steps for {the Most Amazing} Brandied Cherries


  1. Wash, de-stem, and pit your cherries.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherry juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. Bring to a low simmer, fully dissolving sugar, about five minutes, letting the spices integrate with the liquid.
  3. Remove from heat and add spirits {brandy, Cardamaro, and Solerno}, stirring to integrate.
  4. Remove cinnamon stick, cloves, and peel. Feel free to keep them, if you want a heavily spiced version of brandied cherries.
  5. Divide cherries into two half-pint canning jars.
  6. Evenly distribute the liquid into the two jars.
  7. Let the jars cool and then transfer into the refrigerator.

The brandied cherries will further develop in flavor over the course of a month. They taste best if used within four months, so this small batch recipe is the perfect size. They are delicious on their own and are the perfect garnish for a Manhattan. If you like a sweeter, fruitier Manhattan, toss a half ounce or so of the brandied cherry juice into your cocktail for added depth and flavor.

Feel free to experiment with the spirit component of this recipe! Try substituting rum, amaretto, or bourbon. I might add a vanilla bean with rum next time. Signing off with a close-up of the cherry-pitting aftermath and some recent garden captures. How are you preserving cherries or any of summer’s current treats? I need to expand my repertoire further! Cheers!

 

how to craft your own bitters

I am still not quite ready to write a triumphant welcome to 2014, but I will wish you all a very happy new year!  Like last year, I am still recuperating from a busy holiday season at the restaurant.  It seriously takes a good two weeks into the new year for me to even begin thinking about resolutions, but when I do, it is game-on.  And I really have some high hopes for this upcoming year!

I have been riding alongside the bitters bandwagon for a couple of years, but after a visit to a magical store in Portland this past October and bringing home several bottles of craft bitters, I have been obsessed with adding bitters to almost anything I am sipping.  I began my latest batches of cocktail bitters about a month ago, and after shaking them each day and tasting along the way, they are ready for bottling and enjoying.  While I do have my favorites {DRAM, Fee Brothers, and Bob’s}, I find that crafting my own bitters is creatively rewarding and makes a thoughtful handmade gift for the cocktail aficionado.

What exactly are bitters?  Bitters are a concentrated cocktail additive that balances a cocktail and adds a potent, aromatic, flavorful punch.  Most bitters contain some combination of herbs, spices, roots, or fruits, which are infused into a neutral base spirit, such as grain alcohol.  Many cocktails call for the use of bitters, and with the rise of the classic cocktail movement, bitters have, once again, taken center stage.

Grapefruit + Rosemary Bitters

  • 1 cup grain alcohol
  • peels from one organic grapefruit
  • 2 sprigs organic rosemary
  • simple syrup, optional

Tangerine + Spice Bitters

  • 1 cup grain alcohol
  • Peels from one organic orange or tangerine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 5 or so whole allspice
  • simple syrup, optional

Steps:

  1. Wash and peel citrus.
  2. Coarsely chop the peels.
  3. Combine all ingredients and pour into a mason jar.
  4. Cover and set in a cool, dark place, such as a cellar or a cabinet.
  5. Store for three to four weeks, shaking jar daily and tasting along the way for desired potency.  Remember that bitters are added to cocktails in small doses; they are intended to be intensely flavored.
  6. Once the flavors have incorporated and infused, line a sieve or chinois with a coffee filter or cheesecloth and strain into a jar.
  7. Using a funnel, pour the liquid into desired storage vessel.  I have found the most adorable bottles here, here, and here.
  8. Begin creating cocktails and experimenting with your bitters!  Bitters last almost indefinitely, but the flavors and aromas tend to fade after a year.

How have I incorporated my bitters?

  • Tangerine + Spice in a Negroni
  • Tangerine + Spice with hot black tea
  • Tangerine + Spice in an Old Fashioned
  • Grapefruit + Rosemary with gin, a little simple syrup, soda, lemon, on the rocks
  • Grapefruit + Rosemary in an Aperol Spritz
  • Grapefruit + Rosemary bitters in iced tea

Making bitters is almost foolproof, and the opportunities for creativity are endless.  Here are some links I came across that have some interesting twists on bitters-making:

  • A thorough breakdown on bitters-crafting, via the Kitchn
  • A uniquely made grapefruit bitters using lavender and rum, via Serious Eats
  • Grapefruit bitters using one of my favorite cocktail components, Campari, via Chow
  • Cranberry anise bitters, via Food and Wine
  • Orange ginger bitters, via Williams-Sonoma
  • Bitters inspiration and a pretty amazing “delicious apothecary” kitchen, via From Scratch Club
  • …and if you truly want to geek out, read The Drunken Botanist

Cheers to a more self-made, craftier, do-it-yourself, experimental, and daringly creative new year!  I would love to know of any links or recipes you’ve found helpful, if you’ve ever made bitters.  How do you incorporate bitters into drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic?  And, if you ever get the chance to visit The Meadow in Portland, you will never be the same.  I think this store has every variety of some of my most favorite things, all under one roof:  walls and walls of chocolate bars, fresh flowers, exotic salts, and bitters.  Oh, to open up a shop like this one!