It's a bitters boom

THE ASSOCIATED PRESSApril 6, 2014 

Cocktail expert Adam Lantheaume isn't afraid to tell the bitters truth. Making drinks without adding a dash or two of bitters is like cooking without seasoning.

"We think of cocktail bitters as the spice cabinet of the bartender," he says. And things are getting spicier by the minute on the bar scene.

Rhubarb bitters? They're out there. Macadamia nut, papaya bitters? Ditto. There even are chocolate bitters and one made from a single-malt scotch.

All bitters serve essentially the same purpose - to unify and highlight other ingredients, mostly in cocktails, but sometimes in food. They are made by distilling herbs, seeds, roots and other ingredients, and - true to their name - have a bitter or bittersweet taste and potent aroma.

If you're new to bitters, be aware that there are two types. Potable bitters - such as amaro, an herbal liqueur - can be drunk straight, often as a digestif at the end of a meal, or mixed in a drink. Campari falls into this category. Nonpotable bitters - such as Angostura - are intense and work as an ingredient only. These usually are measured by the drop or dash.

All recipes are for a single drink and should take about 5 minutes to prepare.

GREEN MOUNTAIN

Start to finish: 5 minutes; servings: 1

Maple sugar, to garnish

2 ounces apple cider

Ice

1/2 ounce Tuaca liqueur

1/2 ounce apple brandy

1 ounce bourbon

2 dashes maple bitters

Moisten the rim of a cocktail glass with a bit of the cider. Dunk the moistened edge in the maple sugar to rim the glass.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the cider, Tuaca, apple brandy, bourbon and maple bitters. Shake vigorously, then strain into the prepared glass.

BREEZY MARIA

Start to finish: 5 minute; servings: 1

1 ounce Lillet

1 ounce gin

1 dash celery bitters

1/4 large tomato

Juice of 1/2 lime

1-inch segment peeled cucumber

Ice

Combine all ingredients except the ice in a cocktail shaker. Use a muddler to crush the vegetables to a pulp. Add ice, then shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler.

SWEDISH MULE

Start to finish: 5 minutes; servings: 1

2 ounces vodka

3- to 4-inch strip of orange zest

1 sprig fresh mint

2 dashes cardamom bitters

Ice

Ginger beer, cold

In a tall glass, combine the vodka, orange zest, mint and cardamom bitters. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to bruise the zest and mint. Add ice, then top with ginger beer and stir gently to combine.

DARK NIGHT

A fresh chili gives this scotch-based cocktail just a hint of bite. Select a chili according to your heat tolerance. A jalapeno would work for most people. But if you like it hot, try a habanero.

Start to finish: 5 minutes; servings: 1

2 ounces scotch

1/2 ounce coffee liqueur

1/2 chili (ribs and seeds removed, if desired)

2 dashes chocolate bitters

Amarena cherries, to garnish

In a tumbler, combine the scotch, coffee liqueur, chili and chocolate bitters. Stir and muddle the chili with a spoon or muddler. Remove and discard the chili, then add a couple cherries.

SUMMER RAIN

Start to finish: 5 minutes; servings: 1

1 sprig fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 ounce sour orange juice (or 1/2 ounce each of lemon juice and orange juice)

1/2 ounce orange liqueur

1 ounce reposado tequila

2 dashes rhubarb bitters

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the thyme with the sugar. Add the sour orange juice, orange liqueur, tequila and rhubarb bitters. Add ice, then shake vigorously. Strain into a small glass.

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