Life’s Bitter – pt. 2

A post on eGullet piqued my interest with mention of a Campari Alexander. Campari? With chocolate? As a dessert drink? Further research indicated the drink was part of Anvil’s (Houston, TX) fall menu for 2009. Being one to love just about anything with Campari in it, I had to give this a taste. Another forum post delineated the recipe as containing 2 parts campari to 1 part each cream and chocolate liqueur, as opposed to the equal parts of the standard Alexander formula. Unfortunately, I don’t have any dehydrated Campari crystals to garnish as Anvil do. The dehydrated Campari concept is really getting around, with two Melbourne bars already making mileage of it; Der Raum using it to allow the drinker to control the Campari content (and otherwise eat) in their Negroni variant the Spice Trader and Golden Monkey using it as a rim garnish.

Campari Alexander

2 Campari
1 Crème de Cacao (Baitz Dark)
1 Cream

Destined by recipe to be a great digestif. The cream, though dulling the sharp complexity of campari’s flavours significantly, offers the luxuriously rich dessert texture expected of an Alexander. On the tongue is a chocolate dominated palate, which soon slides into the classic bitter finish of Campari. The mouthfeel, if I recall correctly (been a while since my last Brandy Alexander), proves thicker than a traditional spirit-based Alexander, and the direction maybe even sweeter (due to Campari’s sugar content), though this is rendered inoffensive by the bitterness.  Whilst this is a drink to take in small doses, it may prove to be my favourite Alexander variant yet.

Published in: on January 25, 2010 at 12:29 am  Comments (1)  

Life’s Bitter

Let’s put things into perspective.

Most drinks call for 1-3 dashes of bitters. The Seelbach, already considered relatively heavily bittered, requires 7 dashes each of Peychaud’s and Angostura. The Alabazam contains a whopping teaspoon (5mL) of bitters. I tried counting how many dashes it took to pour 5mLs from an Angostura bottle, but I lost count; the total was either 20 or 40.

Well, the Trinidad Especial, and it’s cousin the Trinidad Sour, require that you pour a whole ounce (30mL) of bitters.

Not only that, but they ask for it to be balanced with an equal measure of orgeat syrup, a regular does of citrus and just a bit of spirit. These are inverted cocktails if there ever were any.

Needless to say, I was intrigued. Lacking pisco, I could not recreate Valentino Bolognese’s original Especial, so I went for the Giuseppe Gonzalez (of Clover Club and Dutch Kills) interpretation, the Trinidad Sour.

Trinidad Sour

1 Angostura Aromatic Bitters
1 Orgeat syrup (homemade)
3/4 Lemon juice
1/2 Rye Whiskey (Jim Beam)

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Lovely blood red hue. Nose is unsurprisingly dominated by the scent of Angostura bitters. Mouthfeel is thick and chalky from the orgeat, and astringent from the bitters. The flavour- stunning. My orgeat initially makes itself known, but quickly takes a backseat to a rollercoaster ride through all of Angostura’s spicy complexity; cloves and cinnamon jump out at you. Rough in nature, but luxurious regardless; like a red carpet for the palate.

I was worried my homemade orgeat with its somewhat muted almond flavour wouldn’t have the presence to stand up to the full ounce of bitters, but it balanced surprisingly well. I’ll post more details and a recipe for the orgeat sometime later. I think a beefier rye than Jim Beam could do a bit better here as well, but this is well worth tippling regardless.

Those interested in other bitters dominant drinks would do well in checking out the Stormy Mai Tai, also created by Gonzalez, and the Gunshop Fizz by beta cocktails (ex Rogue Cocktails), which calls for a 2 ounce base of Peychaud’s bitters.

I had 10mL of lemon juice leftover, so I decide to make a mini test sour. I had a drink at Der Raum recently, which, if I recall correctly, was sourced from their good friends at Door 74 in Amsterdam. Named the Frisco and, if I again recall correctly, comprising of Laphroaig 10, Benedictine, lemon juice and champagne (with a flamed nutmeg garnish), it ticked all my boxes for delicious. I was curious to see how a sour using only the Islay, Benedictine and lemon would go.

2 Laphroaig 10 y.o
1 Benedictine
1 Lemon juice

The Benedictine is surprisingly transparent; in fact, the other ingredients feel mainly present to tame the Laphroaig slightly whilst still letting its full character shine through. The honeyed sweetness of the Benedictine is a natural partner to scotch and lemon. A pretty delicious drink, all in all, I will definitely be revisiting this, maybe with a higher proportion of Benedictine next time.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 12:47 am  Comments (3)