As I did last year, I spent Christmas with my girlfriend’s parents in central Maine. Central Maine, while it has many advantages, is not drinking country. In fact, Maine was the first state to prohibit alcohol sales and manufacture, in 1851. While Prohibition is long dead (and we recently celebrated Repeal Day with appropriate vigor and beverages), I was reminded of Maine’s heritage when, at the supermarket purchasing Shipyard’s seasonal brew (a nice, not too-ambitious English ale), I was asked for two forms of picture ID. Apparently the geniuses in Augusta (I bet you thought Maine’s capitol was Portland, sucker) decided that out-of-state driver’s licenses were more easily forged than, in this case, my expired Oberlin College ID. Another victory against underage drinking, I guess.
As a gift, my girlfriend’s parents bought me Fee Brothers’ grapefruit and rhubarb bitters, both of which I’ve been meaning to try (without taking any meaningful action like, say, purchasing them online) for a while now. Since I am currently away from my bar (which I don’t miss more than my cats – a fair-to-mixed blessing, as it indicates that, while I am not yet becoming an alcoholic, I am becoming a cat lady), I just tried a drop of each on a finger tip (because I am poorly-mannered like that).
The grapefruit was actually very nice on its own, although perhaps a tad artificial, but I think that will easily disappear into a drink, and the bright citrus and bitter notes will really come out. Clearly, as Jay at Oh Gosh! points out, these bitters are made to pair with tequila. I would easily put the Paloma, a grapefruity cousin of the Margarita, as one of my top five all-time desert island drinks (especially because, you know, it’s not that concentrated, and drinking straight liquor, as in an Old Fashioned, number two on that list, or perhaps downing rum Johnny Depp style, would probably have disastrous results in a hot, dry environment). I also think they would be an interesting substitution in gin drinks that call for orange bitters.
The rhubarb bitters left more of a mixed impression. I’ve seen them used a lot in the drinkblog universe, but, unadulterated, they are oddly sweet and chemical, making me think of some undead drink mix. So not so enthused about those, but we’ll see.
If you live in DC and are interested, it looks like Jason Wilson (my no-longer-secret drink-writer crush) has found a source for The Bitter Truth bitters in DC. If you read his latest column he talks about them, and hints that he’s willing to reveal his sources if you ask him nicely. Since I love bitters as I love life itself, I have indeed asked nicely, and will report on any and all bitters I acquire. My only fear, after hearing only superlative things about The Bitter Truth, is that I will lose motivation to work on my own bitters, a batch of which are currently brewing in my unoccupied-for-the-holidays apartment, free from my meddling. I guess, were that to happen, I would just have to pick up the pieces of my shattered life and move on.
Possibly to Pimento Dram (luckily for me, I rebound quickly). That stuff sounds good. And it’s used in Radio Maria‘s sadly now-defunct Canadian Sidecar. Which tastes, I have it on good authority, exactly like Christmas.
- 3/4 oz rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz cognac
- 1/4 oz Cointreau
- 1/2 oz Pimento Dram
- 3/4 oz lemon juice
Shake all ingredients over ice as if you were powered by goodwill for all of mankind. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
This is my attempt at a recreation – I can’t guarantee veracity, but I can guarantee delicious.