After many years waiting tables and working in restaurants my only brush with bitters was as the staff cure all for hangovers. After a late night we'd all belly up to bar for our daily drink of bitters and soda. It cured everything from a headache to indigestion. Then it was only Angostura but now with the cocktail craze comes the bitters boom, and yes a book dedicated solely to this aromatic flavoring agent.
Today it's not unheard of for bars to carry several flavors from grapefruit to root beer, and the real enthusiasts are making their own.
Which brings us to Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas, a rising star in the culinary arena and most recently proud owner of the James Beard and IACP book awards. You'll often hear the word "geek" when people discuss the book. True it's full of facts and history but it's also packed with recipes and ideas that will build on any cook or cocktail enthusiast repertoire. It delves into the drink on its own, how to make your own bitters and how to use them in cocktails. The recipes are easy, and the flavor combinations endless, not to mention the book is gorgeous enough to display as part of your home décor.
Don't be dismayed if you aren't familiar with bitters; this is not always a bitter tasting sip. Think of bitters more like bartender's salt and pepper, used to season your drinks. If you're looking for one more spot to put this season's abundance of fruits and herbs, grab a copy and add making your own bitters to pickling and canning this season. Your bar and your drinking companions will thank you for it.
• Find the book: Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon. By Brad Thomas Parsons, photographs by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press (November 2011).
• Visit Brad Thomas Parsons' website
Champagne CocktailMakes 1 drink
1 sugar cube
4 to 6 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters
Garnish: lemon twist
Place the sugar cube on the bottom of a Champagne flute or coupe glass. Douse the sugar cube with the bitters and fill the glass with Champagne. Garnish with the lemon twist.
Maureen C. Petrosky writes what she knows, food, booze and parties. Author of The Wine Club, she appears regularly on The TODAY show to share her vices, and advice with the world. For more info check out www.maureenpetrosky.com
Related: Cocktail Basics: All About Bitters
(Images: Ed Anderson, courtesy of Ten Speed Press)