Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bar Keep Bitters

On a recent visit to a local liquor store, I noticed some bitters that I had never seen before. This brand, Bar Keep, comes in three varieties, evidently the house formulae of three bars that entered a bitters competition hosted by the Modern Spirits distillers. They are purportedly organic, and the bottles feature the visages of their creators. I grabbed all three: lavender spice, baked apple, and Swedish herb.

At home, I didn't know what to try them in. The labels offer some recipes, but they each had a bunch of liqueurs, none of which I have, made by the bitters' manufacturer. So no luck there. So, what the hell, I opened and tasted the lavender spice. It's predictably floral, reminiscent of a weak creme de violette, but more watery than I expected. I tried 2 dashes of it it in a 2:1 Plymouth martini. It's flavors were mostly lost to the gin, and the drink wasn't very good. More experimentation needed.

I had a little more success with the baked apple bitters, created by Marshall Altier. Upon opening the bottle, the smell was glorious, like a fresh apple pie. A search of the internet led me to a post that contained a recipe for a Baked Apple Sour that was supposedly "adapted from" Altier himself. I whipped one up. The apples notes are subtle but there, though I'm not sure if they came predominantly from the bitters or from the Laird's Straight Apple Brandy that I used. The drink wasn't quite in balance; the maple syrup could be reduced a bit, and I wouldn't mind using a bit less bourbon and more apple brandy.

I haven't gotten around to trying the Swedish herb bitters, yet, but I'm sure I'll play with them soon. The baked apple bitters have a lot of potential; can't wait to see what I can make with them. These bitters will probably never become staples of the bar, but they're fun to play with.

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