I was invited to present a workshop on how to make cocktail bitters at home during the inaugural Batch Made Market in San Francisco, and it was a big success!
We did a quick overview of bitters’ history and uses, then dug into the tools, processes and testing methods for making bitters. It was a fun event, with close to 50 people attending, despite it being advertised as capped at 15, and it had sold out in a matter of minutes online. Twice as many people were standing crowded into the tent as were seated, but I had thought this might happen and brought enough tasting cups and handouts for fifty students.
The handout has a lot of good info, so I thought I should share it here as well. Click image below for PDF.
Problem: too much Beaujolais at family Thanksgiving last year, and too few cocktails.
Solution: homemade cranberry bitters to craft some festive holiday drinks.
The holiday season â€“ and the stress that comes with it â€“ are nearly upon us, so most of the instructions in this recipe involve hitting ingredients with aÂ hammer or jabbing them with a sharp stick. After that you just wait, shake, and blend.
Now, more than 275 years after he published it, it’s time for an update. so I’m compiling the best contemporary terms for “drunk”.
I will publish it here, and etch it into another decanter, to make a matching set with the original.
Add your favorites in the comments box below, and one randomly selected contribution that makes it into the final piece, will earn the contributor a free set of Drinker’s Dictionary Decanters.
Note: depending on submissions, I may exclude profanity from the final list. After all, we want this to be family-friendly list of terms for getting effed-up.Â If there are a lot of unique, profane and obscene submissions, that may just necessitate me making a third volume, in which case, one of you shit-faced shit-talkers will also get a free set.
I’ve been experimenting with bitters recipes, and the biggest challenge is time (second is finding obscure herbs). Bitters need to sit a few weeks for the alcohol to fully extract flavors, so my latest quick-fix was high pressure.
I’ve been so busy developing new gizmos that I haven’t been posting much lately, so here’s a peak at my most recent project. Along with new decanters, including a set with quotes about the spirits they contain, and some DIY cocktail kits with etched bottles, I’ve been working more with wood.
Along with creating woodcut stamps to make fun packaging, I stumbled onto a great new concept. I’m turning rigid sheets of plywood into “koozies” that fit paper coffee cups and pint glasses of beer, to protect your delicate fingers from extreme temperatures. Still testing design and resiliency, but so far results are Â impressive. If you’re in SF and want to be an alpha tester, take me out for a cup of coffee and I’ll give you a free cuff.
Note: Kerf-bending or “kerfing” is using the space created by a saw blade (called the kerf) or in this case, a laser, to create flexibility in an otherwise stiff material. The 1/4-inch plywood I am using for this project is remarkably inflexible, and yet once I’ve sliced it up, I can roll the whole thing up like it’s made of paper.
This is my first Father’s Day as a dad, and my parents just came out to visit from Vermont to meet the baby and spend some time with me in San Francisco.
Along with sound advice on parenting and relationships, my father dropped some cocktail wisdom on me when I took my folks out to Trick Dog for drinks.
I usually assess the cocktailing potential of a new bar by ordering a Blood and Sand (equal parts Scotch, sweet vermouth, OJ and Cherry Heering). Any hesitation or confusion from the bartender, and I would know not to order another cocktail. The tragic flaw is that I am rarely in the mood for such a sweet drink. When this came up in conversation, my old man started to smirk.
My dad, he does it one better. He orders a Perfect Manhattan (“perfect” denotes replacing half of the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth), and if the bartender says something like, “Oh, all the drinks here are excellent,” he says, “You know, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll have a beer.”
An engineer by education, and a craftsman by avocation, I’m really unsurprised that he would devise such an efficient and elegant approach.
(Dad usually calls for Jameson, technically making this a perfect “Emerald”, a much smoother alternative to the traditional rye)
two ounces whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
a dash of orange bitters
Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.
If you are in San Francisco this weekend and looking for something to do, check out SpeedRack, the touring female bartender competition that’s raising money for breast cancer research.
The last time I attended SpeedRack was in Portland, and I can vouch that it’s a rowdy, raunchy and a raucous good time. Tickets are only $20 ($25 at the door), so come cheer on your favorite local cocktail-maker. If you aren’t in SF, check their site to see when SpeedRack might be coming to your city.
WHEN:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Sunday, Feb 24, 2013Â 3â€“ 7pm (website says Feb 24,Â 2012Â in places, but don’t be fooled) WHERE:Â Â Â Â Â Â The Chapel, 777 Valencia Street, San Francisco WHY: Â Â Â Watch skilled,Â gorgeous bartenders, imbibe excellent drinks, save some boobs WHO: a great list of competitors, many of whom are personal friends, so I can’t say who I want to win.
Alicia Walton â€“Â Elixir, Bloodhound, Momo’s (San Francisco)
Allison WebberÂ â€“ Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen (San Francisco)
I certainly am not advocating a swiss army-style cocktail tool, and yes, that really does exist. There’s nothing useful about ten bulky tools crammed into one with all utility sacrificed for the sake of compactness, like the monstrosity on the right, but there is room for expanded functionality for some standard, single-purpose bar tools.
My new favorite is theÂ Microplane Stainless-Steel Citrus Bar Tool, which combines a speed-key bottle opener format with a grater/zester and channel knife (used for cutting a twist from citrus peel). The only downside is losing the speed-pour pulling ring on the back end, which really only matters to a professional. For home enthusiasts, or if you are throwing a cocktail party for friends, this tool is a fantastic way to to improve efficiency, save space and a few bucks. The item is less than $20 at Williams-Sonoma.
Anyone else have favorite multi-purpose or otherwise innovative bar tools?
On a lark, I practiced my glass etching skills on a few beautiful St. George Spirits apothecary bottles, and the folks I shared them with seem to think I should run with it, so I am considering selling a line of up-cycled liquor bottles as spirits decanters for the home bar. I hope to craft some other fun gimmicks and promotional items too.
The single bottle pictured is etched with the entirety of Benjamin Franklin’s “The Drinker’s Dictionary,” his compendium of every term meaning drunk.
The group shot is the start of a set, each displaying a quote that includes the name of the spirit, Â bigger and bolder for emphasis and clear labeling. The Quotes are as follows:
“WHISKEY, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.â€ â€“ Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
â€œ TEQUILA. Straight. There’s a real polite drink. You keep drinking until you finally take one more and it just won’t go down. Then you know you’ve reached your limit. â€“ Lee Marvin
â€œI’ll stick with GIN. Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody. Â â€ â€“ Hawkeye, M*A*S*H, Â 1973
I also etched Charles Bukowski’s “Beer” into a lager bottle, but it needs redesigning before I post a photo.