Friday
Dec282012

Build a Better Bar Cart: Brewing Bitters

 

Want to take your home bar repertoire to the next level? Go on, time to go all in, produce your own bitters and mix up a truly home grown Manhattan or old fashioned for NYE. 

Bitters are a type of infused alcohol (high proof), with flavors derived from plants, barks and herbs. Originally brewed for medicinal purposes they evolved into flavorful additions to cocktails, via the classic brands Peychauds and Angostura, both of which rely heavily on gentian (a bitter herb for flavoring). Peychauds and Angostura should be at most bars, but also worth a check are the innovative and numerous options from Fee brothers (black walnut, peach, grapefruit to name a few). Or, of course, brew your own!

"People say bitters are the salt and pepper of the bar, but really, they're like the spice rack," says Brad Thomas Parsons

 Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-all (by Parsons) is a great in depth look at the evolution of bitters, crammed with recipes, facts, and tips- it is an interesting and helpful guide for the home barkeep who wants a little history with their cocktail. I however, bought this after my initial batch was produced (instead using the recipes here, via Food & Wine). 

Cranberry Anise Bitters

Figgy Orange Bitters

The hardest thing about producing my own bitters? Actually tracking down all the barks and herbs necessary. Most of the recipes repeat the same base ingredients though, so your initial effort will be rewarded with infinite possibilities. I was able to obtain most of the ingredients through Amazon, though the quantities were rather large (and I'm sure my mailman thinks I'm involved in some kind of mail order "herb" business with all the medicinal packages I received lately). 

Other than that, one just needs a lot of patience to allow the bitters to sit and do their work! Three weeks later and I was able to bottle the final product, just in time for some holiday gifting. I included copies of the cocktail recipes I have been shaking up lately, that make use of the bitters.

Cranberry Spice Cocktail

  1. 1 orange wedge
  2. 13 cranberries
  3. Three 1-inch pieces crystallized ginger— 2 minced and 1 whole for garnish
  4. 2 ounces Aperol
  5. 1 ounce Lillet Blanc
  6. Ice
  7. 4 ounces hard cider
  8. 4 dashes Cranberry-Anise Bitters or Peychaud's bitters

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the orange wedge with 10 of the cranberries and the minced ginger. Add the Aperol, Lillet Blanc, bitters and ice. Shake well. Double-strain the drink into an ice-filled Collins glass and top off with the hard cider. Garnish with the 3 remaining cranberries and the slice of ginger skewered on a toothpick.

 

Figgy Orange Cocktail

  1. Ice
  2. 2 ounces bourbon
  3. 1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  5. 1/2 tablespoon simple syrup (see Note)
  6. 4 dashes Figgy-Orange Bittersor Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
  7. Nutmeg, grated

In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine the bourbon, Punt e Mes, orange juice, simple syrup and bitters. Shake well. Strain the drink into a chilled coupe. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.


Thirsty for more?

Check this great article via the Wall Street Journal: Tricks of the Trade The Home Bar, Only Better and Make Mine a Mini (which inspired me to invest in some old school coups and cordials!).

 

Supplemental info, check out other posts in the Build a Better Bar Cart Series:

 

Build a Better Bar Cart

Build a Better Bar Cart: Stock it

Build a Better Bar Cart: Drink it! Maple Bourbon Cider

Build a Better Bar Cart: Ginger and Mint Simple Syrup

Build a Better Bar Cart: Drink it! Fall in a Champagne Flute

Build a Better Bar Cart: Drink it! Sicilian Cowboy

Wednesday
Dec262012

St. John Flashback & Closet

Above: Anthropologie max (still on sale here), Ray ban sunglasses, SkullId bracelet via the Tannery

 

One more outfit for you from our recent trip to St. John. Much more casual, and much more in line with my daily wear while on vaca.

I can't beleive this top has never been on the blog before. I seriously wear it once a week. It is a child's dress I bought in Texas and had cropped into a shirt. The skirt, another score from Anthropologie on deep discount. Pretty much where I shop for tropical wear off season.

You can see more of what we did, and of course, ate! here.

 

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Friday
Dec212012

Holiday Decor: White Birch DIY

IMG_6250 IMG_6256 IMG_6260

 

The DIY title is probably misleading. This is about as simple a home grown project as you can find- hence why I was inspired to actually take it on....when I normally leave the DIY projects to the more skilled (cooking aside)!

Enter, Restoration Hardware site, and their version of this birch holiday decor (here). I loved it, outdoorsy and modern. I said, self, you can do this.

As luck would have it, my father in law sourced some branches from his property. I bought some LED strands from Amazon, et voila! I love them so much I can't decide whether I keep them inside or share and put them outside. 

Do you usually make your holiday decorations? Or leave it to others?

PS, if you are in search of a fun holiday playlist, I am loving the eclectic choices via InStyle (here) on Spotify.