Don’s Little Bitter

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Another modern cocktail, this cocktail is the type of drink that when you see the ingredients, you have to perform a double take and look over it again in disbelief.


Quite often, people shy away from bitters, since having tried them and seeing that they are immensely bitter, these people end up deciding that such an ingredient really doesn’t belong in their cloyingly sweet drinks.  Yet as brought up before, a cocktail, historically, is a drink that features bitters.  Bitters, in a good amount, mixed with other ingredients helps accent and bring out various flavors in the drink.  Recently, a trend has emerged to mix lots of bitters into a cocktail, using the bitters as a main flavor component of the drink.  I’ve had a few drinks like this, and to be honest, when you think about them, they don’t seem like they should work, but they go over really nicely.

Don Lee, the creator of this cocktail, comes out of PDT (“Please Don’t Tell”) in Manhattan.  PDT is a lounge, that is known for great service, and a unique phone booth entrance.  Don’s creation is a strange amalgamation of Angustora, Angustora Orange, Peychaud’s bitters, Fernet, lemon juice, simple syrup, and, preferably, Barbancourt eight year aged rum (DoubleMan).  However, while the ingredients seem strange to mix, even weirder is the fact that you are using half or a quarter of an ounce for each of the bitters.

While I have mentioned Angustora bitters before, Angustora Orange are a more recent bitter, which was created by the Angustora company (Jay).  The bitters are, when compared to Regan’s, much more vibrant and light, but carry a slight spice note that you would expect from Angustora aromatic bitters.  The taste is similar to that of biting into an orange: the oils, the zest, all come out at you, and dominate the palate.  Also the bitters go really nicely in some UK Lemonade, but also just in some water to lightly flavor it.  It gives the water a really nice depth, without being bitter.

Fernet, which I have not discussed is utilized in this cocktail.  Another ingredient that can be used as a bitter, Fernet is a type of amari, which is a type of herbal liqueur that is traditionally used as a digestif in Italy,the country from where it originates (Wikipedia “Fernet”).  An amaro is flavored usually with gentian, angelica, or cinchona (which gives it its’ bitter flavor), and features also things such as citrus, anise, saffron, wormwood, sage, ginger, and variegated other ingredients (Wikipedia “Amaro”).  Because of the herbs found within the drink, it is sometimes utilized as medicine (Wikipedia “Fernet”). 

On the nose, you get orange, but also lights amount of spice and cinnamon.  The drink comes out to be a beautiful dark red, thanks to the mixture of colors from the Peychaud’s, the Angustora and the Fernet.  Tasting it is a really interesting experience.  As the temperature changes, so do the flavors.  The drink is less harsh as the temperature increases, and begins to taste more fruity as the cocktail warms up.  I start off tasting the Angustora orange on the front, followed with a mixture of many different spices, and always concluding with bitters and a light fruit note with a few spices.  The flavors I get when it is well chilled are cardamom, orange, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, sage, with a hint of mint, wood, and leather.  As the drink warms, I get cranberry, orange, pineapple, as well as the other spices, but engaging with the drink in a manner that creates these pseudo flavors of fruits.  I don’t know how I prefer it, whether chilled or closer to room temperature, but in either case, the drink never really produces the same exact taste twice, always having similar flavors that you can pull out, but not necessarily the same deep characteristics each sip.  Tasting the foam that covers the top, I keep getting flavors of orange, and this may very well be where the other fruit flavors are coming from, seeing as the texture softens the tongue and eases the mouth into the medium bodied concoction.

This drinks screams digestif.  It is something that should be served to assist with digestion, since the sheer amount of bitters really correlates with helping the stomach.  Plus, because of the medicinal purposes of bitters, the drink could probably also be served as a type of pick me up, for someone who is feeling under the weather.  I would not pair it with food, considering it is a digestif, and it is very complicated, and depending on the palate of the individual, they might pull out unwanted flavors.

Don’s Little Bitter:

1 ounce Rum
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce Fernet
1/2 ounce Angostura bitters
1/4 ounce Angostura Orange bitters
1/4 ounce Peychaud’s bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake well until chilled thoroughly, then double strain into a glass.

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Cocktail Classics.  2009.  “Don’s Little Bitter.”  Originally posted March 30, 2009.  Cocktail Classics. http://cocktailclassics.blogspot.com/2009/03/dons-little-bitter.html (accessed April 23, 2010).

Jay.   2007.  “Angustora Orange Bitters.”  Originally posted July 30, 2007.  OhGosh! http://ohgo.sh/archive/angostura-orange-bitters/ (accessed April 23, 2010).

Spirer, Laren.   2008.  “Meet & Eat: Don Lee, PDT.”  Originally posted December 4, 2008.  Serious Eats.  http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2008/12/don-lee-bartender-pdt-mixology-drinks.html (accessed April 23, 2010).

Wikipedia contributors. “Amaro (drink).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaro_%28drink%29 (accessed April 21, 2010). 
–.  “Fernet.”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernet (accessed April 23, 2010).