Bitters and Syrups

NOTE: I am currently rethinking my blogging efforts, not with an intention to discontinue them but rather broaden to the other things that interest me. One of my most pleasurable personal pursuits is food, so as I rebrand this site I will be including posts focused on food, as well as tech, entrepreneurship, finance, and public policy (as if I needed more subjects!). I realize that this is somewhat of a departure but I hope that I can catch a wider audience, as in more diversified than I currently cater to, no pun intended. 

A few months ago my wife and I were out to dinner and as is our habit at this particular restaurant we chose to eat at the bar. I noticed the bartender mixing cocktails using ingredients parceled out by eyedropper from hand labeled bottles and being a curious sort of fellow I asked him.

The hand labeled bottles contained the output of bitters recipes he had developed (and used to become a nationally recognized mixologist). He explained the process of reducing, flavoring, and enhancing flavors over the course of our meal and between drink orders and I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that it forever changed my view of what happens behind a bar… bitters are to bartenders what the spice cabinet is to chefs.

It turns out that bitters have a role in the culinary pursuits and I recently read an article highlighting this, along with recipes and ingredients descriptions. Fascinating stuff but rather than delve into yet another eccentric kitchen pursuit and have my wife, yet again, roll her eyes in disbelief, I found several online sources for a full range of bitters products. My favorite, thus far, is Cocktail Kingdom.

For starters I would recommend the classics, Wormwood or Angostura for spice laden woodland flavors, Peychaud for anise, and any of the orange or grapefruit bitters for citrus flavors. Look for recipes with a reduction or compote and annotate with a teaspoon of the appropriate bitters… it’s surprisingly transformative in terms of flavor intensity.

While I am on the subject of flavor enhancers, I found another company that offers a different range of products but with the same objective, flavor enhancers. Robert Lambert hails from a Wisconsin farm and offers an amazing array of syrups and condiments, the syrups are my sole area of interest.

I received a bottle of the Rangpur Lime Syrup as a gift and as it so happens rangpur lime is actually a mandarin and when reduced to a syrup makes for a wonderful lift in something as simple as a glass of ice water. It’s neither citrusy or sweet, it seems to reside somewhere in the middle and I very much like it. I would also recommend the Bergamot Syrup, which as the name suggests is also a citrus fruit and is what brings Earl Grey tea its distinct aroma. I drizzle it on ice cream or, as I did last night, on a sliced yellow peach.