The Bitter Artists
Good bitters were difficult to source in Germany, so Munich bartenders Stephen Berg and Alexander Hauck produced their own handmade versions to mix in the cocktails their created. But in June 2006, their career path took a slight detour. They were both at the London Bar Show and decided to join forces to produce and distribute cocktail bitters to a wider audience. Just two months later they released their Orange Bitters and an Old Time Aromatic Bitters, shortly followed by Lemon Bitters. As inspiration for their new company, The Bitter Truth, they used Stephen’s extensive collection of current and historical bitters (some of which hadn’t been produced for decades). Cocktail bitters are considered to be “The spice rack for your bar”, and Stephen and Alexander work to contribute to the resurgence of popularity in this cocktail ingredient.
What are Cocktail Bitters?
Put simply, bitters are high-proof alcohol infused with herbs, fruit barks, spices, roots and seeds. It’s a concentrated concoction, and you only need a couple of drops to bring all the flavour combinations of your cocktail together. Cocktail bitters were what distinguished cocktails from other beverage categories like Toddies, Slings, Fizzes, Sours or Punches. Bitters can add an interesting twist to a simple vodka and tonic, or balance out the sweet and sour flavours of fizzes or sours.
The History of Cocktail Bitters
The first definition of a cocktails dates from 1806, and was defined as a mix of “spirits, water, sugar and bitters”. Most of the classic cocktail, like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan Cocktail, were all made with bitters. It’s the bitters that defined them as a cocktail. Many of the older bitters brands started off as medicinal tonics, and a dash or two were added to soda water as a digestive stimulant. During the prohibition era the popularity of bitters started to wane, and only Angostura Bitters managed to retain a presence on bartender’s shelves. Some press articles attribute the resurgence of bitters and interest in the classic cocktails to the Mad Men effect. This US TV show certainly helped popularise it and bring mass appeal, but as the first series didn’t air until July 2007 – by which time Stephen and Alexander were already well under way with The Bitter Truth.
The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters
The company currently produces eleven different bitters, and their criteria for their choice of flavours was to enable bartenders to be able to recreate old cocktail receipts using the correct bitters. After creating their first three bitters, The Bitter Truth were responsible for reintroducing Celery Bitters back into the market place, and won Spirit of the Year in 2008 at the Berlin Mixology Bar Awards and Best New Product in 2010 at the Tales of the Cocktail Awards in New Orleans. If you’re a fan of Bloody Mary’s relying solely on celery salt, this celery bitters can take your cocktail to the next level of depth and complexity. Other bitters include, Creole Bitters, Chocolate Bitters, Peach Bitters, Tonic Bitters, Grapefruit Bitters, Jerry Thomas’ Bitters (based on a recipe by Professor Jerry Thomas, who is considered to be the most important bartender of the 19th century) and Cucumber Bitters. There are also two non-alcoholic bitters produced, Rose Water made from rose petals and Orange Flower Water made from orange blossoms. For all the globetrotting bartenders out there, and for anyone wanting to start experimenting with bitters for themselves, The Bitter Truth created a travel pack of 5 small bottles of bitters.
The Bitter Truth Spirits and Liqueurs
As well as producing a broad selection of bitters, The Bitter Truth also has a complex selection of spirits and liqueurs. Most notably their Pink Gin, which combines juniper, lemons and warm spices over a base of Gin and the Jamaican rum-based Pimento Dram and Golden Falernum. They also produce three liqueurs; Elderflower, Apricot and Violet. The last of which is the key ingredient in an Aviation cocktail. It’s made from wild violet blossoms that grow in the Alps and has a slightly sweet, but very flowery flavour. Want to learn how to make the Aviation Cocktail? Check out our Aviation Cocktail Kit. All Images Sourced from: http://the-bitter-truth.com/