Embitterment: Phase one in which Doris gets her oats.

So, tonight is the beginning of something special, the first part of a multi-part review.  Bonus points if you get the reference.  Let me begin by introducing the subject of tonight’s profile:  Embitterment.  This company, if you lack basic reasoning skills, is a fresh new brand from the District of Columbia which sells—ding, ding, ding, that’s right—bitters.  Embitterment is a very new company, and a very small company.  So small and new I would have no idea they existed if it weren’t for the fact that one of the founders of the company is a fella I used to drunkenly jabber about the Clash and revolution with in college. Good guy.  Anyways, Ethan approached me when his company was getting ready to release their first commercially viable batches of bitters, undoubtedly familiar with the fact that I am now the #1 google search result for “E&J XO Brandy Reviews” and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: either he sends me some delicious bitters, I make a lot of drinks, get jolly and write about them; or he murders my prize steed.  Not one to be intimidated, I woke up with a horse’s head in my bed and bitters in my mailbox.  Over the course of this sloshy mini-series I will go more into the profile of the company, their values, their goals, and their personal financial information.  Now, however, I feel it is appropriate to begin the series with a kind of control testing.

Embittered

For my first experiment I have Embitterment’s Aromatic Bitters and Orange Bitters serving up alongside two big boys of the industry, Angostura and Peychaud’s.  Ethan had recommended I conduct a baseline test before throwing these puppies in some cocktails, as a way of really getting to understand the profile of the product.  He had suggested I do this by putting a few dashes in some seltzer water to really let the flavors open up, and I agreed—it seemed logical, scientific and all that jazz.  Then I realized I rather loathe seltzer water.  I thought about doing it with a bit of tonic, or even some sprite or something—Angostura does actually make a lemon lime soda.  Then I thought, screw it, this blog is all about blues and booze—I’ll put it in a clear liquor.  Since vodka is icky I decided I will do variations on a theme: pink gin.  Traditionally pink gin is Plymouth gin and a dash of Angostura.  I went with Beefeater’s 24 and tonight’s challengers.  So, welp, here it goes.  First off, the established brands:

Angostura Bitters: Classic Aromatic

First off let me mention two things.  Yes, I screwed up, I wasn’t supposed to use London Dry Gin.  But Plymouth was more expensive.  Second, this isn’t pink at all; it’s kind of brackish looking.  Okay three, I didn’t chill it enough. The good news is that this is actually a pretty good medium for testing, as long as I put a ton of bitters in.  Anyways, if you’ve had any experience with bitters, it likely it was with the Caribbean classic Angostura.  The recipe from Angostura bitters, like most of the genre, came about first as some kind of digestive cure-all in Venezuela in 1824.  Basically, a lot of people assumed that mashing up a bunch of herbs and roots and shit with some hooch might make you feel better.  Remember, these were people who thought your health was controlled by humours.  Anyways, said Venezolano amigo’s recipe has been a long guarded secret, it’s oversized label a trademark, and the little drops themselves a classic cocktail additive.  Angostura’s flavor profile is dominated by a variety of root flavors, foremost among them in my mind is gentian root.  Can’t place that flavor?  New Englandah’s will recognize that flavor as the principle ingredient in Moxie soda.  On it’s on (yes, I just splashed bitters on my tongue) angostura is, as you’d expect, is bitter, spicy—think cinnamon and nutmeg, and a bit  vegetal, with a finishing note that seems to leave that part of my tongue numb.  Added to drinks, such as my brown gin, it really opens up with caramel and tons of that moxie flavor, with a bit of something I can’t place…juniper?  Oh, that’s right, gin.

Second up, Peychaud’s.  Peychaud’s bitters are just about as old (about 1830) as Angostura, and came about in much the same way—the crock of shit school of medicine.  Peychaud’s were my first entrée to the world of bitters, as at one point I tried to master the Sazerac, and Peychaud’s were a crucial part.  Rather quickly I resorted to putting endless dashes into my bourbon on a nightly basis, and even one night slugging them down on some kind of bet.  I may have bet myself I’d do it.  It wasn’t particularly pleasant.  When mixed with the proper accompaniment, however, Peychaud’s are quite pleasant.  Though similarly packing with gentian root, to my taste Peychaud’s are far more floral, are quite sweet in a very cane sugar type of way, and have a bit of licorice / anise—which make it clear why they’re the classic Sazerac, jiving perfectly with the Absinthe or Herb Saint.  The Peychaud’s also go perfectly for my whole pink gin thing—first because they actually make the gin pink, looks like a goddamn Cosmo pink, and second because the clean sweetness of it makes a perfect foil to the dry gin, and the licorice note seems to perfectly meet the juniper and grapefruit so prevalent in Beefeater’s 24.  I can see drinking this again, though not in public.  It’s pink and in a martini glass.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s star time! Tonight, the stars of our show: Embitterment!

First off, it’s automatic, diplomatic, enigmatic, and aromatic. Aromatic bitters, that is.  First thing of note, these bitters are stealthy!  They have very little color compared to the older contenders, which I imagine means these are a bit more au natural.  Now, it’s hard to say if I just put more bitters in, or if these just pack more of a punch, but wowww.  Anise is huge here, with a lovely bit of root spice, a tad of citrus and a very light, soft sweet note that kind of remind me of elderflower liqueur.  In the world of bitters varieties are opportunities, and these offer a distinct interpretation that undoubtedly will offer some delicious new twists to some of the classic cocktails I will tackle later.  Also, note to self, a little goes a long way—isn’t that the point of bitters in any cocktail?

The closer for tonight’s performance, another original, is Le Orange.  They don’t call it that; they just go with Orange Bitters.  I’m going to be honest here—I have very limited experience with orange bitters. I’ve had Regan’s once or twice, but these are a lively new experience for me.  They’re warm and round with maybe some brown sugar on the entry and then rich oily orange peel expressed vibrantly.  Little sweet vermouth and I’d have a perfect martini here.  I taste a world of opportunities, a new world to me…and I can’t wait to see what this does to an old fashioned.

Let me remind you folks, this is just an introduction, a teaser, a taster…if you will.  I haven’t really thought it through, but there’s going to be at least one more (possibly many more) installment(s) in the Embitterment review series, with more to come on the company, the mission, and the bitterness.

PS: Special perks to tonight’s medium, Beefeater’s 24, a lovely, floral and balanced gin.

Review: Diep 9 Oude Genever

I’m a bit of a history nerd, and as you’ve probably guessed I’ve grown rather fond of drink.  I’m the kind of guy that constantly finds himself researching (read: searching Wikipedia) things that I’m interested in.  That usually means that sometime around 1 a.m. I find myself wondering how the hell I ended up reading about uses of gentian root in folk medicine.  I’m rather sure this is how I came upon genever.  Genever is a spirit produced in the Low Countries (Holland and Belgium) from distilled grains infused with botanicals (herbs and stuff).  While there is some debate as to when genever was first produced it seems its popularity grew in the 16th century, meaning this is some pretty old school hooch.  When I first came upon it I was struck by the whole botanicals thing and the idea that this was the predecessor to gin.  Genever, gin—pretty solid connection linguistically.  The whole botanical infusion thing, which supposedly started to cover its crude distillation, also totally gin.  In fact they both are characterized by their use of the juniper berry.  Also present in the botanic bill of tonight’s genever are orange peel, thistle, carob, nutmeg, grains of paradise, angelica root, cinnamon and coriander.  Also, I’ll make one more distinction: apparently there are two kinds, jonge and oude—young and old, referring to age.  Tonight, I drink the old.

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Apparently the traditional way to drink it is to sip it slowly from a shot glass filled to the very brim. The first sip is taken while the glass is on the bar.

Diep 9 Oude Genever only recently showed up on the shelves of the New Hampshire State Stores.  At around $30 and in a cool ceramic bottle it seemed like a decent deal and the geek in me wanted it from the moment I saw it.  When I landed me a new high paying job I decided I’d reward my longings, and hence I bought this.  I’ve had it for a while, sitting at the bar for the occasional sip and curiosities sake.  The cool bottle makes it nice décor, too.  So what is my impression of this age old legacy?  I’m still not quite sure actually.  The flavors to me are predominantly similar to a very young whiskey.  The slightest tinge of mellowing oak and a heaping of soft and sweet malty flavors give this drink a rather full body while remaining very light on the palate.  What continues to surprise me is how subtle the botanicals are.  For the predecessor of gin I expected to be knocked out by juniper and spice, instead I found myself searching for the flavors, finding the juniper more present on the nose than the tongue and the botanicals represented more in an underlying earthy flavor that lingers nicely.  Overall it’s more like Jim Beam’s Jacob’s Ghost than Beefeaters.  But more refined than the former.  The word that keeps coming to mind is subtle, everything about this is there in just the gentlest dose.  That’s a good thing, and rather pleasant—though it requires a dedication to drinking it.  If you don’t invest yourself in finding flavors you’ll find none.  Maybe the Belgians are trying to say something about the way we drink, that perhaps we should take more time savoring our drinks, rather than pounding back martinis like Churchill or Jaeger like some frat-hole.  I like the idea of that, but I’ll continue to treat this the way I have, the occasional glass for curiosity when I’m trying to engage my senses a bit more.  It’s perfect for that—and they say it’s great in cocktails too.

Enjoy a guest review from our Senior Gin Correspondent, Ben Winston

Broker, as in stock broker, as in corporate crony, as in a man who values status, appearance, and reputation. The bottle stands tall and proud, reminding the sipping sinner he’s suckling the World’s Best Gin, so says a committee who might know such things. The broker is arrogant, but  often correct. He is a man of the suit, of the bowler hat, clean cut and cut throat. A broker is precise, always precise, and its namesake doesn’t disappoint in its precision. A precise 94 proof, no more no less. Strong, warm juniper in the mouth, easing into a soft burn of the throat. A pointed gin, a gin with purpose. A gentlemen’s gin. Steady yourself with sips, or let yourself loose with gulps, the tainted water tingles every nerve, gives your taste buds a welcome overhaul and invites you to consider a higher class of living. Broker’s Gin: an elite peek for the every man.

Check out Ben’s blog at analogbananalog.wordpress.comImage