Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters

Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters // stirandstrain.comIt’s Tuesday, so I bet you’re already thinking about the weekend by this point in the day. So how about a fun DIY project to start planning? That involves doing something with all that winter citrus you have hanging out in your fruit basket? Making bitters might seem like a daunting task, but a lot of it is just sitting around waiting for it to be done already. Kinda like Limoncello (or Tangelocello). And, this recipe yields enough that you can bottle up and give away some as gifts. Those people will think it took you forever, but you don’t have to tell them how easy this is.

My recipe is based off of B.T. Parsons’ recipe found in his essential book on bitters, aptly titled “Bitters“. I made his version last year to the letter and enjoyed the results, however, I found that this year I wanted a version less sweet and delicate, and more bitter with richer citrus notes. So that’s what you’re getting here.

Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters // stirandstrain.comA couple of tips to help you along the way: First, use a vegetable peeler to zest the citrus. Using a light hand while peeling will help keep the pith on the fruit and not on the zest (YOU want to control your bitterness in the recipe, not the fruit). Second, invest in some cheesecloth. A small amount of cheesecloth will go a long way in keeping unwanted particles from entering your final product, and you’ll find plenty of other uses for it in the kitchen. And lastly, if any of these ingredients have you scratching your head, they’re all available online.Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters // stirandstrain.com

Adapted from the book “Bitters”
Yields approximately 18 ounces
zest from 4 meyer lemons
zest from 1/2 bitter orange (such as Seville)
zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons dried lemon zest (see note below)
1/2 tablespoon dried orange zest
4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon dried ginger (do not use powder, see note on dried citrus)
1/4 teaspoon whole coriander
1/4 teaspoon whole white pepper
4 – 5 dried Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves
3/4 teaspoon gentian root
1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 cups high proof vodka (I have access to 150 proof everclear in California, however, 100 proof vodka would also work)
1 cup water

  1. To make dried citrus, zest 4-6 large lemons (2 oranges or peel a 1″ nub of ginger and slice). Chop peel and lay on a baking sheet in an oven set at 250°F for 1 hour. Peel should be completely dry but not brittle. Dried lemon zest is also available commercially.
  2. In an airtight container, combine all of the zest, cardamom, ginger, coriander, white pepper, lime leaves, gentian root, and fennel seed. Pour vodka over the ingredients and seal container. Swirl to combine. Keep the container in a cool, dark place for two weeks, swirling mixture once daily. (I find it helps to set a calendar reminder also at this point.)
  3. After two weeks, strain out solids and set aside. Strain liquid through a cheesecloth to remove any particles left and transfer to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place. In a small sauce pan, combine solids with water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boil is reached, turn heat to low and let simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, pour contents of the pan into a separate airtight container and let sit one week.
  4. After a week, strain out solids through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer. Add to the original liquid that has been set aside. Let sit at room temperature for 3 days and skim off any residue that accumulates at the top. Strain again if there is any leftover sediment and bottle into dropper bottles for storage.

Meyer lemons have a more pronounced floral aroma, as opposed to just a regular lemon, which tends to be more astringent. To pierce the perfumy nature of the meyer lemons, the kaffir lime leaves give a nice punch and aroma, while the bitter orange, fennel and spices create earthy undertones for balance.

I add a few drops to a Gin & Tonic, and they can be used as a sub for recipes using regular lemon bitters. Experiment and see what cocktails work for you!

*This recipe originally appeared on the Serious Drinks site.

Mixology Monday: 5 Spice Ti’ Punch

5 Spice Ti' Punch // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoApologies for the hasty nature of this post. I’m heading out the door on my way to Palm Springs Modernism Week to bask in even hotter temps than Los Angeles and to have my eyes filled to the brim with mid-century architecture. I almost didn’t make this month’s Mixology Monday, “Sours” hosted by the Ginhound blog, but remembered that I have a cocktail for a supperclub dinner coming up next week that would fit the bill.

Ti’ Punch is in that sour category alongside daiquiris, margaritas, etc… A liquor at the base with a sour component and a sweet. To fit the theme of the dinner, I created a 5 Spice Ti’ Punch, infusing the whole spices usually found in that blend into a demerara syrup. The result was a honey rich syrup that almost had a “chai” like aroma to it. Not too overbearing on the palate but enough of a kick to give the drink an unexpected new flavor profile.5 Spice Ti' Punch // stirandstrain.com

In keeping with tradition of the Ti’ Punch being an aperitif (served before a meal), this strong tipple will be served to guests arriving. Hopefully it will loosen the tongue just enough to make this a lively dinner. This will be served punch style, however for this recipe, I’ve scaled it down to a punch for one.

First, let’s make the syrup!

5 Spice Syrup

1 cup demerara sugar
1 cup water
1 star anise
1 4″ cinnamon stick, broken in two
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
5 whole cloves

Combine sugar and water over medium high heat in a small sauce pan. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then add spices to the pan. Bring to just a boil and then remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Uncover and let come to room temperature. Strain into an airtight container.

For the cocktail

2 oz. Rhum J.M. Gold Agricole
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice from 1/2 a lime
1/2 oz. 5 spice syrup

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add rhum, lime juice and syrup. Stir 30 seconds to chill and then strain into an iced filled rocks glass.

This is one boozy sour. That grassy cinnamon agricole rhum comes in at 100 proof, so you’ll probably only need just the one punch. But by all means have two if you want. The 5 spice compliments the rhum more than overpowers it in that hey-look-at-me way that 5 spice sometimes can. Infusing the spices in a demerara sugar created a viscous, honey like syrup that had a deeper color and flavor than regular cane syrup. Also, I thought it would have a better mouthfeel in a drink served over ice. The syrup really does taste more like a chai than what I associate with this Chinese spice blend too. Overall a satisfying cocktail with some bite.

Note, I did use black peppercorns rather than Sichuan ones, but only because the black were readily available and I was short on time. Had I been able to use the Sichuan, the flavor profile could have turned out a different way. If you get your hands on some and make this, I’d love to hear about how yours turned out.

Thanks to Andrea for hosting this month’s Mixology Monday! Please visit her site and check out everyone’s entries.

The Chocolate Rye

Chocolate Rye Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFirst off, this month marks YEAR THREE  of the Stir & Strain website (I always forget). Woo-hoo! Let’s make a drink.

When coming up with ideas this month the one thing I was against was a chocolate cocktail a la the Chocotini. Why would you willingly drink that? I gag just thinking about it. It’s like poop…with alcohol.Chocolate Rye Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So instead I decided that I should somehow infuse cacao nibs into a cocktail and work with that. What I ended up making was a drink that was a riff on a box of chocolates: the smell of chocolate, toasted almonds and spices all infused within some rye whiskey. (You can read more on that over at the Serious Drinks site.)

The infusion is quick so if you start it today you can actually make this for Valentine’s Day if you wanted. This would more than likely earn you some brownie points since it means you thought ahead of time.

So let’s start cocktailing!Chocolate Rye Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Cacao Nib, Toasted Almond, and Spice Infused Rye

1/3 cup cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 allspice berries
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 2” long cinnamon sticks
1/2 inch cube ginger, peeled and sliced
1-1/2 cups rye whiskey, such as Redemption Rye

In an airtight container, combine all ingredients and swirl to combine. Let sit for 2 days then fine strain into a clean airtight container (you may need to strain a second time). Let sit an additional day or two to mellow. Infusion is now ready to use and will last indefinitely (best flavor within one year though).

Now the cocktail:

1-3/4 ounce cacao nib infused rye
3/4 ounce Oloroso Sherry
1/2 freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice, from 1/2 lemon
bar spoon luxardo cherry syrup from jar of cherries

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 full with ice. Add infused rye, sherry, lemon juice, and syrup from the cherry jar. Stir until well chilled, about 25 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry and serve.

The aroma from the infusion is intoxicating. Warm spices combined with a rich chocolate aroma followed by the nutty toasted almonds. And it gets better in the cocktail which is both bright and decadent. Let the drink sit for a minute after you’ve poured it, as that lets all the smells really open up as it looses it’s chill.