Thursday, January 31, 2013


Welcome to National Brandy Alexander Day!


Ok, maybe not as much resonance as the folks in Congress intended.

But! To close out a spectacular January by most likely gaining the blog's 5,000th hit as well as its first 1,000+ hit month, a little libation felt in order. That, and the general idea of a Cherry Alexio had been on the backburner for awhile and the timing seemed perfect, as far as occasion as well as proximity to Valentine's Day (plus, Peychaud's connection to NOLA's upcoming High Holiday, Mardi Gras).

*puts a lampshade on the transition's head, it's drunk and having a good time*

Mars lurks right behind on the track list.

1 1/2 oz cachaça (unaged, raw as a fresh Brazilian wax)
1 oz cream
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
1/4 oz coffee liqueur (I used the sultry Tia Maria)
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
rinse of Black Sambuca
drops of Peychaud's bitters for garnish

Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with the sambuca.

Shake the first five ingredients with ice, then double-strain into the glass.

Decorate the foamy top radially with further drops of Peychaud's (recommend an eyedropper/toothpick for this).

Barring that it was a take on an Alexander, the original Alexio had some interesting points for using underexplored cachaça plus particular ingredients with numbers in their names (that's pretty much how I came to it, a year ago on National Brandy Alexander Day, to begin with). Adapting the flavor profile to cherry would mean an inexact line-up between ingredients, ratio-wise, and I wanted to go a bit further in interest level than simple cherry. (although I have to say, subbing Maraschino liqueur for the coffee liqueur makes for an excellent overall rounded cherry flavor, the full fruit and then the pomace)

So to start, for a creamy Alexander-style drink you want a cachaça that can let down its long curly mane, petrol notes and all, to make sure it comes through. 51's my stalwart standby, though Pitu is very comparable (I can't speak for any other brands, but anything LOUD should work just fine). With a cachaça like this, it's all so very primal and it would probably be foolish to not use that as the angle, what with the petrol notes: everything else just has to rise to their occasion.

As far as cherry flavor, where else do you go but the rich (but not overly sweet) Cherry Heering? I cut it back from a full ounce in order to work some sub flavors in: something dark, moody, chthonic; something with weighty bass notes. Peychaud's bitters was the first to pop to mind, and the cherry-anise link led me to black Sambuca: off to a good start -- a rinse here since even a quarter ounce would be tongue-numb overkill. While Maraschino was a nice mix, it wasn't dark enough. Working on this until the last minute, I happened to hop over to Chemistry of the Cocktail's very latest post as of yesterday, and the suggestion of coffee notes intermingling in another Cherry Heering cocktail pointed me towards coffee liqueur. (Really, with a dessert drink such as this, an after-dinner cordial is the likeliest fit and would balance with the Heering's slight lack of sweetness) Tia Maria is a good fit with its own character not getting lost; Kahlua may run a bit too sweet; I'm very curious to know how espresso-flavored Galliano Ristretto might work. Finally, to make this a little more approachable to drier palates, and tie all the flavors together, this is when I decided to add the Peychaud's as more than an aromatic garnish.

It comes together quite well, with an almost ethereal metallic void taste. While neither cherry nor anise dominate, the anise bonds intriguingly with the petrol notes into a metal spice. Baking spices, particularly cinnamon and allspice, could easily find their way into this concoction, but I'm happier for the restraint and novel flavors. The bitters function well to downplay the sweetness and ultimately all the ingredients get their due, ebbing in and out of the cream clouds. The name Rotorblade is a track off of my favorite all-time album: Juno Reactor's Beyond the Infinite, a sublime hourlong mix of Goa trance electronica from the mid-90s. With the metal, hypnotic anise, dusky cherry, and coincidental bitters pattern, it seemed a natural fit for the track. I could probably sip on these and commune with the music all day and night.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mixology Monday, January 2013: Fortified Wines

Happy Mixology Monday, everyone!

The mighty Jordan Devereaux of Chemistry of the Cocktail hosts this month's MxMo event - giving us the ever-enlightening theme of Fortified Wines:

Fortified wines began, in large part, as a way to deal with the difficulties of shipping wine long distances in the holds of sailing ships. Without the rigorous sterilization that is possible today, wines would often spoil en route. However, increasing the alcohol concentration to around 20% ABV was enough to keep them from going off… These wines held an important place in.. punch and have continued on in cocktails proper.  [These wines include] sherry, port, and, to a lesser extent, madeira and marsala, all find their way into various mixed drinks… They can play many different roles – from taking the place of vermouths in classic drinks, to providing richness and sweetness in winter tipples, to serving as a base for lighter aperitifs. Whether forgotten classics or new creations, let’s see what you can put together.

When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

Goodnesses, this was an educational MxMo. Before this month I'd only had/worked with sherry once, out of the many fortified wines listed in the prompt. I honestly found the palo cortado so-so: the quality was evident, but there's only so much nuttiness I can stand - maybe there was some slight salinity in it enhancing those notes too. That and the way sherry has been especially popular in the last few years made me curious about lesser-used Madeira. So, I figured this would be a grand opportunity to start in on my education on that particular spirit.

Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malvasia (Malmsey). And Rainwater, a style offshoot of Verdelho. Those are the primary varietal names you'll see with Madeira, listed from driest to sweetest, respectively. There are blends as well, and vintages too. But in the circumscribed confines of MxMo, I chose to focus on the drier styles and challenge my sweet-leaning palate with Sercial and then Rainwater -- and managed to come up with some rather enjoyable cocktails with both.

With Sercial, I started out playing around by adding brown spirits (bourbon, rum, armagnac) and either PAMA pomegranate liqueur or a homemade blood orange cordial plus Angostura bitters and possibly dashes of amaretto. (Blandy's 5 year Sercial LOVES Angostura). The drinks turned out decently, but it was hard to highlight the Sercial - and differently from the many already-established madeira cocktails (particularly of the "Creole" persuasion). But when pressed at the last minute, I happened upon a golden combination:

The Light Will Guide Me
1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey (Clontarf Black Label)
1 1/2 oz Sercial Madeira (Blandy's 5 year)
1/4 oz Benedictine
5 drops Urban Moonshine citrus bitters
1 dash Dr. Adam's Aphrodite bitters
lemon zest

Stir all on ice to chill and dilute. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a swatch of lemon zest.

The lone true-hearted sailor drops anchor on a distant verdant and lush island: one with a fortifying spirit. Now he sits in his cabin watching the late afternoon sun stream gold through his chalice on the fine wooden furnishings. He knows his course is true, blessed even. Lemon, vanilla, grain, and the faintest hint of sub-tropical mystique: he feels the hands of his angel on his shoulders, and she presses towards the Isle of Light.

Many of the madeira recipes described over at Cocktail Virgin Slut (and many thanks to MxMo coordinator and CVS blogger Fred Yarm for keeping things up and running, at that) are interesting for the equal ratio given between the madeira and base spirit. All the better to taste both, surely, so, I started with that. My instinct was to try to think of the fortified wine as one would a vermouth, but given the lack of herbal thrust tried to make that up via the Benedictine and bitters. Sercial is especially difficult to mix with (note the lack of recipes using that particular varietal, and, I was constantly thinking to myself "why mix with it when it's so perfectly balanced [between nutty sweetness and dry acidity]?!"): it either dominates or gets lost in the mix. Here, the acidity is naturally ever-present, and here and there the nuttiness pops through in a sip and is a delightful surprise.

Curious enough, instead of using the bitters to bind, I wanted that bitterness to crash through and break things up: give some flavor variation on which the other spirits could better make themselves known. The Urban Moonshine citrus urged a general trend towards citrus (Clontarf has some interesting tropical notes like passionfruit and pineapple to boot), but with a spare astringency that would work against the madeira's body which dampens individual flavor notes. A more complex bitters like Aphrodite further helps break things up while pulling forth the madeira with coffee and chocolate notes.

Furthermore, in the last week or so I was noodling around on another side project trying to come up with some drink names for ingredient combinations that were skewing very soft, feminine and youthful (but with off-the-top-of-the-head names like "Baby Blocks", perhaps a little too youthful). Well, I stumbled onto a naming convention that allowed not just 3 recipes but nearly a dozen more, and with that idea giddiness came this writes-itself recipe, perfectly timed for MxMo:

Raindrops on Roses

2 oz Lillet Rose
1 1/2 oz Rainwater Madeira
1 oz grappa
2 dashes Dr. Adam's Teapot bitters
grapefruit zest garnish

(like the pic shows, I used Miles Medium-Dry Rainwater Madeira & Alexander Grappa di Cabernet)

Stir all on ice to chill and dilute.

Strain into a champagne flute or sherry glass.

Garnish with a thin grapefruit spiral, or if you really want to get fancy, a rose made of grapefruit zest.

  • This one comes together especially well, with some fascinating rose-like qualities emerging from the various ingredients. And, I'm happy to have it inaugurate the My Favorite Things project this year (if you think about that for 5 seconds, you know exactly what the other 12 cocktail names will be, though I'm still coming up with worthy ingredient combinations: and yes, somehow there will be a Schnitzel with Noodles). 
  • I tried an earlier version with pisco instead of grappa and there's a world of difference: the pisco merely added weight in a grape-spirit-minded way, but the grappa lets you know it's in charge here (probably a good thing because the pisco version was a tad too easy to drink). The thing that strikes me about using grappa is how its weight and general flavor tone remind me so much of the characteristics of a large weighty tea rose, further enhanced by the other ingredients.
  • Rainwater Madeira truly does match your mental image of the spirit: it has a soft dewy body, which dampens the acidity a shade, though it's still noticeable -- enhanced by the Lillet and zest, no doubt.
  • Lillet Rose serves as the flavor that colors everything else going on. The Teapot Bitters add their special whimsy on the nose, and their vanilla, hazelnut and rose notes punch up to the fore those elements in other ingredients.
  • Be mindful of the zest: too much for too long infusing into the drink can overwhelm with bitter acidity, though just enough brings out some interesting watermelon notes from its good friend Lillet.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Lady's Piercing Eyes

They told me I couldn't miss her. I did.

Trawling up'n'down the Rue Whatisevers, right aroundside the Pantheon for 3 hours, they told me I'd find her sitting outside at a café - and there weren't too many of 'em in that district.

To coin a phrase: Hah!

Turns out, after sweatin' like a hunk o'capicola left out on the sidewalk in the afternoon sun ('cause that's what I was, y'know), I find her sittin' outta sight in the shadiest corner under a canopy I musta looked in 10 times.

There she was, lookin' the perfect evil French stereotype: black bob under a purple beret, black Lennon shades, green sheath dress and stilettos that said "don't fall for me." Coulda been my eyes adjusting to the shade, but she blended in a little too well into the texture of the bushes behind her. Sitting tall at her lone table reading a book and sipping a demi-tasse. All she needed was a yard-long cigarette holder.

So I go up to her to deliver my message and I says: "Meduse de Javert? Good to see that you're well. I'm Bateman. Mr. Kinich sends his regards."

The lady's eyebrow twitched up and back, less reflexive than a brief display of inner calculation. She shut her book and sat back, taking me in. Felt like I broke some minute degree of protocol - maybe I didn't get everything outta the real Bateman when we were ripping out his fingernails to take over this transaction.

"Merci. J'envoie mes salutations à M. Kinich, aussi. Avons-nous un accord?"

"Oui, madame. Mr. Kinich also invites you for dinner this evening at Agapé Substance to further discuss the implementation. Seven Pee Em."

"C'est agréable. Mais, j'ai l'intention de manger légèrement." Here she was speaking too fast for me to hear. "Ma taille fine." But that I understood.

"Of course. Merci, madame. I will apprise Mr. Kinich." And here I half-turned: I shoulda just kept business and left, but something about her tickled me, like a faint tingle at the back of my ankle.

"de Javert, eh? Like that guy from Les Mis? Your family ain't into hockey, is it?"

She looked down, brow furrowed, squeezing her eyes so tight white light flashed out from behind her shades, scratching irritatedly a little too far up her scalp. Nah, couldntabeen. She murmured something under her breath. "Pardon, ma'am?"

She looked up. All I could see were those black holes over her eyes. They were swirling. Glowing. "Des. Yeux. Verts."

"H-huh? I don't speak.."

"Vous n'êtes pas Bateman. Et je ne travaille pas avec les incompétents!" The tingle at my ankle got the better of me. My head hit the concrete and all I see is her head in the red canopy, staring down cold dinosaur-like. Those black dots transfix me like the petite shoe sinking into my chest.

"A message for your employer: no one wishes to be Bateman." She lifted her shades, mouth wet, savoring the taste of her words. "Vois-ci!"

The garçon arrived to clean up the (medium-rare and babbling) mess. "Et votre café?"

"C'est bon. Mais, c'est l'heure: je voudrais voir votre carte de cocktails?"

The Lady's Piercing Eyes
2 oz Leblon cachaça
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Rumple Minze
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 barspoon crème de mûre
sage leaf 

Chill your serving glass.
Shake first 5 ingredients on ice to chill and mix.
Double-strain drink into serving glass and sink blackberry liqueur.
Lightly press sage leaf to promote oils and float on top of drink.
Whether your stir her glowing red eye is up to you.

One thing I keep forgetting to mention in these Vanilla Lace Bitters recipes: I try to keep my recipes not only seasonal, but connected to meanings associated with calendar and zodiac months as well. If my original batch of VLB had worked out, its recipe and these last two cocktails using it would have come out some time in October during the month of (Venus-ruled) Libra. Hence the exotic lady themes. My excuse for January? I associate it with snowy whiteness, to which vanilla is a natural match. (and Northrop Frye associates Winter with the Satire, being a season of Mind *draw the connection to* cerebral blackberry...or that might've just been the Smuckers commercial talking...)

With the idea of ladies and the Feminine firmly ensconced in my head, my first thought was to the White Lady cocktail, including an earlier version of the same, utilizing crème de menthe. The idea itself, associating white and white crème de menthe isn't bad -- there's a fitting purity in the bracing sharp peppermint in white crème de menthe (which is a little more toned down or rounded in the green variant) -- the execution and balance could just use a little work in that drink.

But: what lady would make use of razor-sharp peppermint? Shall we just say, cue the cachaça!

You might think the bitters get a little lost here, they certainly aren't as featured as in La Dame de Chantilly. But, I think their Venus-in-Libra pleasing/harmonizing aspect comes out well here: the vanilla falls behind the scenes to smooth and unite what is otherwise a lime-bright and slightly mint-chalky mix while the spices contribute depth. Interestingly, the most prominent note from the bitters is the vegetal/black pepper damiana (the Mexican aphrodisiac herb), which matches with the cachaça's grassy notes.

Overall, it's a little Stinger, a little Bramble, a little Caipirinha. Cerebral with blackberry and sage, an Amazon waiting to explode under demure (natch) lacy wraps. Beware the lady's daggers.

  • Of the 3 cachaças available on PA shelves, Leblon is easily the most refined and ladylike (another brand of similar characteristics would be advised if a sub is needed). [UPDATE (02-28-2013): Having just made this recipe with my new bottle of Neisson Rhum Agricole Blanc, I would say the cocktail is markedly improved with this drier, lighter sugar cane spirit. I surmise any agricole might make for an improved quaff.] However, that means it needs a larger share of the ratio in order to not get lost in the other Big flavors: 4:1:1, instead of the standard 2:1:1 sour formula.
  • The mint aspect was the hardest to get right. Straight white crème de menthe as the sweetener was perhaps a touch too sweet (Leblon being noticeably wetter than a London Dry gin in the comparable Bramble) and the sweetness dulled the mint's sharpness in the final cocktail -- a requisite given the name, ne? Given the need for a more thunderous mint, I reached out to left field for the mini of Rumple Minze I had in my fridge. There's an unspoken taboo about using any schnapps in proper cocktails (the connection to frat party pantydroppers ought to be good and well severed for those to whom discernment matters less), but here's a drier, high-proof, potent-flavored spirit of fine German craftsmanship*. In combination with simple syrup the sweetness balances just right, and the peppermint undergirds with a perceptible, perpetual frost.
*ranty MoD note: this is about the only place you'll see me use the C-word (e.g. in conjunction with 'German', from which the word originated and with which it still retains real meaning). MAKE. GOOD. COCKTAILS. Be confident, patient, persistent. All else flows from there. If you feel you have to associate yourself with a certain word (and in a world in which one can "Craft 2" at Qdoba) you're actually downplaying the quality of your work by qualifying it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

La Dame de Chantilly

Vanilla: shy, coquette, courtesan?

What's that just behind her lace?
La Dame de Chantilly

2 oz Remy Martin V

1/2 oz simple syrup

1/2 tsp LACTART

3/4 - 1 oz egg white

Shake (hard) all the ingredients dry and then with ice.

Garnish with a further spritz or two of Vanilla Lace Bitters and possibly a marzipan flower or candied violet.

While definitely borrowing from the White Lady for general structure, I wanted to create a cocktail purely to showcase the Vanilla Lace Bitters. Gin seemed a bit too intricate and aromatic in its own right to use as a base spirit, though something white would be appropriate so there would be no overlap with vanillin from barrel-aging. In focusing on the "Lace" part of the bitters, my thoughts went straight to the Big Bopper. And given Chantilly is one of oodles of famed lace-making villages in France, my favorite white brandy seemed appropriate here.

The base out of the way, I also wanted to minimize other flavors in the drink, the sweet and the sour that is. Easy simple syrup fit for the sweet, but I took time to seek out something more flavorless than any citrus: namely one of the food acids championed by Mr. Fix the Pumps himself, Lactart (the acid, not Darcy O'Neil). The Lactart surprised me: maybe I just needed to practice with it, but in my 2 testers of this recipe it proved enough acidity to get the egg whites foaming without crazy-hard shaking while being mild enough to, well, minimize spit-curdling (an issue I've had with lemon juice in a number of cocktails).

Now, I always get confuzzled about egg white measurements given in amount of what's in the egg (half a white, a whole white..). No doubt we all buy different sizes of eggs and even within a carton there can be noticeable variation (case in point while testing: one egg from my carton yielded 1 oz egg whites while another yielded 1 1/4 oz). The 3/4 - 1 oz indicated above seems to be about right for adding body to a cocktail and then a nice thin lacy layer of steady foam on top (without it being wet dog aromatic overkill). I wouldn't go lower than 3/4 oz: 1/2 oz seems too little to get the foam going properly, at least with this amount of acid.

Perhaps it's because of the egg white's body or the robust grape spirit flavor of the Remy V, but this recipe needs about 2 tsp (plus the spritzes on top) to properly taste the Vanilla Lace Bitters. Because they're rather bitter, that touch of bitterness can serve as a good hallmark for telling when the drink is balanced. You might want slightly more or less depending on your palate.

I'd be curious to know your thoughts on this minimalist cocktail. You could probably use it in numerous ways to highlight various bitters ("La Dame de...") and for its structure...also very like the Pegu Club now that I think of it...the rare triad of sweet, sour and bitter cohere like (because I've got them on the brain) Led Zeppelin getting back together (there, I said it).

Stay tuned in a day or so, I've got one other recipe using the bitters!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Vanilla Lace Bitters

Happy New Year!

Living out in cocktail-land on Twitter, you get to see all the incredible things people are doing and how there are so many methods and sources for bringing flavor into a cocktail: spirits, liqueurs, juices, zests, herbs, spices, infusions, tinctures, syrups, shrubs, and, of course, bitters. But even with all the spirits/liqueurs/bitters flavors available to buy, there are a few ideas that seem to have slipped through the cracks: a lemon triple sec, Usquebaugh spiced brandy or whiskey, vanilla-dominant bitters, for instance.

Sure, there's the difficult-to-get famed Bob's Vanilla Bitters, Bittercube does a Cherry-Bark Vanilla bitters and if you google "vanilla bitters" you'll see everyone and their mother republishing Dr. Schwartz's Cherry-Vanilla bitters (the latter two are lovely, but they're not exclusively vanilla-focused). And oh, hello there Imbibe magazine sneaking in this Vanilla Bitters recipe very very recently (ack!). For completeness' sake, there's also this less-complex vanilla bitters recipe on Foodista and Bittermens makes a rare experimental Squirrel Nut Pecan Vanilla Bitters. I also hear there's a hush-hush local Philly recipe featured at the Four Seasons' Swann Lounge.

So where does that leave me? Mainly with a bottle of Bittercube and not much else (save for the homemade batch of the below recipe, natch). And I have to say, I appreciate that Imbibe recipe: it's a different flavor profile than I have/would've done, but the complexity is what I would've looked for a few months ago. Still, for where I was a few months ago, I dreamed about something spicy and exotic beyond what you could get with plain vanilla extract, but would emphasize and expand vanilla's flavor. (I also dreamed a bit beyond the scope of this recipe about making a bitters the flavor of barrel-aging - imagine adding that to unaged spirits.. But, for another time, achieving vanilla is enough for now.) So, I picked up a copy of Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons, ordered up a slew of herbal ingredients from Penn Herb Co. and set to work.

Vanilla Lace Bitters
2 vanilla beans, split and quartered
1/2 nutmeg, crushed
3 pods black cardamom, woody hulls discarded, crushed
4 allspice berries, crushed
1/2 tsp milk thistle seed, cracked
1/4 tsp sweet anise seed, crushed
1/4 tsp damiana leaves, dried and cut
1/4 tsp gentian root, dried and cut
tiny pinch quassia chips, dried and cut
1 1/2 cups Everclear 150

3/4 cup water
3/4 tsp vanilla sugar

Combine all but the water, vanilla sugar, and 1 vanilla bean in a mason jar. Set in a dark cool area like a cabinet and let infuse 1 week, shaking twice daily to circulate the infusion. After that first week, add the second vanilla bean and infuse/shake as before. The first week is about setting the underlying flavor profile, including some vanilla in the mix so the addition of more vanilla doesn't taste disjointed in the final bitters. The second vanilla bean is about bringing that flavor to the forefront on top of all the earlier flavors.

After two weeks infusing, strain the liquid first through a sieve then through a coffee filter into a new mason jar and set back into the cabinet to rest - you're done shaking it. Take the strained-off herb and spice components and set them in a small pot with the 3/4 cup water, simmering (not boiling) on the stove for 10 minutes. Once cool, pour all the contents of the pot into a new mason jar and infuse/shake for 1 week as you did the first jar. On the 6th or 7th day of infusion, add the vanilla sugar to the water-infusion jar and shake to dissolve.

After a week's infusion, double-strain the water-infusion as you did with the grain alcohol infusion, then combine the two infusions in a glass jar/bottle big enough to hold the batch (makes about 2 to 2 1/4 cups).

Bitters, not bourbon.
The above technique I've borrowed from B.T. Parsons' Bitters, but here I'd like to add on a component which I think better clarifies the resulting liquid. Instead of simply letting rest at room temperature a few more days for sediment to form and then re-straining through a coffee filter, I would suggest taking your bottle or jar of bitters and sticking it in the fridge for an ensuing week (yes, I know, this goshdarn recipe takes a full month!). While it's resting in the fridge, give it a swirl or two daily. Sediment will naturally form regardless of temperature, but by chilling it, you're letting the particles contract away from each other, allowing the sediment more of a chance of separating. By giving it a swirl or shake, you're letting those free sediment particles circulate to better clump (and they like clumping). After a week, coffee filter strain your bitters one final time. It's a good method: nearly 2 months after that final strain there's barely a dusting of sediment left in the bitters.

The above recipe is my second try at the bitters. Originally I had included dried hyssop and more quassia chips on a base of overproof rum (hey, I figured, the vanilla in the rum would back up the vanilla otherwise - not quite). There was almost a too-sweet taste with an odd vegetal tang that just didn't fit. I also infused spice, herbs, and bittering agents separately to blend to the best ratios, but the overall result didn't quite mesh. Back to the drawing board, I focused the flavor a bit more and switched to neutral-tasting Everclear to let the ingredients better shine through.

The resulting bitters really do bring the "bitter" along with a more complex and subtly spicy vanilla taste than you might get with, say, vanilla extract (which this isn't too far from, I'll admit). The cardamom and nutmeg function as the secondary flavors, almost like legs or a foundation for the vanilla to stand on, meshing seamlessly. The anise and allspice do a little bit of this too, but in more tertiary roles. Milk thistle seed has a slight, well, milky taste which harmonizes. Damiana is a wonderful mix of green vegetal and black pepper notes - this Mexican aphrodisiac puts the exotic "Lace" in the bitters. And a little quassia goes a very long way - best to stick with chocolate and coffee-noted gentian as a bittering agent.

As far as use, it depends on the backbones of the spirits you're using, but generally you'll want to use the bitters sparingly so they don't overtake your cocktail. However, they play so nice with aged spirits. Try a healthy dash of Vanilla Lace Bitters in a bourbon Old Fashioned with cinnamon syrup - all but a touch of the spice and bitter is detectable, leaving the enhanced spirit naked on your tongue and not bogged down by the other ingredients (something I've noticed happens with plain sugar sweetness in Old Fashioneds).

Or even if you're not looking to have a cocktail:

Virgin Old-Fashioned Lace
8 oz milk
1/4 oz Vanilla Lace Bitters
1/4 oz vanilla sugar

Muddle the bitters and sugar in your serving glass to help the sugar dissolve. Add milk, stir lightly, enjoy!

Ever take-out burgers and fries or do them at home, but feel a little less indulgent about completing the classic '50s pop food triumvirate with a milkshake? Have something less heavy, just as delightful and more complex - and frankly better for you, both for your bones and your digestive health. A perfect pairing, really.

Keep an eye out this week. I've been working on a couple more recipes to demonstrate Vanilla Lace Bitters, so stay tuned!