What are you so bitter about?

| March 19, 2013

Basement BittersWith more and more mixologists literally stirring the pot, there has been a proliferation of specialty concoctions and potions to assist them in their craft. Be it a vast selection of flavored simple syrups, unusual fruit, tinctures and a wide array of flavored rim salts and sugars, the options are many.

I decided to dip my toe into the evolving world of bitters. Some common ingredients in this classic friend to the cocktail include orange peel, gentian, cascarilla, and quinine from cinchona bark (grown in Peru and Indonesia). I decided to try out two “small batch” artisanal brands including the barrel aged Basement Bitters “Bitter Frost,” from our friends at Tuthilltown Spirits and Peychaud’s “Aromatic Cocktail Bitters.”

“Bitter Frost” is the first release in the Basement Bitters line of products. This elixir is a special blend of unaged rye spirit, Sarsaparilla, and fourteen other herbs and spices, balanced with local maple syrup and aged in one of their rye whiskey cured barrels. The result is a distinctively aromatic bitters that is crisp and warm.

Produced by the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky, Peychaud’s bitters is a gentian-based bitters with a light body, sweet taste and floral aroma. An important component in the Sazerac cocktail, this is giving Angostura a run for their money.

For those who are eager to experiment, there is now quite a variety of cocktails that sport this classic addition and I would recommend delving in to “stir your pot” just a bit more.

Classic SazeracClassic Sazerac

  • 3 oz. rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • Peychaud bitters to taste
  • absinthe (or suitable substitute)
  • Lemon twist for garnish


Chill an “old-fashioned” glass by filling it with ice and letting it sit while preparing your cocktail.

In a separate mixing glass, thoroughly blend the simple syrup and Peychaud bitters together.

Add the rye whiskey and ice to the bitters mixture and stir well.

Discard the ice in your now chilled glass and “rinse it” with absinthe by pouring in a small amount and swirling it around to coat the sides, then discarding the liquid.

Strain the whiskey mixture from the mixing glass into the old fashioned glass and garnish with a lemon twist.