Pontchartrain Pete: the Embittering Ends

Last word on bitters. I promise. I had talked in my previous posts on Tales of the Cocktail 2011 about Bitter Truth’s Creole Bitters, that they were touted as a modern (or retro-engineered, I’m not sure which) version of Peychaud’s Bitters, the long-standing New Orleans product without which the Sazerac cocktail cannot be made. On the last day of Tales I got my chance to taste them.

The Bitter Truth's Creole Bitters.

The Bitter Truth's Creole Bitters.

The German guys behind Bitter Truth, Alex and Stephan, were out at Sunday’s Cocktail Bazaar. Alex said they were just a couple of bartenders in Bavaria when they started making their own bitters, and their business has just taken off from there (their Celery Bitters won a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for best new product in 2010).

Alex gave me a taste of the Creole Bitters. Bright red in color, like Peychaud’s, floral scent like Peychaud’s, but definitely brighter and less sweet and, well, more bitter than Peychaud’s. I exclaimed they would probably indeed make a fine Sazerac cocktail, but Alex quickly noted, “We are not allowed to say the “S-word.” Or the “P-word,” due to the Sazerac Co.’s trademarks. That’s fine, but the guys know what’s what in cocktail history and have a recipe on their website for an “Improved Brandy Cocktail” that is closer to Amedee Peychaud’s original concoction than the official Sazerac recipe is today. Another shopper at the Bazaar said Bitter Truth’s products were available at Martin Wine Cellar. I’ll have to check that out.

Improved Brandy Cocktail

50 ml (1 1/2  oz) Cognac*
2 dashes The Bitter Truth – Creole Bitters
2 dashes Absinthe
10 ml (2 tsp) Sugar Syrup*

Stir in mixing glass with ice and strain into a chilled tumbler or cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
*Metric conversions are mine,  not the Bitter Truth’s.

Ballast and Keel Bittering House's offerings.

Ballast and Keel Bittering House's offerings.

The table next door to Alex and Stephan was occupied by another bitters producer, Ballast & Keel Bittering House. The bitters they are creating are more concentrated flavoring combinations than classic “bitters”—Strawberry & Indian Fennel, Saigon Cinnamon & Walnut, Wild Cherry & Tahitian Vanilla, Cocoa Nib & Chili Arbol are just a few of the combinations. I didn’t detect even a hint of gentian or overt bitterness in anything I sampled. That’s not a bad thing at all, as someone looking to concoct a drink with that “I don’t know what that taste is but I like it” element would be well-served to give Ballast & Keel’s bitters a try.

Throwing out the “P-word,” I told them I’m a big fan of putting a dash of Peychaud’s on top of my absinthe frappes and asked which would go well with absinthe. Without hesitation, I was told the Strawberry and Indian Fennel. Duh. Fennel seed, of course is one of the holy trinity ingredients in that make up all absinthes. He handed me small sample bottle, the taste was aromatic and floral, like Peychaud’s and the Creole bitters, but lacking the gentian bite common to both of those bitters. Again, that’s not a bad thing. They’d probably go good with Ramos Gin Fizz, too.

Let the experimentation begin!


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