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New Product Range: Bitter Bastards

by Ben Ellefsen     15. May 2014 12:00

Bitter Bastards

So – cocktail bitters then. The salt, pepper, Worcestershire Sauce and Encona of the Cocktail world. Cocktail seasoning if you will.

This new, and tremendously exciting launch sees the phasing-out of the Master of Malt bitters range in favour of this new, improved and super-exciting range of cocktail ingredients. Why the change though?

Well.

Sit down children, and I shall tell you a story all about standardisation, Rapid-Maceration, the effects of Gravity on particle-suspension, oil-solubility and swearing:

In fact, I’ll just address those points in turn, because stories are hard.

Standardisation

For the Bitter Bastards range, we’ve not only standardised the flavour (and bitterness) intensity for each product, we’ve done so across the range too. This means that you should be able to standardise the additional flavour contributed by the bitters in a ‘base’ cocktail and replicate results across the range. Excellent news for professional bartenders, and home-bar-enthusiasts-that-like-things-to-be-absolutely-perfect alike.

For curiosity, the relative ‘native-bitterness’ of each botanical / substance has also been taken into account when conducting this process, so if one base ingredient has a higher naturally occurring bitterness level than another, this will be accounted for by adding less of the bittering agent (we use Gentian Root for this).

Rapid-Maceration Extraction

Stewed tea is bad. We know that, right?

To take that a bit further – how do we prevent over-extraction of undesirable-tasting compounds when it comes to the infusion of a fine tea? Well, we carefully monitor the brewing time, keeping it to a pretty short infusion before removing the leaves in order not to allow the delicately perfumed notes to be destroyed by overbearing tannins and polyphenols.

What if you apply the same concept to bitters?

Well – it turns out that you end up with a much fresher-tasting, more exciting flavour-profile that is completely devoid of those ‘stewed’ notes that are present in ‘overcooked’ herbal infusions of all kinds.

Gentian

There is a problem with simply soaking something like Gentian (pictured above) in spirit though – it takes ages, as there are whacking great chunks of it for the liquid to penetrate and extract flavour from. In that ‘ages’, we find that a load of the undesirable notes leach out of the surface of the chunk whilst the liquid is still penetrating the centre. We could simply buy it powdered, but you as all know – powdered spices aren’t a patch on whole due to the speed with which the aroma compounds leak out of the powder, so that’s clearly out.

The solution therefore? Rapid Maceration extraction. Whizz the whole lot up into a slurry, opening up surface area instantly, extracting the exciting and fresh-tasting compounds in the space of a few minutes, then removing the particulate before it has a chance to leach out those slower-releasing tannins and nasty-tasting bits. More on that last part:

Centrifugation vs Filtration

Making bitters is a tricky process. The concentration of the various botanicals needed to deliver the huge flavour-hit needed requires the use of quite a lot of dry ingredients. This in turn often results in a murky solution in need of clarification. The below is our gentian bitters post-rapid-maceration, pre-clarification. This is an extreme example, granted, but trust me – bitters need to be clarified.

Murky Scales

Most (all?) other bitters are clarified using filtration or flocculation (adding chemical agents that bind electrostatically-charged micro-particles together to enable them to settle out of solution). I have a problem with both of these methods:

Flocculation requires the addition of chemicals (not particularly nasty chemicals necessarily, but I still don’t want them in my drink) or isinglass or alginates – extract from fish swim-bladders and Brown Seaweeds respectively – two more things I don’t particularly want in my cocktail.

Filtration has a nasty side-effect of removing not only the particulate, but a reasonable amount of oil from the (probably super-saturated) mixture. Try filtering cooled chicken stock and you’ll find that the filter clogs up with the more-viscous fat before the liquid you’re after has had a chance to seep through. Same principle. This is the method we used to use for the MoM bitters.

It’s tempting to say that one could just let nature take its course, and that gravity alone would shift the particulate to the bottom of the storage vessel, but this only works up to a point. There’s a size of particulate beyond which gravity isn’t able to overcome the electrostatic force between them, and the solution remains cloudy almost indefinitely. We need something else to overcome this force and ‘push’ the particles out of suspension.

The answer to the problem? Well it’s a Centrifuge. Obviously.

Centrifuge

Now I know what you’re all thinking at this point, but I promise it’s not just a gimmick. This isn’t one of those vodkas that’s filtered through gold, platinum, myrrh, and David Beckham’s boxer-shorts. It’s a real thing.

Running the murky solution through a machine that subjects it to a force equivalent to (roughly) 5000 times Earth’s Gravity not only clarifies it very effectively by driving all the particulate to the bottom of the chamber, but crucially, the oils that we’re trying to preserve are driven to the top of the chamber because they’re lighter (albeit more viscous) than the rest of the alcohol-water solution. When the machine’s done, we simply pour the oils and alcohols off the sediment. Win:Win.

Centrifuge

Centrifuges also have a side-benefit. They’re really, really awesome.

A quick before and after:

Before and After

So – the result of all these shenanigans are the following, well-standardised, fresh-tasting centrifugally-clarified bottles of awesomeness:

Bitter Bastards Group shot

Bitter Bastards Naga Chilli Bitters

Bitter Bastards Angelica Bitters

Bitter Bastards Angelica Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Black Pepper Bitters

Bitter Bastards Black Pepper Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Black Truffle Bitters

Bitter Bastards Black Truffle Bitters – Tuber Melanosporum Vittadini – 75% – £19.95

Bitter Bastards Cardamom Bitters

Bitter Bastards Cardamom Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Chipotle Bitters

Bitter Bastards Chipotle Bitters – 40% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Cinnamon Bitters

Bitter Bastards Cinnamon Bitters – 49.5% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Clove Bitters

Bitter Bastards Clove Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Cocoa Bitters

Bitter Bastards Cocoa Bitters – 40% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Coffee Bitters

Bitter Bastards Coffee Bitters – 40% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Coriander Bitters

Bitter Bastards Coriander Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Cumin Bitters

Bitter Bastards Cumin Bitters – 40% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Curacao Bitters

Bitter Bastards Curacao Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Fennel Bitters

Bitter Bastards Fennel Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Frankincense Bitters

Bitter Bastards Frankincense Bitters – 49.5% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Gentian Bitters

Bitter Bastards Gentian Bitters – 49.5% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Ginger Bitters

Bitter Bastards Ginger Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Juniper Bitters

Bitter Bastards Juniper Bitters – 40% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Kola Bitters

Bitter Bastards Kola Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Lavender Bitters

Bitter Bastards Lavender Bitters – 40% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Liquorice Bitters

Bitter Bastards Liquorice Bitters – 49.5% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Naga Chilli Bitters

Bitter Bastards Naga Chilli Bitters – 49.5% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Sour Cherry Bitters

Bitter Bastards Sour Cherry Bitters – 75% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards Sweet Orange Bitters

Bitter Bastards Sweet Orange Bitters – 49.5% – £9.95

Bitter Bastards White Truffle Bitters

Bitter Bastards White Truffle Bitters – Tuber Borchii – 40% – £19.95

Bitter Bastards Wormwood Bitters

Bitter Bastards Wormwood Bitters – 49.5% – £9.95

And what about that name, then?

Ben

Comments (2) -

5/22/2014 5:08:19 AM #

The two I've had thus far – cardamom and juniper – were lovely and, as promised, very clear and unmuddled flavours. I can see I'm going to wind up building more of a collection of these than I'd bargained for. I hope you'll consider adding a bitters version of rose water to the lineup.

Michael Mazour United Kingdom

5/29/2014 9:29:36 PM #

Cheers Michael - very much appreciated.

No plans for a rose one. Although it's a great idea, you really need large-scale distillation to extract rose-water so it doesn't really fit with the rest of the range (and using bought-in rose water feels like cheating).

Ben @ Master of Malt United Kingdom

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