Dale DeGroff Talks Bitters at Bosscat Kitchen
We seem to be in the midst of a cocktail renaissance with restaurants showcasing their mixologists’ boundary pushing creations as well as elevated classics that have moved the cocktail to the forefront of the dining experience for many foodies. As a wine lover, I’m surprised by how often I’m tempted to have a cocktail now instead of wine. When I scored an invite to a bitters class led by the legendary mixologist Dale DeGroff, recipient of the 2009 James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional Award at Bosscat Kitchen & Libations I was intrigued. Bitters? What I know about bitters is basically nothing other than they are used in a few drinks and they are well… bitter.
What I learned though is that the diversity in bitters is much like the diversity in wine. With ingredients such as clove, allspice, nutmeg, orange peel, vanilla, fennel, anise, snake root, Gentian root, and cinnamon to name a few, as well as coloring agents like cochineal a female beetle found on the prickly pear cactus that’s used in red dye, the look and taste of the bitter you select to use in your cocktail can completely transform it into a different drink.
Starting with six glasses of the same whisky, George Dickel Tennessee Whisky we experimented with six different bitters one for each sample, adding just five little drops from each. We started with the well-known Angostura Aromatic Bitters, which for me were the sweetest and had that holidayish taste of cloves. Abott’s Bitters were next, slightly more bitter on the scale these had vanilla notes. The prominent flavor to me in the third Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters was fennel. And slightly more intense was the anise flavor of the Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters. As a lover of licorice these two were my favorite. And finally on the very bitter scale we used just plain cinnamon oil, which for me was a bit too intense.
Once we sampled all of the bitters we dined on some wonderful appetizers including an amazing barbecue porchetta sandwich with cabbage slaw, burgers, and cornbread madeleines with huckleberry sweat cream butter accompanied by one of Dale DeGroff’s Manhattans with the bitters of our choice. As a licorice fan can you guess my choice?
You can try your hand at making your own Dale DeGroff Manhattan with his recipe:
Dale DeGroff’s Manhattan
1 oz. George Dickel Rye
.25 oz. Dolan Dry Vermouth
.25 oz. Martini Ross Sweet Dash of your Favorite Bitters
Stir and serve
Or head on over to Bosscat Kitchen & Libations where you can choose from over 100 whisky, scotch, and bourbon selections from around the world. Located at 4647 MacArthur Boulevard in Newport Beach. You can find more of Dale DeGroff’s cocktail recipes in his books The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail.