Wednesday, April 21, 2010

in paradise

Celery bitters

I have a comprehensive bitters post coming up, but I decided I want to talk about this drink -- and these bitters -- separately from that.  This is a really spectacular drink I've got.

The key ingredient is celery bitters, from The Bitter Truth.  Celery bitters is one of those flavors that faded away after the 19th century -- I don't know if they were among the many casualties of Prohibition or if they were already gone by then, but they were never a big player.  They taste like, well, celery.  And citrus -- lime, maybe?  I think I get some lime rind.  And something else I can't place, but whatever it is is very present in the nose.

The overall effect is a lot of celery and a lot of what the hell am I going to do with this? I don't even drink Bloody Marys!

But I think it would go well with gin, and maybe in Pimm's Cups -- and maybe with tequila, especially with St Germain as the sweet.  Cynar maybe, but -- wait, let me go try that.  Okay yes, celery bitters go pretty well with Cynar.

And I decided, okay, if I'm going to play with a new bitters, let me take my Trinidad Sour template (which uses bitters as the base liquor, remember, and then tames it with lemon juice and syrup) and use that.  I tinkered with it a little, partly because I didn't have a syrup that would really fit, and didn't want to use plain simple.  Then I tinkered with it again, because it was a very good drink but everything didn't quite fall into place.

What I came up with benefits from a few drops of Elixir Vegetal, for which you can substitute Green Chartreuse (which is about a quarter the price), but the celery bitters are really the star, and man do they shine.  I have no idea how to tell you about this drink.  It's like a very complex lemonade if celery were a member of the citrus family.  It benefits from a number of compatibilities and sympathies, probably some I wasn't even aware of.  The maltiness of the genever goes very well with the St Germain I used for sweetener, and the lemon is definitely playing off whatever citrus rinds are in that celery bitters.  The Elixir Vegetal adds to the complexity of the celery bitters instead of muddying them, but I already think EV is some kind of quasi-magical ingredient, a relic even, the aqueous humour of some damn saint some damn where.

I'm going to call it the Fletcher Christian for no reason except that the Mekons' "(Sometimes I feel like) Fletcher Christian" was playing when I was tinkering with it.  Or because it seized command of my bounty, all right?

The Fletcher Christian

1 oz celery bitters
3/4 oz St Germain elderflower liqueur
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz Boomsma Oude genever
3-4 drops Elixir Vegetal (sub Green Chartreuse or omit)

Trust me.  Just trust me.  I realize this is a very nichey cocktail because four of the five ingredients are things you can't buy most places and that only cocktailheads have in their bar already.  But this is a terrific drink.

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