The folks behind The Gin Joint, a well loved Charleston cocktail bar, have come up with a great idea: cocktail mixers for grownups. And not just any grownups, but people who go to craft cocktail bars and think nothing of spending $12 on a bespoke concoction that contains a half dozen ingredients that no one outside of mixology circles has ever heard of.
Their Bittermilk cocktail mixer compounds combine everything except for the booze. Each one contains a distinctive “bittering agent” to counterbalance its sweetness. You add your spirit of choice, stir, shake or clink about with ice cubes, and you end up with something that tastes like it was made by a tincture-weilding hipster dude in a porkpie hat.
I very much liked “No. 3″ — a whiskey sour compound made with lemon juice, bourbon barrel smoked honey and oleo-saccharum, a bittersweet syrup made with rubbed orange zest. You shake up equal parts with bourbon or rye and end up with a frothy, well-balanced sour with an alluringly subtle backdrop of smoke. I was impressed by how well the lemon juice flavor came out for a bottled product, though a squeezed wedge of fresh lemon added to the shaker takes it to the next level.
“No. 2,” a Tom Collins-like mixer for gin pulled a nice one-two punch with fruity elderflower extract and bitter hops. The Hawaiian Punch flavor of elderflower, sometimes a bit much for me, was kept in check. Add a nice botanical gin, soda water and stir over ice. Lovely.
I’m not sure I’ll ever warm up to “No. 1,” the flagship bourbon-barrel-aged Old Fashioned mixer flavored with gentian root, cinchona bark and enough other spices to make it taste like Christmas. It is very strong and sweet, and a little goes a long way. To me, the muddling of orange and cherry is what makes the Old Fashioned. It’s a cocktail that opens up the flavor of the whiskey, a process rather than a recipe.
You can find Bittermilk mixers at H&F Bottle Shop and online.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog