Angostura Orange Bitters have been out for a while now, but have been fairly difficult to track down. (Why is that? They've certainly got the distribution, and even my very quirky Queens grocery store has the regular Angostura aromatic bitters.) Months of asking around has gotten me nowhere, and even my last visit to LeNell's a couple weeks back didn't turn any up. (No Plymouth sloe gin, either, which is the subject of a future post.) This forced me into the loving cyberarms of the Internet, and I stumbled across KegWorks, which was happy to sell me a bottle. It's good stuff, and I look forward to mixing it up with my Regans' orange bitters (which are amazing and one of my favorite ingredients anywhere.)
But my perusal of the site brought forth something wholly unexpected and entirely fascinating to contemplate: rhubarb bitters. (SOLD.)
Yes, Fee Brothers has come out with rhubarb bitters, and I'd never heard about them from anywhere. (Late update: LeNell's has started selling them.) I anxiously awaited the arrival of my shipment, and was pleased to taste a pungent rhubarb flavor with some real spicy depth to it. Like most of the other Fee Brothers bitters I've tasted, it's slightly sweet, and it's got that glycerin mouthfeel to it, but this is an ingredient with real potential. Robert Simonson has paired it with Cynar, which sounds delish, but I couldn't think of anything other than strawberry-rhubarb pie. It was time for my first experiment with infusing vodka.
Now, I'm not much of a vodka guy -- to the extent that cleaning out my freezer last weekend turned up a quarter-bottle of 3 Vodka that had been in there, forgotten, since I moved into my apartment, something like four years ago -- but I wanted to start my infusion with a clean slate, before I moved on to any infused-gin experiments, with the botanicals to contend with. So, I picked up a liter bottle of Stoli, reserved half of it, and poured the other half over about twelve ounces of cut-up fresh strawberries:
After 72 hours, the strawberries had floated to the top of the bottle and were a ghostly white, having leached all their color and flavor into the vodka. The vodka itself had turned a shocking -- almost Jolly Rancher-esque -- shade of pink. I strained the vodka through cheesecloth and gave it a taste. Not bad, with a pretty pronounced strawberry flavor. Oddly enough, it burned a bit more than the unadulterated Stoli, which is pretty smooth.
A bit of tinkering, using the classic Kamikaze recipe (like a Margarita, but with vodka instead of tequila) as a jumping-off point, produced this:
- 1 1/2 oz. home-infused strawberry vodka
- 3/4 oz. Cointreau
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 2 healthy dashes rhubarb bitters
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime twist.
And the name? It's the Japanese word for "strawberry."