October 9-14 is Irish Cocktail Fest, organised by Great Irish Beverages, with some fantastic events happening both in Dublin and across the country, so on Thursday night we decided to check one out.
The Chelsea Drugstore hosted a cocktail bitters masterclass in conjunction with Teeling Whiskey and Off the Cuffe Bitters. Kevin Hurley, Teelings Global Brand Ambassador, and Jarred Cuffe, owner of Off the Cuffe Bitters attempted to demystify cocktail bitters by explaining the production process and showcasing how Bitters really can influence the flavours of a drink.
My favourite quote of the evening came from Jared when he said, “Bitters are to a bartender, what spices are to a chef”.
…and funnily enough that’s exactly where your bitters start out – with a collection of herbs and spices.
Jared took us through a variety of the herbs and spices he uses, and passed them around the room. The guys are working with a collection of over 70 different herbs at the moment, and Jared took us through 23 of these. No artificial ingredients or sugar are added and the guys use organic, mainly locally sourced produce where possible. See a list at the end of this post with some info on each. You’d be surprised how many of them cure flatulence!
The bitters production process doesn’t take too long. The guys at Off the Cuffe use Teeling spirit as the base to add their herbs to. It takes 42 days to get the flavour out of the spices, and currently every flavour is produced separately, so that the final product is a mixture of tinctures. As Jared said, this can be an arduous and painful permutation of this but it’s evidently worthwhile.
While Jared took us through all of this, we sipped on one of my favourite summer drinks, created by Kevin Hurley himself. Teeling Single Grain Whiskey, Off the Cuffe citrus Bitters, tonic water, and a slice of ruby red grapefruit. Kevin is known for his mixology prowess, having founded the popular Liquor Rooms.
We were then treated to a taste test! We were all given two glasses, both of which held the same old fashioned, the difference being one contained aromatic bitters from Off the Cuffe and one did not. The difference in the two was immediately apparent even though only one tenth of 1/2ml of bitters was used!
The evening finished with a classic Teeling cocktail, ‘A Mark of Respect’, created by John Nolan. The mix is Teeling Small Batch whiskey, Tawny port, Falernum Liqueur and bitters. Divine! The guys very kindly gave us a gift bag of Teeling goodies to take home! I’m hoping we’ll see more masterclasses like this in the future. We had so much fun and learned far more than I expected. Now it’s time for an old fashioned!
The Allspice berry, also known as pimento, is native to Central America, is picked as an unripe green berry and then dried. Allspice has been used in the past as a cure for flattulence.
The Artichoke leaf is very dark and extremely bitter. Fun fact: bitter is what your brain picks up on to notify you that you are drinking poison!
Burdock root is extremely invasive with a very long tap root. The tap root is full of starch, and is both bitter but also flavoured with honey.
Dandelion root is one of the most common weeds, but it’s not common knowledge that it’s leaves and roots are fully edible. This also cures flattulence!
The Elderberry is the fruit of the elder plant and has polar flavours to the elder flower. The berry imparts an incredible colour. Fun fact: it’s Latin name is Sambucus negra and provided the for Black sambuca.
The Elderflower fun fact: it cures colds:
Fennel seed is the primary ingredient in absinthe. Also cures flattulence!
Gentian root is the cornerstone of the bitters world because is it used in almost all bitters because it’s so bitter. It allows you to hang off it all these other lovely perfumes or essences from the other herbs and spices.
The hawthorne berry is very rich in vitamin C, but has a sharpness and bright tannic flavour. The berries themselves are inedible.
Juniper is used in bitters but is also a primary ingredient in gin.
The Bergamot lemon is extremely sweet and has a very unique aroma. It’s commonly used in earl grey tea. Not related to the bergamot flower but they have same smell. The flower will kill you!
Lemon peel and the pith (white layer underneath) contain many chemicals needed. The guys use the lemon wheel for lemon freshness.
Lemongrass originated in China and is technically classed as a weed. Also used to cure flatulence!
Liquorice root flavours are a combination of anise and fennel.
Amago orange from Seville only has two weeks availability each year so it’s a small window to peel and dry enough of these to last the entire year. This is also known as the marmalade orange and is more sour than a lemon.
Orris root has a dull smell but a flavour like peppery raspberries. It’s odd but not ised for it’s flavour, Orris root acts to bind and blend the other flavours together. Orris root is also used in cosmetics.
Rose hips are full of vitamin C and ascorbic acid.
Schozandra is an interesting botanical and has been used in Chinese medicine. Known as the five flavour berry, it’s is sweet, sour, salty, savoury and bitter.
Lemon thyme – brightening lemon flavours in many foods and cooking.
Valerian – medicinal use – very calming. Helps you sleep. Unique aroma
Oh and apparently, rhubarb root is gross!