2016 Version of the Elemental Mixology Tool Kit

Here it is: the 2016 version of the Elemental Mixology Tool Kit.

I am pleased to announce that by getting lucky with finding some of the key items at much lower cost (but not at lower quality), I was able to cram more items into the current kit without having to raise the price. I don’t know how long all of the items will be available at the current prices though. If you want one, purchase it now!

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Test Your Knowledge – Take the Traditional American Mixology Test

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After much work and a lot of double-checking, I am happy to say that Elemental Mixology’s Traditional American Mixology Self-Test is up and running.

This 100-question test is totally anonymous and no score is calculated. It is available only as a private way for someone to check the knowledge against traditional, American mixology.

This is not an easy test. It also contains the results of some very up-to-date scholarship. If you are an Elemental Mixology alumus or alumna and any of the questions fail to make sense to you, feel free to send me a request for clarification.

 

New Year’s Day Citrus Bounty!

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This morning, as I arrived at the NipJoint (the Elemental Mixology bar), I discovered a little key in the mailbox. That key opened a parcel box a few feet away. Inside was a package from a coreligionist and friend in the Los Angeles area. Inside that package was a bounty of citrus. Most of it is citrus that I would not ever be able to purchase fresh from any source in Oregon.

Thank you, Rob!

There was a big bag of Seville bitter oranges! This is really a very nice thing to have. Palmetto Punches will be made during this weekend’s class sessions. That should leave enough to do some more Palmetto Punches within a week or so, and then to make up some authentic ‘al pastor‘ marinade can it or freeze it.

I am pleased that two Fred Meyer locations in Portland (west Burnside and northeast Glisan) carry Marsh grapefruit in their commercial season of winter. But, I was really happy to find some Marsh grapefruits in this generous box that are not already mushy and too sweet.

I am also really looking forward to playing with the oranges from Swaziland!

Thank you, again, and happy new year, Rob!

Happy new year to all of you!

Vintage Glassware Haul

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Here is one positive consequence of the fact that most so-called ‘craft cocktail’ bar-tenders and enthusiasts are followers in the herd of BarSmarts-educated coupe users: I can usually walk into any Goodwill in Portland and find pre-prohibition specification glassware.

In Portland — where mixological mono-culture seems especially severe — neglected, absolutely-traditional glassware is gathering dust in thrift stores.

Who the f*ck cares that coupes are rare in Portlandia’s Goodwill stores when you can find authentic [from left to right, above] cocktail goblets, daisy goblets, sour goblets, cordial goblets and eggnog goblets?

Let us hope that the non-diverse, coupe-kudzu, bar-borg don’t catch on until those of us in the know have sniped all the low-price gems like these!

Review: Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters and Amari [sic]

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Translating the Italian word in the title yields the repetitive: Bitterman’s Field Guild to Bitters and Bitters. Lets overlook that silliness, though.

Upon first glancing through the book, I was intrigued by the recipes. There were a lot of recipes with relatively-low, salable-proof spirits in them that would fail to fully macerate bitter alkaloids as effectively as 190º proof (or higher) spirits will – but there were also a lot of recipes in the book that did call for Everclear.

I did note that the recipe for orange bitters called for only sweet variety orange peel and got the bitterness from other bitter botanicals — à la Gary Regan. I find such Regan’s-style orange bitters inferior because of their obfuscation of the flavor of bitter orange. I find Angostura orange bitters (which get their bitterness only from the use of Curaçao bitter orange peel and no other ingredients) to be much better in almost all true cocktails that call for orange bitters (such as the authentic Martini Cocktail).

But still, with cautious optimism that the great American bitters guide had finally been written, I decided to check the front of the book for tell-tale signs of the author still having mostly missed the hugely-important main points of bitters as they are traditionally used in American mixology.

One is this, expertly described in 1908 by San Francisco bar-tender and tipple author, William Boothby, in the World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them:

Boothby Cocktail Description

The cocktail, or bittered sling, traditionally was supposed to present as very little more than the liquor(s) it is made of, slightly diluted, slightly sweetened (unless there is sufficient sweetness among the liquor) and bittered to mitigate the fumatic harshness of the ethanol. A tumbler of whiskey has bite. A Whiskey Cocktail tastes almost completely like the tumbler of whiskey – but without any ethanolic burn and a little sweeter.

The function of the bitters in an authentic cocktail is not as flavor drops. Bitters can function as flavor drops in punches, such as the Planter’s Punch or the Trinidad Sour. But, they are something even more in authentic cocktails.

The function of the bitters in an authentic cocktail is for the bitter aroma to distract the olfactory system of the the drinker into taking no notice of the ethanol fumes in the throat and nasal passages. This is true of all authentic cocktails, including; the Whiskey Cocktail, the Old-fashioned Whiskey Cocktail, the Manhattan Cocktail, or the Camparinete Cocktail (you probably call it “the Negroni”).

Bitterman betrays no hint of being aware of this most basic fact of the authentic American cocktail. How one thinks of bitters always betrays this traditional knowledge – or the lack of it.

As long as such ignorance of the elemental nature of the most famous genre of mixed drink in American history is routinely found among American bar-tenders and drink authors, there is no way we can consider current American mixing practice to have emerged from the dark age that started early in the last century.

Another routine betrayer of less-than-complete knowledge of bitters that I look for is the inclusion of any of the glycerin-based flavor drops by Fee Brothers that are not bitters at all by any traditional standard.

Bitterman’s book includes photographic display of the entire line of mock-bitters by Fee Brothers.

Another indicator of bitters ignorance that I look for is the failure to include grand bitters (big-bottle bitters), such as thos by Campari, Picon, Branca, etc.

Bitterman does include grand bitters, but he insists on using the Italian word for ‘bitters’ throughout the book: amari – even though Picon, Becherovka, Riga Balsams, and many other grand bitters are not Italian and don’t use the language anywhere on the bottle. This is a little piece of English-inferiority bias – or of the typical, middle-class, quest for the air of sophistication.

What was troubling about Bitterman’s book was the seeming lumping together of aromatized wines, such as vermouth wine and quina wine, with bitters — a problem even if one translates from ‘bitters’ to amari.

My verdict on this book is, buy it for the bitters recipes if you just want to play around with making mostly-unnecessary bitters you haven’t had before. But do not buy this book if you are seeking in-depth knowledge of bitters or an understanding of their importance in American mixological tradition.