Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Smuggled Saffron, Missouri Oak and the OBG

One of the first collaborative events the Oregon Bartenders Guild members are doing is creating bitters together. I know Jeff Morgenthaler is looking to recreate the old Bokers bitters recipe, a couple of the brilliant minds at the TearDrop Lounge have been discussing attempting an Oregon Truffle bitters, and even a pine bitters has been proposed. If you are curious about some of the discussions going on, check out our forum (you need to sign up for access) here .

One of my current favorite bitters is Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters, a lovely, complex bitters tasting of cinnamon spice. So far, all of my previous bitters creations have been made in glass, but barrel aging adds a depth and complexity that is complimentary to many styles of bitters. In fact, I've even been contemplating making a barrel aged orange bitters to contrast with the commercial orange bitters on the market. In order to facilitate the production of barrel aged bitters, each board member of the OBG has ordered a small Missouri oak barrel to produce unique styles of bitters from Steinbart’s. It should be interesting to see what everyone creates. I've been toying with the idea of a coconut bitters in addition to the barrel aged orange and saffron bitters I'm planning. Speaking of bitters, I'm quite excited to see that there is going to be a new player entering the market, Bittermen’s, I've heard good things about their products and can't wait to try them.

Last night, I was perusing my liquor cabinet, looking for something a little bit different (and also trying to free up some room, I definitely need a larger liquor cabinet) when I noticed that I had just enough Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka to pour myself a nightcap. I picked up a bucket, in went a couple of ice cubes (Tovolo to be exact)and I poured myself two fingers of vodka, finishing off the bottle. I don't generally drink vodka on the rocks, but the Sub Rosa saffron has some interesting spicy curried notes that make it worthwhile to drink that way. I was sitting at home, nursing my drink, enjoying the exotic spiciness and unwinding from a hard day. As I was admiring the orange red hue of the vodka a thought popped into my head, "why don't I make a saffron bitters?". Strangely enough, I recently met a saffron smuggler (who knew?). A few weeks ago, he surreptitiously handed me a glass vial that I thought might be something illegal, so I freaked out a bit, gave a stern lecture about not being a kid anymore, etc, etc, until I looked down and saw that the vial was filled with red threads. I was a little surprised, especially since I don't know this person well. "Its saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. I get it in Cairo for .80 an ounce and smuggle it in." I guess in the grand scheme of things being a saffron smuggler doesn't rate too high on the priorities of most law enforcement agencies, perhaps being just a slightly lower target than those dastardly tapioca smugglers. I just hope he didn't have to keester it in.

Anyway, Mr. Saffron Smuggler provided me with a full gram of the Egyptian stuff, so I went downstairs and added the threads to a fifth of everclear, which I'm going to use as my base. I doubt I'll barrel age this stuff, but once the saffron infuses the alcohol, I may add some secondary flavoring agents to the mixture. I'm also curious to compare it to the Sub Rosa saffron vodka to see the differences.

4 comments:

Herbalist said...

As a saffron lover, I applaud your saffron bitters idea. Here's my thoughts. The best thing about saffron is the perfume it gives off. It'll be interesting how it comes through as a bitter on oak.

It won't taste like Sub Rosa Saffron vodka though. The saffron and ginger are but a grace notes in the mélange. Toasted cumin and lemony coriander are the bass line.

For a second spice in your saffron bitters try a tablespoon of ground galangal [second cousin to ginger] - infused, filtered and added to the cask. It has a peppery note that is quite nice. I just made an experimental liqueur using the Saffron vodka base and added a bit more galangal to the simple syrup. That gave it a decidedly cinnamon pepper note. I put that on oak to see how it will age.

My currant cocktail standby with the Saffron vodka is to add a touch of orange liqueur and serve it over ice. Sometimes I add a squeeze of lime or a touch of ginger ale. That’s it.

teragold said...

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