Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Bitters and Tonic Water

I love learning how to make things, and comparing how they were made traditionally in comparison to how they are commercially produced now.  Sometimes the processes have remained similar - Bitters for example: the obvious brand choice is Angostura which has been around since the 1800's- The process hasn't changed over the years as its quite simple, using alcohol and water as solvents to remove different flavour compounds - I'm sure the scale has changed but the basic steps wouldn't have!
I think Melbourne is the King (or Queen) of Bitters at the moment- I remember tasting so many different house blends in little cocktail bars that when I lived in Melbourne I tried making some - the results initially looked good!
I had to do some substituting as its really hard to find Cinchona bark in Australia - its restricted due to its classification as a pharmaceutical as it contains quinine (I believe you can get some from a alternative medicine pharmacy in Sydney but only small amounts and its xx'y!  - If you want to learn more about quinine and malaria the book "The Miraculous Fever-tree" is a really good read!). Instead I added a tad more quassia bark. The recipe I based it on was from -here-.
Doesn't the quassia bark look ridiculously just like wood chips (left)! The gentian root doesnt look much more appetizing (right)!
But I learnt two lessons from that first attempt.
1. Don't burn your sugar syrup ... basic yes?
2. When you give up due to the burnt sugar syrup- don't leave the remaining mix sitting on the herbs and spices for the next two months before you do anything about it.- You won't make any friends that way, uberly, tongue curling, eye watering bitter!

In light of Pip from "Meet me at Mikes" post  (yes I love her) about making Tonic Syrup I was inspired to give making bitters another go! (and also try my hand at tonic syrup!).  I'm using the same Bitters recipe again (figuring I won't screw it up this time!).
Bitters Mixture (Day 1 of 24)

Whilst for the tonic syrup being the good little scientist I am, I wanted to do some different batches to tweak the recipe (I love tonic water so the more the merrier).
One batch is following the recipe on Pips Blog (See above)
I tweaked it a little for the second, substituting more lemon rather than the orange and adding a good handful of dried lemon verbena leaves as well as 1/2 tsp of juniper berries ( like 3 of them!).
For both versions I used a bit less sugar (6 cups rather than 8).
Both versions turned out quite yummy - I think I like the lemony one better as the tartness combats the bitterness well, while with the juniper berries it tastes like it already has gin in it :-) YUM
First batch of tonic syrup- in progress!

Tonic waters (Left) and Bitters mixture (right)
Excited to see how this batch of bitters turns out- I'll keep you posted!

-18/01/2014- I've already finished the batch of Tonic Syrup #2 - addicted...


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