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Cocktails in History

April 11, 2014 , , , ,

The word cocktail originally meant a drink made with bitters and distilled spirits, but this has changed over time.  There are many versions of how the name was derived, including a drink that was served with a garnish of feathers from a rooster.  The bartender was more of a pharmacist, and the elements of the drinks were medicinal in the 1800’s.  Morphine and heroin were sold on the open market and included in patent medicines in the early 1900’s, so mixed spirits were hardly the most dangerous potions one could use at that time.  Bitters were concocted by bartender/pharmacists with the herbs and fruits they had on hand, with whatever knowledge they possessed about the healing qualities of those plants.

Today Angostura and Fee brothers are still producing bitters from ancient recipes while other new producers are entering the commercial market.  It is easy to make your own bitters with flavors that work for you. I made a citrus vanilla infusion using an Alice Waters recipe and our organic grapefruit and Meyer lemons this winter which is delightful and has inspired me to dabble in bitters.  The process is simple.  Add flavors to vodka which is stored in the dark and shaken regularly for two weeks.   Strain the herb/fruit/flower mixture and boil it in water to create a strong tea.  Store both the vodka infusion and the strong tea for another two weeks, shaking the herbal tea frequently. Combine the tea and vodka after removing the solids and you have bitters.  There are several mixtures  of flavoring and bittering agents that appeal to me.  I think I will make peach bitters when my peaches get ripe just to get started.  The bitters can be used in non alcoholic drinks as well as in cooking.  I often use Angostura bitters in food.  It adds depth of flavor with great subtlety.  I did not drink or make cocktails until about 3 years ago but I have become a student of the history and resurgence of the art of mixology.  I enjoy seasonal fresh ingredients and the creativity of trying new combinations.  What is your favorite cocktail, Gentle Reader?

What do you think?

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comments

I like a simple champagne cocktail – sugar, brandy and champagne…though there are plenty of other things I enjoy occasionally

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London-Unattached.com

April 11, 2014

The only cocktail class I have taken was on champagne cocktails at Christmas time a few years ago. I tried some creative ones there.

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mermaidcamp

April 11, 2014

Anything with jalapeños.

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Gunmetal Geisha

April 11, 2014

I am with you on that one…the jalapeño olive martini is superb.

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mermaidcamp

April 11, 2014

GREAT post! I love the video and her period dress and accessories

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Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

April 12, 2014

I love margaritas. Fascinating post 🙂

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holley4734

April 14, 2014

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