Bite into Bitters
BY MATTIE JOHN BAMMAN
PHOTO BY NOLAN CALISCH
Relax! Ease into these classic drink recipes.
Are you perhaps healthily obsessed with craft cocktails? Do you wish you could whip them up without finding and buying all manner of esoteric ingredients and liqueurs? Genevieve Brazelton had the same thoughts exactly, so in 2012, she and her husband, Dan, founded The Bitter Housewife, a line of cocktail bitters specifically designed to give depth to classic drink recipes, one dash at a time.
Bitters are still classified in Oregon as a form of medicine, which makes sense, if craft cocktails are the cure for what ails you. In its new, expanded Northeast workshop, The Bitter Housewife makes bitters by infusing high-proof spirits with Genevieve’s signature flavor profiles. Her Aromatic Bitters, for instance, features bourbon infused with 17 botanicals. The result is a local take on Angostura bitters, the ubiquitous bitters used in drinks like Old Fashioneds and Vieux Carres. Just use Aromatic Bitters for a distinctly unique drink.
“I’m one of those people who, when they taste something in a restaurant, wants to see if they can make it better at home,” says Genevieve. “Every cocktail is a balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and strong, and we show people that by just swapping out the bitters, you can get near endless options in cocktails.”
In addition to the Aromatic Bitters, The Bitter Housewife makes grapefruit, lime, orange, cardamom, and Bull Run Barrel-Aged bitters. The cardamom bitters easily overhaul the Negroni, an Italian cocktail of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. The orange, lime, and grapefruit bitters can be used for, well, nearly wherever the mind wanders.
For those new to bitters, the easiest (and perhaps most fun) way to use them is in one of your favorite drinks. Take the Collins family of cocktails, for instance: The basic Collins combines simple syrup, soda water, and citrus with the spirit of your choice, from the classic gin-based Tom Collins to the tequila-based Juan Collins. Just a few dashes of The Bitter Housewife’s grapefruit bitters kicks up the citrus and adds depth of flavor.
“About one orange peel goes into each bottle of our orange bitters,” says Genevieve. Every peel is hand-peeled — just like each bottle of bitters is hand-labeled. Importantly, the bitters won’t dilute your cocktail, make it more acidic, or add sweetness. That’s why The Bitter Housewife’s bitters work so well with simpler cocktails that — to some extent — provide a blank canvas. For more options, you can swap out the syrup or the booze or move on to more complex recipes.
Speaking of which, Genevieve and Dan recently took over the RAFT Botanical Cocktail and Soda Syrups brand, a Portland-based company with syrup flavors like hibiscus lavender and smoked tea vanilla. In effect, it has doubled the Brazeltons’ potency, letting you not only swap out the bitter, but also the sweet.
And the name? “Oh, one day,” says Genevieve, “I joked to my husband that we should name the company The Bitter Housewife. He said, ‘That’s it!’” The name stuck, but is she living up to it? “These bitters keep me from being a bitter housewife,” she says.
Find The Bitter Housewife in New Seasons, Oregon liquor stores, and specialty food and gift stores.
Provided by The Bitter Housewife
The Collins is the most basic of cocktails and perfect for fall — not too sweet, not too strong, and easy to sip all day long. The basic Collins actually results in a number of different cocktails, depending on which spirits and ingredients you choose. You’ll also find recipes for two slightly more complex versions of the basic Collins.
Basic Collins Ratio
3 parts strong
gin, vodka, rum, tequila, bourbon
2 parts sweet
sugar syrup, liqueur, fruit puree
1 part sour
lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice
8 parts weak
soda water, ginger ale, flavored soda
1.5 ounces gin
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
4 ounces club soda
1.5 ounces vodka
1 tablespoon RAFT Lemon Ginger Syrup
8 dashes The Bitter Housewife Lime Coriander Bitters
Squeeze of lime
4 ounces soda water
1.5 ounces gin
1 tablespoon RAFT Hibiscus Lavender Syrup
1 ounce unsweetened cranberry juice
1 teaspoon The Bitter Housewife Cardamom Bitters
3 ounces soda water
Mastered the above? Experiment with your own combinations! Try muddling fresh fruit and herbs, like blackberry and mint or peach and sage. You’ll probably still need a little sweet and sour, but less than the basic ratio. You can also make your own syrup with fresh juice or add sweetness with a mix of fruit and sugar.