Saturday, May 7, 2011

Amor y Amargo - Cocktails and Bittermens Experimental Series

A while back a few friends and I popped into Amor y Amargo to see what was happening with the old Carteles sandwich shop space and to check out some of the  Bittermens Experimental Series flavorings that are only available there. We were treated to an excellent time, with our cocktails slung by none other than Avery Glasser himself, who along with his wife are the ones behind the Bittermens line.  More details here.
We started out sampling the cocktails that used some of the more interesting ingredients from their Experimental line, including not only bitters but Shrubs and citrates as well. First up for me was this:
Françause Four-Play
  • Bonal Quinquina
  • Yellow Chartreuse
  • Cognac
  • Lillet Blanc
  • soda
  • Bittermens Hellfire Shrub
(I've been making this at home using equal parts of the first four and leaving out the soda, yum.)
Meanwhile my friend tried this:
À L’Ancienne
  • Cognac old fashioned
  • Bittermens Spiced Cranberry Citrate
  • Xocolatl Mole Bitters
These were both excellent, and all the more interesting due to the added dimensions from the new unique ingredients. For those unfamiliar with these types of products, a Shrub is a flavoring with vinegar used as a base to deliver the flavor, while a citrate contains the acidic citric acid to help tie a drink together, as opposed to bitters which use alcohol to deliver a bittering agents and other flavors. (Update: I originally wrote only the bitters use alcohol as a base, but frederic corrected me in the comments pointing out these shrubs and citrates also use alcohol as a base.)
The Hellfire is a Habanero Shrub, or as Avery put it a hot sauce specifically for drinks. The Hellfire Shrub does capture the heat from the fiery pepper, but not overpoweringly so. What I was most struck by when tasting a drop straight was how well it captured the lovely fruit notes of the habanero that pepper aficionados so enjoy.
The Spiced Cranberry Cream Citrate is another nice product that can add some bright notes a a little zing to a cocktail with a few drops.
It was at this point that Avery mentioned that what was left one the shelf behind us was all that was left of the first batch of the experimental series. Noting that a few of them only had a single lonely bottle left on the shelf, I quickly grabbed these three to claim for my own:
The last of the Hellfire Shrub, Peppercake, and Squirrel Nut Bitters.

The empty spots on the shelves after I did my initial damage:

Of course I didn't stop there and I ended up taking home one of each from the experimental series to play with at home:
Here's the whole Bittermens Experimental Series lineup:
  • Hellfire Habanero Shrub
  • Spiced Cranberry Cream Citrate
  • Orange Cream Citrate
  • Orchard Street Celery Shrub
  • Peppercake Gingerbread Bitters
  • Squirrel Nut Pecan Vanilla Bitters
These were all new to me, but Frederic from cocktail virgin slut tells me the Squirrelnut and Peppercake have been in Boston for a while; in fact Peppercake were made for Craigie on Main. I suppose that's why it says on the bottle "A cult favorite from 2007." These guys should keep me busy tinkering at home for a while.

Of interest also is how they prepare the stirred drinks: they stir the ingredients together without ice, and then add one large ice cube and serve, so the drink as presented is room temp and strong, but as it sits in front of you it evolves in the glass as the ice melts, thus simultaneously cooling and diluting the drink. It makes for an interesting experience, and you get a continuum of drinks and you can pick your ideal spot to savor. Avery figures that back in the day ice was a scarce commodity and they were not about to stir with ice and then dump out a bunch of frozen jewels for every drink and this method is more authentic. Avery noted that he has at times received complaints that a drink was too strong, at which point he had to instruct the customer to give it a minute and it would work out ok. I kinda liked the experience. Also note the space has at most a dozen or so seats so it's intimate enough to chat easily with the barkeep if that's your thing, I encourage it.

We also tried several more cocktails (another friend joined us after the first round), see the opening menu here:
Bittermens House Gin and Tonic
  • gin
  • tonic water
  • maraschino
  • Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
A very nice take, the hopped grapefruit bitters are even better than the excellent grapefruit bitters they produced during the Bitter Truth partnership.
Orchard Street Cel’ry Soda
  • Applejack
  • Genever
  • club soda
  • Bittermens Orchard St. Celery Shrub
  • Bittermens Peppercake Bitters
I'm still trying to figure out what I think of this drink, since I lacked a frame of reference to compare it to. As Avery said, you really need to like celery to enjoy it. I liked it, but probably need to try it more times before I wrap my head around it.
Tequila Gibson
  • House-made amber vermouth
  • Reposado Tequila
  • Cocktail Onion
  • Bittermens Boston Bittahs
  • Bittermens Orchard St. Celery Shrub
The Tequila Gibson was a highlight of the night, I definitely need to try the house made vermouths straight next time I drop in.
A few snacks are also offered, but since we were headed to dine upon many many different parts of cow at Takashi, we only tried the crispy garbanzos with morcilla, which proved a tasty snack. Fyi, the Ribeye and sweetbreads are the winners at Takashi:


  1. From speaking with Avery before he left Boston, I believe both the shrubs and the citrates are alcohol-based as well in addition to either the vinegar or citric acid as a preservative and flavorant.

  2. Oops, you are quite right frederic, just checked and they also check in at 44% ABV. Thanks for the catch!


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