Ode to Bitters: Don's Little Bitter

Since we began our ode I have found that is nigh impossible to gather up the courage to indulge oneself in more than one heavily bittered drink in a weekend. This lack of fortitude has led a July full of heavily bittered drinks, tiki drinks--which I only make during the summer, though for the life of me I can't remember why--and any odds and ends that happen to strike my fancy, usually consisting primarily of rum or tequila, or mezcal, or cachaca, or pisco, or gin, or rye--though much less gin or rye than in the winter. I can't say this is a bad thing. But that has meant that this little series of posts that might have occurred over one or two weekends has spanned the entire month. I am not really complaining. We certainly don't get bored.

Don's Little Bitter was created by Don Lee, formerly of PDT (Please Don't Tell), who now works his magic at Momofuku Ssam Bar also in NYC. This drink is a curious little bitter monster with three types of cocktail bitters weighing in at over a quarter ounce, and the addition of the ultimate digestive bitter, Fernet Branca. I first read about this drink in a comment to drinkboston's blogpost about the Trinidad Sour, and then on cocktailvirgin's blog. It would be easy to say that this drink has definitely made the Boston cocktail scene circuit. The simplicity of the drink, despite all the bitters, is what really makes it shine. It is basically a rum sour with a hefty (and I mean fat) dose of bitters. But the taste is not even on the same planet as simple.

Don's Little Bitter

1/4 ounce Peychaud's bitters
1/4 ounce Angostura orange bitters
1/2 ounce Angostura bitters
1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce Barbancourt 8-year

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Stare in wonder as it doesn't eat through the glass, though you were worried for a half-second.

Notes on ingredients/method: I do not have any Barbancourt rum at my house at the moment, so I subbed the Matusalem Clasico, as it also has vanilla and oak flavors. Also, the simple syrup in my refridgerator is about 3:2 (sugar to water ratio).

This color of this drink is darker than the two previous heavily bittered concoctions. I imagine that the addition of the Fernet is responsible. It still retains the same opacity and foam. The smell of bitter oranges, cherry and cloves are present in the aroma, as well as the hint of the other bitter elements, though I couldn't pinpoint one over another. When I first tasted this drink instead of analyzing it, I found myself just sitting back in my chair and savoring the complexity. I had no idea where to start, there were so many different flavors bumping around in my mouth. First of all, the drink is very balanced and complex, though also challenging. The clove and cinnamon spices came across first, followed by the menthol notes of the Fernet, which was then followed by the lemony sweet-sour taste of the sour. The spices and herbs of the bitters return at the end, each fighting for recognition. But this understates the complexity of this drink: no sip was exactly the same. Different flavors came through as I drank. Tracy detected a woodsy flavor, like that of bark, and I quite agreed--a possible note of the aromatic Angostura. As the drink warmed up, it changed again. The sweet-sour flavors started to dominate more and the bitters receded a bit, acting like an accompaniment. I believe that this is because as my mouth became more and more accustomed to the bitters, the citrus flavors started to become more apparent. Throughout the experience, the flavors of the Angostura and the Fernet lingered after each sip. This drink was another heavily bittered home run.