Entrepreneur. Cocktail and spirit champion. Old world wine provocateur.
This is the first post in a series about bitters. I, like many of you, have a staggering variety of bitters at home and at work. I try desperately hard not to buy bitters just for the sake of buying bitters, so every time a new variety comes in I develop a cocktail that uses them. For many varieties, the classic cocktail pairings are well established and for good reason, but that isn’t always the case. This section will explore a brand or type of bitters and will leave you with a recipe or two.
To kick things off, we begin with Peychaud’s Bitters. A necessary ingredient in the Sazerac cocktail, Peychaud’s was a brand that became well-known in New Orleans in the early 1800’s. Created by a Haitian Apothecary, this secret blend (we will run into that a lot with bitters) is gentian based but has notes of cherry and star anise. The star anise makes it a prime pairing with absinthe, as we will see below. It doesn’t have quite as much of a cinnamon, clove or spice component as Angostura, therefore making it substantially different, but at times a suitable substitute in cocktails such as the Manhattan.
My favorite cocktail that uses Peychaud’s Bitters is the Cocktail a la Louisiane, with the Sazerac coming in as a distant second. The Cocktail a la Louisiane is basically a mash-up of a Manhattan and a Sazerac, with beautifully layered complexity added from a Benedictine. It is made, as follows:
Cocktail a la Louisiane
1 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Benedictine
2 Dashes Pechaud’s Bitters
Start by rinsing your cocktail glass with absinthe, swirling it and then dumping it. In a separate glass, combine the rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and Peychaud’s bitters. Stir to combine. Strain into the rinsed cocktail glass. To garnish, I like to get the essential oils of an orange and the sweetness of a cherry. So I’ll take an orange peel, wrap it around a cherry and skewer it.
One thing to note. In my opinion, you can substitute bourbon for rye in this cocktail. It smooths it out and sweetens it up a bit, but works just as well. But if you choose bourbon, I recommend an additional dash of Peychaud’s .