Scorched Earth Bitters

Life isn’t all rainbows and lollipops, and if you wish it were, skip this recipe. Flavor is the mouth’s way of exploring the natural world, all of nature and our history in it. The earth views things differently. The earth abides our passage through time with indifference, showering us with tropical rains, ripe bananas and fresh monkey meat one day, then wiping us out with a volcano the next. Rub’ al-Khali, a vast void of sun-blasted sand spanning much of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and United Arab Emirates, was for a billion years the seat of inconceivably lush swamps, producing the Jurassic-Cretaceous sediments that generated most of the oil found today in the world’s largest reserves. A dash or two of Scorched Earth ravages London gin, Tennessee whiskey, Jalisco tequila and even Italian amaro with soil, smoke and fire, uprooting them from their civilized origins and leading your palate across forgotten terrain. So what does history really taste like? Find out.
Photography By D. Lucas Landis | December 30, 2016

Instructions

From Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters and Amari by Mark Bitterman (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015)

Makes about 2¼ cups, 4 (5-ounce) bottles or 10 (2-ounce) bottles

1. Place all the ingredients in a 32-ounce glass jar. Seal the jar and shake. Set aside for 3 days, shaking every day. Taste, and if it isn’t strong enough, let it go another couple of days.

2. Hold a gold coffee filter over a large measuring cup or large bowl. Pour the liquid from the jar through the filter. It is not necessary to dump out all of the solid contents; just pour off as much of the liquid as possible. Sometimes it is helpful, if a lot of solids fall into the filter, to turn it so that the liquid is being poured through parts of the filter that are not blocked. Discard the solids and allow the strained liquid to settle for about an hour.

3. Line a small funnel with a double layer of damp cheesecloth and place in the mouth of a dispensing bottle. Slowly pour the bitters into the funnel, leaving behind any small amount that looks cloudy with sediment. Fill all of your bottles, but do not overfill. You will need some room for the dropper in a dropper bottle and about ½ inch of headspace in the top of a dasher bottle. Seal and label the bottles appropriately. Store in a cool, dark place. Keeps indefinitely, but best used within 5 years.

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Ingredients

  • Zest of 4 limes, in strips
  • 1 tablespoon (3 grams) dried cut wormwood herb
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) dried cut gentian bark
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) dried cut orris root
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) dried hibiscus flowers
  • 3 large dried ancho chiles
  • ¼ cup dried African or Asian bird chiles
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
  • 3 tablespoons double-strength simple syrup or 3 tablespoons glycerin
  • 2 cups Everclear (151 proof)
  • ¾ cup mezcal
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