08 January, 2013

(Image: Shutterstock)

Indeed, with the growing interest in classic cocktails the traditional cocktail bitters are undergoing something of a revival. This trend towards classic ingredients combined with modern techniques and palates has led to the introduction of many new flavours of bitters from producers and bartenders, including Gary Regan, Dale DeGroff and Salvatore Calabrese. 

At the same time, bitters that have been lost down the ages for whatever reason have been recreated, and the one-time classic Boker’s is one of these. Long out of production it was launched in 1828 in New York but, although named in many cocktail books of the era, it did not make it into the 20th century. So, after a lot of judicious guesswork, the bitters are once again available under the Dr Adam Elmegirab label. Other rated producers include The Bitter Truth from Germany, and Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters – both companies have developed wide ranges of bitters 

“Cocktail bitters are of the utmost importance within both cocktail history and creation,” says The Maestro, aka Salvatore Calabrese – who now presides over the Playboy Club, London. “Without the addition of bitters within cocktails we would not have such classic pleasures as the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac, or the Classic Champagne Cocktail, as well as a host of other go to classic cocktails within a bartender’s arsenal.” 

This fact is underlined by mentions in the pages of many old cocktail guides and manuals. “If we flick through the pages of Jerry Thomas’ renowned Bartenders Guide it becomes clear the importance of bitters and the role in which they had in mixed drinks during the infancy of the cocktail. An overwhelming percentage of the recipes within this guide alone makes reference to a variety of cocktail bitters,” says Calabrese. 

World record

Calabrese has recently broken the Guinness World Record for the most expensive cocktail ever made (see box). Salvatore’s Legacy, a snip at £5,500, has vintage Angostura bitters as one of its critical ingredients.  “Without cocktail bitters I would not have been able to create one of my greatest achievements and be written up in the Guinness World Records book,” says Calabrese. “My recent creation Salvatore’s Legacy broke the record for the world’s oldest and most expensive cocktail. This drink included Angostura bitters from around 1900 so cocktail bitters for me will always have a great importance.” 

Salvatore’s Legacy easily surpasses the previous most expensive cocktail. This was priced at £3,766 and was produced at Burj Al Arab Hotel’s Skyview Bar, in Dubai. The cocktail is made with the Macallan 55 Year Old, homemade passion fruit sugar, and, wait for it, “exclusively produced” dried fruit bitters.  It is served over ice cubes made of water from the Macallan distillery in Scotland, with an oak stirrer made from a Macallan Cask. 

I should add the cocktail is presented in a Baccarat 18-carat gold glass, which the buyer gets to take home.

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