A few dashes of bitters

July 3rd, 2008

I’ve talked about my obsession with bitters before so won’t repeat myself, but ever since I read about Valentino Bolognese’s winning cocktails at the European heat of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge I just knew I had to try them. Unlike your typical cocktail which uses just a few dashes of a particular bitters these drinks use larger amounts, in some cases up to a whole ounce, which both excited and frightened me in equal measure. Surely using such intense ingredients in such large quantities just won’t work?

Ri.Pa Deuxieme cocktail

Ri.Pa Deuxième

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I was holding out for a bottle of Bitter Martini, an obscure product from the Martini & Rossi family about which I can find nearly no information, before trying the Ri.Pa Deuxième. However, I can’t find even a trace of it anywhere so have instead changed the recipe to use Campari, with a little extra Martini Bianco to balance the fact that Bitter Martini is apparently less bitter than Campari.

The combination of Campari and so much orange bitters made me expect a cocktail that was entirely bitter, but the drink starts with a zesty orange flavour which is followed by a slight sweetness and some hints of the sherry. I was beginning to wonder where all the orange bitters had gone, but the bitter flavours some came rolling in, with a heavy Campari finish and some orange notes in the background.

I’ve a feeling the use of Campari perhaps overwhelmed the already fairly bitter drink resulting in an interesting but not particularly amazing cocktail. It has enjoyable enough flavours but the balance just isn’t there, at least with my modified version. If I ever come across a bottle of Bitter Martini I will definitely be trying this one again though.

Trinidad Especial cocktail

Trinidad Especial

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Like the Ri.Pa Deuxième I had to make a compromise in order to be able to make the Trinidad Especial. Pisco is very difficult to get hold of here in Britain, and just a few brands are available at an even smaller selection of shops. Pisco Mistral, which the recipe originally called for, is an aged pisco and not available here, and unfortunately none of the other piscos available are aged either. Instead then, I’ve used an unaged pisco and added a small amount of Cognac to hopefully add in some of the aged character that is otherwise missing.

In case you’re wondering, that isn’t a typo in the recipe above – the Trinidad Especial really does use a full shot of Angostura Aromatic bitters. It looks absolutely amazing, with a cloudy, deep red colour that makes it look very appetising. Surprisingly the initial taste is a citrus zing from the lime juice, which is followed by a delicious clove taste and a fair amount of sweetness. Only towards the end do the bitter flavours of the Angostura really come forward, with a long, dry and aromatic finish which remains remarkably balanced.

It’s an insane recipe, but they do say there is a fine line between madness and genius and this cocktail is just on the right side of that line. The unique mix of ingredients creates a very interesting cocktail with a complex and evolving flavour. Definitely worth trying if you can get your head around using so much bitters in one drink…

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Posted in Aromatic Bitters, Campari, Lime, Orange Bitters, Pisco, Recipes, Rum, Sherry, Vermouth

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11 responses to “A few dashes of bitters”

  1. Reggie Primrose Reggie Primrose says:


    I can’t find the orgeat syrup anywhere. What brand makes it? Your selection of cocktails sound like they would be full of complexity in taste and I would like to try some but I am having a hard time finding cordials and great juices and some other less popular items. I discovered Looza juices and they make a nice pulpy cocktail maybe almost near a smoothie. Could you consider discussing the same cordial but made by different brands and giving us your opinion. Im in a rummy mood.

  2. Jay Jay says:

    I was using Monin orgeat syrup Reggie – from what I’ve read it’s well regarded. As for cordials, I generally use freshly squeezed juices as I rarely use anything beyond lemon, lime and orange. I do hope to venture out in the world of Tiki soon though, so I’ll keep you posted…

  3. Barbara Barbara says:

    Jay, do you have any of the books by Jeff Berry? I have Sippin’ Safari and it is the perfect introduction to Tiki drinks and history. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on Tiki – it’s just such a super fun aspect of mixology. However, some of the recipes are so incredibly complex, I don’t make them often and find that I am always substituting one ingredient for another because I never have everything required on hand.LOL!

  4. Jay Jay says:

    Barbara – I don’t currently have any of the Jeff Berry books, but I’ve heard very good things about them from so many different people, so they will definitely be top of my list when I do get around to tiki drinks.

  5. Sator Arepo Sator Arepo says:

    Dear lord do I love ice cold Tio Pepe.

    Nice blog, keep it up.

    Also, although wrong thread, have you tried Vya vermouth? Comes out of a little outfit in CA. I’ll see if I can dig up more info.

    And where do you find those crazy bitters? I am superduper jealous.

  6. ND ND says:

    You should search on http://www.fxcuisine.com for this guy’s recipe for homemade orgeat. You’ll probably have a harder time finding bitter almond extract than you will to find actual orgeat, but the search is definitely worth it (then again, maybe folks in the UK have access to a lot of Italian products, in which case you might be able to get hold of some of the best bitter almond oil that there is).

  7. Jay Jay says:

    Sator – not tried Vya no. It is imported over here now, but it’s not exactly cheap and I’m wary of buying a big bottle of vermouth and not using it much. Hopefully I will get a chance to try it while I’m in the States.

    ND – for the amount of times I use orgeat, I don’t really feel it’s worth making my own. Thanks for the tips though, if I ever do try making my own I’ll have a look for that recipe.

  8. Liz Liz says:

    You can find the Beachbum Berry books and the ogreat syrup at kegworks, along with a lot of the other ingredients like the new Angostura Orange bitters. As far as online goes, KegWorks is great for hard to find stuff.

  9. Jay Jay says:

    Liz, I agree kegworks is a great source for cocktail stuff in the US. I’ve updated your comment to link to their Amazon store, ordering through there lets you get great cocktail goodies and helps support Oh Gosh! with a small commission on every order.

  10. Tiare Tiare says:

    This was really interesting reading, i have also tried the Trinidad especial and i found it nice and spicy, very interesting. I wrote about it in my blog, scroll down to the bottom.


    i also find the Ri.Pa Deuxième interesting. I would like to find the Bitter martini, if i manage i`ll let you know from where.


  11. Tiare Tiare says:

    I can find Martini Bitter from my country.

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