Looking back at the Ri.Pa Deuxième got me thinking about Valentino’s other bitters heavy drink, the Trinidad Especial. Using a full ounce of Angostura bitters the drink amazed me with its balance, and while it may seem perverse to be considering such Angostura heavy drinks in the middle of a worldwide shortage, reports are the bitters are back in production so I can’t think of any better way to celebrate that fact!
Soon after trying the Especial I came across another very similar recipe by Giuseppe Gonzalez of Clover Club and Dutch Kills called the Trinidad Sour. The drink was created by Giuseppe when he and Damon Dyer of Flatiron Lounge were playing around with the Trinidad Especial and swapping out various ingredients for the pisco. In the end they settled for rye creating a drink that is strikingly similar, yet surprisingly different.
- 1 shot / 30 ml / 1 oz Angostura Aromatic bitters
- 1 shot / 30 ml / 1 oz orgeat syrup
- ¾ shot / 22.5 ml / ¾ oz lemon juice
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz rye
- Shake well with ice and fine strain in to a cocktail glass.
The overall flavour profile remains pretty faithful to the Trinidad Especial, with the Angostura bitters providing a bitter, clovey base that nonetheless doesn’t overwhelm. Despite essentially being in reverse proportion to most rye drinks the whiskey provides a subtle but noticeable effect on the drink (you’ll want to use a fairly robust rye, Rittenhouse Bonded works superbly) and the result, to my tastes at least, is a more successful drink than the Trinidad Especial.
I thought this was probably about as far as it was possible to go with bitters in drinks, but then I came across a comment from Giuseppe Gonzalez himself on Paul Clarke’s post on the Trinidad Sour about another drink that took things even further with a frankly insane 1½ shot / 45 ml / 1½ oz of Angostura bitters. 1½ shot / 45 ml / 1½ oz? There was no way I could not give that a try…
- 1½ shot / 45 ml / 1½ oz Angostura Aromatic bitters
- 1 shot / 30 ml / 1 oz lime juice
- ¾ shot / 22.5 ml / ¾ oz orgeat syrup
- ¾ shot / 22.5 ml / ¾ oz curaçao
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz light rum
- Shake all ingredients but rum well with ice and strain in to an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Top with crushed ice and swizzle lightly. Float light rum on top and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Using large quantities of Angostura bitters certainly makes drinks look pretty, and the deep red of the Stormy Mai-Tai contrasting against the green mint makes for a very appetising looking cocktail. The initial flavour of the is quite, well, Mai-Tai-like, with a pleasant mixture of citrus, rum and curaçao providing a refreshing and surprisingly light drink. As the drink works its way through your taste buds though a much deeper, more bitter and aromatic flavour works its way through though it is balanced nicely by the orgeat.
The finish is actually quite dry, meaning each sip is quite an adventure as you meander through the initial fruitiness and the later aromatics, and finally a lasting bitter tang on the tongue. I’m no Mai Tai expert unlike certain people, but this is certainly one of the most interesting, and delicious, Mai Tai’s I’ve tried.
Despite turning all reason and logic on their heads these drinks remain remarkably balanced and enjoyable, and really do make you reconsider the role bitters play in a drink. From relatively light uses like Gonçalo’s Juniper Club Cocktail and the Seelbach, to the cocktails featured today, it just shows bitters don’t always have to be measured in dashes.
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