Kyle in da House!

Oh hey Crockheads, long time no see! If there’s one way to get back in the saddle it’s with some liquid courage. Coming at you now, award-winning Food and Wine champion bartender of Charleston, SC………….Kyle DeGoyler!!!!!!!!!

“With the latest edition of Friday Feature we are literally going to shake things up. Instead of food, we are going to be talking cocktails. Specifically, we are going to be talking about bitters, what they are, how you can make them yourself and how to apply them to cocktail mixing and even cooking.20150526_204907

What are bitters? The question is as common at my bar as (What’s a grit?) is to our servers. My bartenders and I look forward to the question as I have set the bar up to encourage the conversation on a nightly basis. Our front rail is a neatly lined barricade of 20-30 different apothecary looking bottles, each adorned with a dasher top or dropper to properly distribute the unique and often misunderstood potions inside. The bottles do their job and catch many of our guests’ eyes as they belly up. The back bar-besides the selection of spirits, has numerous books that we dive into when in doubt or searching for the perfect recipe when the time calls. One of the books, Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons is what I consider to be the Holy Grail for any would-be bitters maker. Mr. Parson details everything you need to know about making bitters, from history, tools, ingredients and recipes.

Back to the question. What are bitters?

Bitters are typically a combination of dried roots, barks, herbs, fruit and vegetables and spices that are steeped in a very high proof alcohol for a long period of time, then strained, mixed and sweetened. Creating a very intensely flavorful concoction that keeps almost indefinitely and is indispensable behind the bar.20150526_182107

Bitters first gained prominence during the post-civil war era by the peddling of “snake oil salesmen” who pawned these concoctions off as cure-alls and patented medicines. The reason this was possible is because many of the primary bittering agents have positive qualities like cinchona bark, which is prominent in quinine of tonic water, helping with nausea. Even today, a few dashes of bitters in soda or ginger ale is what I swear by to help with indigestion.

My favorite bitters flavor to make has to be Coffee. This is a flavor that isn’t as widely available as others on the market and after lots of trial and error, I have worked out a consistent recipe. When making cocktails with bitters, one important to remember is that bitters to a bartender are like salt and pepper to a chef. They are not used to be the main flavor but they are there to enhance, round out and bring forward the flavors that are already present.

Coffee Bitters
2 C Bacardi 151 (you can use any alcohol of at least 100 proof)
1 ½ C coffee beans (cracked with mortar and pestle)
1/3 C roasted cacao nibs
1 tsp cloves
3 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick (cracked)
1 TBS wormwood
½ TBS gentian root
3 TBS demerara sugar syrup
3-4 C H2O

Most of these unusual ingredient like wormwood or gentian root can be purchased online from places like Mountain Rose Herbs or Kalustyans.20150526_200513

Combine all ingredients except syrup and water in a mason jar, cover with high proof alcohol and seal well. Shake like crazy and store in a dark cupboard or somewhere away from light. Shake the jar every day for three weeks. I have found light to be my biggest culprit when spoiling good bitters.20150603_183812

After three weeks, open the jar and strain your liquid through cheesecloth into another jar. Feel free to strain multiple times to ensure you are getting all of the tiny particles. Squeeze your solids tight to get all of the alcohol that you can, then seal your alcohol solution and put it aside.

Next, place your solids in a pot and pour just enough water (3-4 cups) to cover everything entirely. Bring them to a quick boil and then gently simmer them for about 10 minutes, extracting all of the flavors into your water. Take off heat and allow to cool before adding everything, solids and all into a second mason jar. With this step I like to sterilize the Mason jar with some alcohol before I pour, as this solution will not have the alcohol content of the first and you don’t want bacteria ruining a month long project.IMG_20150607_232248

Some recipes call for this second solution to sit for up to a week. I have found that 3-5 days is sufficient, if you let it go too long this can turn funky and chunky. Again, shake this jar daily until your last step.

After 3-5 days, open your second jar and strain your solids out one more time. This time, discard them, we have from them everything we need. Repeat your strain until you are happy with the consistency. Then combine your water and your alcohol solution from the first mason jar. To this jar we will add our sweetener. I prefer the demerara with my coffee bitters and you can adjust your sweetening agent according to the flavors you want to put on display. For example, with Chocolate and Aromatic bitters, I prefer Muscovado sugar which has a higher molasses content reminiscent of raisins and black currants. For Citrus Thyme bitters, I use a honey syrup. Once our sweetener is in, we shake the jar until our arms are sore, ensuring that all of the sugar has been incorporated.20150526_201111

Finally…nope we are still not done. Let this jar rest for 3 more days, allowing any remaining sediment or floaters to separate. After 3 days, skim the surface for any would be floaters and decant your bitters into individual bottles. These bitters will keep indefinitely but are best used within a year.20150610_120221

Even if you have executed this perfectly, you may still notice separation at the bottom of your bottles. This is entire naturally just like a blood mary mix. Simply give a shake before you pour.

Now for using your bitters. The most common application of bitters that I have found is the classic Manhattan cocktail. The original recipe calls for 2 oz. of Rye or Bourbon, 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth and 2-3 dashes of aromatic (typically Angostura) bitters, stirred with ice, strained and garnished with a cherry or lemon peel. As for the coffee bitters, at Poogan’s Porch I have a drink called the Man of the House in which we use 2 oz. of Chattanooga Tennessee Whiskey, 1 oz. Dolin Sweet Vermouth and 3 dashes of coffee bitters, stirred, strained over a large cube and garnished with a brandied cherry.”

MIND BLOWN! Mixology=Science Class. We had a such an informative night’s lesson at Kyle and Jen’s house and I learned a whole new side of the drink world. Who knew all of this knowledge and specific techniques went into making a cocktail. Now I know I like my Manhattans with aromatic and lavender bitters and egg whites, shaken. THANKS KYLE!IMG_0011

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Edmund’s Oast

Edmund’s Oast. If thy shall decide to dine at the Edmund’s Oast on the up skirts of the peninsula, thy must speak with the English tongue and drink whisky and dark bourbon and nibble on exquisite bites (in my best accent). Honestly, if you’re like me you will find yourself playing a certain role while at Edmund’s Oast…or maybe not I don’t know now. Regardless, the brewery is a beautiful restaurant with large ceilings, tall table tops, a display window of dried meats above the open kitchen, and a bar with endless options on tap.

meat 2

wall

I went to Edmund’s with Alex, Casey, and Danielle and I was confused at first with the menu. To my surprise, Edmund’s Oast is more of a fancy brew pub for drinking and social gatherings than an order a full dinner restaurant.  The menu is fairly light on food and focuses more on the variety of drink offers. So, while at Edmund’s Oast you must do as they do- drinks and small plates.

They first brought out to us a fresh charcuterie board with three different meats and nuts.

meat board

Next came Alex’s delicious lamb meat balls. They were light and tender with a nice browned outside. They were served with a citrus apricot sauce and mint.

lamb balls

Our third small plate should be pictured next, but as I’m writing this I just realized I didn’t snap a pic…any guesses on what and why that would be?? Because it was cheese. Pretty sure we devoured the cheese before my conscience even knew to take a picture. I will say we all wanted more because who can resist cheese…..not Alex! 😉

Next was the Carolina Gold Rice Heritage Chicken Porridge. Talk about comfort food. I would have ordered this as an entire meal. It was composed of shredded chicken and blue crab pieces in a creamy thick rice porridge. It had the perfect texture and the saltiness kept me from putting my fork down. For those of you that like shrimp, there were three large shrimp on top too.

porridge

The last side dish we ordered was the Whey Cooked Polenta- good call Danielle. This dish tasted like very light creamy grits and it had a slow poached duck egg in the middle.  The garnish was micros greens, charred pickled leek tops, and finely shaved parmesan cheese. I wanted to get full off this dish particularly, but each bite dissolved too soon. I think an enhancement would be three large seared scallops on top.

polenta

And lastly the desserts: the Blood Orange and Almond Cake and the Chamomile Panna Cotta. The Blood Orange cake’s outside was amazing with sweet citrus flavors and then balanced with the almond flavor in the inside and whipped buttermilk on the side…aka Michelin man.

orange cake

The Panna Cotta was also delicious with a beautiful kiwi and flower presentation, but I think we were all laughing through it.  When the waitress brought it out and described the dish, Alex yelled RICOTTA CHEESE??? She was clearly still upset that the cheese plate was too small and gone.

panacota

We had so much fun at Edmund’s Oast that we all decided on one more cocktail to end the evening. The waitress told us about a special cocktail off the menu that was like a bourbon milk punch with milk soaked apple jacks. The drink at first sip was so strong, but in a manageable way and made bourbon taste delicious (sorry Dad). And actually, with each sip the cocktail started to taste more and more like the sweet milk after eating apple jacks cereal. By the end of the night we were falling out of our chairs laughing and crying…”Carlos likes his cottage cheese on toasted toast!”

group 2

Edmund’s Oast- go now.