Posts tagged cocktail making
Don't Be Sour: Understanding The World Of Bitters

Don’t be bitter, be better.

That’s an old saying that is often used in the world of sports, business and in life in general.

When it comes to our business, bitter is actually better, and for once I’m not talking about a big hoppy, bitter IPA. I’m talking about real bitters. 

Bitters are an ingredient used in many different cocktails, but have you ever wondered why bitters make a cocktail better?

Simply put, bitters are like seasoning for cocktails. Just like salt and pepper gives your food an extra kick, bitters do the same for many different cocktails. Their flavour is usually bitter (as the name suggests), sour, or bittersweet.

The history of bitters isn’t known for sure, but the earliest records of them can be traced back to as far as ancient Egyptians who are said to have made wine infused with medicinal herbs.

Bitters as we know them today were originally developed as medicine, but eventually the use of them as medicinal herbs wasn’t such a popular idea and they began to be sold as digestifs with herbal properties and cocktail flavouring. 

Bitters are typically made with cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel and cinchona bark and historically have been know for their aromatic herbs, bark, root and fruit flavours. 

Bitters can be both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Bitters that have alcohol aren’t used for the effects alcohol creates but rather as an agent to dissolve botanical extracts and as a preservative. For example, in Europe and South America, bitters can often be served after a meal as a digestive, usually enjoyed on the rocks or neat. 

In North America, we tend to use bitters more in cocktails, most notably the famous cocktail, The Old Fashioned that’s made by mixing bourbon, ice, orange peel, and bitters.

At Happy Hour, we stock bitters from a variety of companies including Angostura. This particular bitter was originally developed in Venezula in 1830 but is now made in Trinidad and Tobago. Angostura is made up of herbs and spices in the gentian family of plant. We’ll never know what it’s actually made of as the recipe is a close family secret with only one person knowing per generation. Agnostura is often used in whisky or gin based cocktails. 

If you’re looking for something citrusy, we also carry Dashfire Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Bitters in our mixology section. These bitters will add a nice fruity touch to any cocktail.

Finally, we also have a selection of bitters from Lucky Bastard Distillers out of Saskatoon. Lacey’s Betta Bitters is made using 11 different botanicals and are great in a Manhattan or Sazerac. Or if you want to get a little wild, try Bowman’s Bacon Bettah Bitters. Lucky Bastard used a single malt whisky base with bacon, Canadian maple syrup, and black peppercorns among other botanicals for a unique taste that is great in Caesars. 

So, now that you know a little more about bitters, how will you give them a try?

The Mysterious Story of the Margarita

At some point this weekend, there's a good chance you’re going to sit down with a tasty margarita to celebrate one of our favourite booze-related holidays. 

Historically, Cinco de Mayo is a day in Mexico to celebrate the day their military unexpectedly beat the French in 1862, but for most of us, it's become an excuse for us to indulge in amazing food and partake in few celebratory drinks. 

The celebratory drink of choice for this holiday is the margarita. 

The history of the margarita is actually an interesting one as it’s origin seems to be one of those “depends on who you talk to” scenarios. The earliest sign of the drink dates back to 1937 when similar ingredients appeared in the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book but it was known as a Picador. 

One year later, a restaurant owner by the name of Carlos “Danny” Herrara claims to have invented the drink at his place called Rancho La Gloria. The story goes that the drink was created for a customer and a famous dancer known as Marjorie King. King was apparently allergic to mostly every spirit except tequila. 

Another bartender, Don Carolis Orozco also claims to have invented the drink in 1941. He claims that the daughter of the then German ambassador visited his bar that year in October. He had been experimenting with the drink recipe and she was allegedly the first to try and so it was named after her.

By all accounts, it appears the drink made it’s way to the United States in 1947 or 1948 in San Diego and Dallas. 

There are many more stories that have been told about the history of this drink and none have yet to be claimed as the real story leaving the creation of this cocktail still a complete mystery. 

So this weekend, let's raise our glasses to the mysterious margarita and enjoy it whatever way you'd like, on the rocks, iced, or as a punchy mix of fruits and juices because no matter who invented it and when we're sure glad that they did. 

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

3 Twists on Canada's Favourite Cocktail: The Caesar

Is there anything more Canadian than sipping on a Caesar on a patio before any rational human being would consider patio season underway? 

If there is, then I haven’t come across it yet. 

As Canadians, we take pride in our own creations and the Caesar might be one of our most beloved creations. It’s hardly as important as say the Canada Arm or the telephone but without question, it’s one of our favourites. 

Vodka, clam, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, lime, rimmer, garnish and a sprinkle of seasoning. There’s nothing else like it. It’s so Canadian that even most Americans don’t even know about it. 

While the classic is the classic for a reason, there are more ways than ever to spruce up your Caesar and try something new. 

For starters, the easiest way to give your Caesar a different taste is to switch up the liquor in the drink. Vodka is the most popular spirit in Caesar, mostly because it’s a pretty tame flavour that lets the other flavours shine while still giving you a boozy kick. 

However, you can also make Caesar’s with just about any other liquor you want. Adding whiskey, gin or tequila can help make one of your favourite hair of the dog drinks even better. Whiskey adds more of a smoky taste, gin adds a nice floral touch, and tequila complements the spicy and citrus notes. 

If you want to try something different but don’t want to stray too far from the original, then a flavoured vodka might be for you. 

One of the most popular flavoured vodka’s for Caesar’s is dill pickle. For obvious reasons, of course. Pickles are one of the most popular Caesar garnishes and pickle brine has often been added as an ingredient too. 

In Saskatchewan, we've gone so far as to make dill pickle vodka a thing. I'm pretty sure we can take bragging rights on being the first to do so too. There are a few local distillers that have experimented creating this pickley spirit including Last Mountain Distillery and Lucky Bastard.

Dill pickle may be the most obvious flavoured vodka to add to your Caesar but there are certainly other options such as spicy or citrusy vodkas. A sweet vodka might not work as well, but I guess you never know. 

Another easy way to put a twist on your Caesar is to try something different when it comes to the other ingredients like spices, rimmer, hot sauce or even something you've never tried in a Caesar before. 

At Happy Hour’s mixology section, we have all kinds of different things to take your cocktails to the next level including horseradish extract and Lucky Bastard’s bacon bitters. Some restaurants and bars use horseradish in their Caesars, so a couple drops of this could be the new flavour you’re looking for. And as for the bitters, who doesn’t love bacon? It’s sweet and smoky flavour works well with any classic Caesar recipe.

What are some of the different things you’ve tried in a Caesar? What’s worked? Maybe more importantly, what hasn’t?