Posts tagged cocktails
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?

Better Ingredients, Better Cocktails: Part One

Better ingredients, better pizza...oh wait, sorry, that’s Papa John's Pizza slogan.

When it comes to cocktails, the idea is the same. The better stuff is going to give you a better drink. Whether you’re simply making a rum and coke, a Caesar or something more complex, higher quality ingredients are always going to make a better drink. That’s true for both mix and alcohol (we’ll get into the latter next week).

We’ll start with what is probably considered Canada’s favourite cocktail, the mighty Caesar.

Most of us are content on grabbing on a bottle of the standard clam, or maybe a flavoured one if we really feel like mixing it up and all of the other necessary ingredients and get to work. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in recent years, the options available to Caesar lovers have never been better. Not only have major producers, like French’s come up with their own alternatives but so have smaller players.

At Happy Hour, we proudly stock Walter Craft Caesar Mix. What makes Walter’s special is their all-natural recipe, no MSG, and no added corn syrups. Many of these ingredients are found in some of the major alternatives. Their mix is made in small batches and is also Ocean Wise recommended. The added benefit? Everything is already included in the bottle. No need to add any Worcestershire sauce or any other spices, unless, you like your Caesar really spicy.

If a gin and tonic is more up your alley, fret not, we got your back. Not only have we grown our gin selection considerably, but we offer up a wide variety of tonics to spruce up this old English classic.

Currently, we stock a few different varieties of Fever-Tree Tonic including their Elderflower, Premium Indian and Mediterranean Tonic. Like Walter’s, Fever-Tree believes in only offering the best, naturally-sourced ingredients in their bottles. Fever-Tree launched in 2005 and was named after the Cinchona Tree's nickname, "Fever Tree" that produces a key ingredient in tonic called quinine. The best quinine is found near the Rwanda/Congo border. 

Whisky or rum lover? There are options for you too. Most notably the Fentimans Curiosity Cola and the Bruce Cost Ginger Ale. Both of these classic soft drinks take on a different twist for a taste that cannot be missed.

The options to reinvent the taste of classic cocktails don’t end with what’s been mentioned in this blog. We have an entire mixology section filled with all kinds of different craft products to help take your home bartending game to the next level. If you need it, we got it. If we don’t, we can probably get our hands on it for you.

The second half of the perfect cocktail? The booze. Check back next time as I delve into some of the new, different spirits available to make your favourite drink even better.