Spring comes early in my 'hood. Luckily, it also lasts a while.
I know, I know. Most of this country is frustrated with the unending snow and freak storms of the year. These pictures of the mild Southern California March might seem a little too sweet for you.
Here's something to balance that.
I go through drink trends. I've been in the Very Dirty Gin Martini phase, the Flavored Vodka or Gin and Tonic phase, the Old Fashioned phase, and the Gimlet phase, but right now I'm in a Manhattan phase. After sitting on the river this summer and watching the sun set behind the Manhattan skyline while sipping the drink by the same name, I've been ordering these occasionally to remember the slow beauty of that warm evening. Because of this, I've been exploring what makes a Manhattan a Manhattan, and playing with the simple ingredients. Essential to keeping the drink complex and interesting is the slight drip of bitters.
Once upon a time, bitters served as a health tonic, and every medical quack had his own version or two. Now, there are only a few brands available to the home bartender. After an afternoon of research, I learned that bitters were accomplish-able at home, and with the mountains of grapefruit available around here this time of year, I decided to start with grapefruit bitters. This recipe is very slightly adapted from an exploration of bitters in an LA Times article a few years back. This is very, very bitter, very clean, and incredibly aromatic. The coriander emphasizes the fragrance of the grapefruit, adding a complex winey-ness. A little of this goes a long way, which is exactly how it should be.
You will need:
2 cups clean tasting, high proof vodka
2 large grapefruit, scrubbed clean
1 tablespoon coriander seed
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
To make the bitters:
Peel the grapefruit, and dice the peel, white pith and all, into small chunks. Toss the diced peel in a quart mason jar, then add the vodka and coriander. (Juice the remaining fruit or use it in another application.) Place the jar in a cool, dark place for one week.
After one week, strain the liquid into a clean mason jar then discard the diced peel and coriander. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar until it is medium brown. Remove from heat, carefully add the water, and stir until the water dissolves the sugar. Let the mixture come to room temperature.
Once cooled, pour the sugar mixture into the mason jar. Lid the jar and set it aside for an hour or so as the flavors meld and settle. Carefully funnel the bitters into a bottle and label.
This makes approximately two cups.
I'll sip this in a homemade Manhattan; no, the skyline won't be shooting up in front of me this time. Instead, I'll be in my flipflops in the backyard, the lemon and orange blossoms will be blooming, the wild parrots will be squawking, and I'll be perfectly content.