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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dale DeGroff presents new Pimento Bitters for cocktail lovers

Sazeracs are served without ice in a well-chilled glass.
Arriving at home after a week in Oxford, England, what better surprise than to find my long anticipated bottle of Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters.  Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff is the man usually credited with kicking-off the modern cocktail revival.  His books, The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail, are classic cocktail books that belong in the library of every cocktailian.  One thing you will learn in Dale’s books is that cocktails need bitters.  Cocktail lovers are aware that there are many more bitters available for your cocktails today than the “old stand-by” Angostura that we grew up with.  One of them, Peychaud’s Bitters, is a requirement for the classic Sazerac. Peychaud’s has been around for a long time, but used to be hard to find in many parts of the country.

Now Dale DeGroff, along with Ted Breaux, has developed and is marketing his own aromatic cocktail bitters.  Perhaps the most important thing to know about these bitters is that they are not based on the familiar pimentos used to stuff olives; those pimentos are a variety of chili pepper.  Rather, the bitters are based on another, tastier pepper, native to Jamaica, known as allspice or pimenta (often labeled as pimento). In addition to the headline ingredient, cloves deliver the next most prominent flavor.  There also seems to be a more subtle anise flavor, giving a hint of licorice, evocative of Peychaud’s Bitters.  Perhaps it was this echo of Peychaud’s that inspired DeGroff to develop his own recipe for the venerable Sazerac cocktail (one of my favorites), and his new variation really hits a home run.  The original Sazerac was made with Cognac, but most modern recipes call for Rye.  Dale splits the difference and uses an ounce of each in his new cocktail.  You can find Dale’s recipe on his website, or use the simplified recipe below.

Dale DeGroff’s Sazerac
  • 2 dashes Dale DeGroff Pimento Bitters
  • 1 ounce Rye Whiskey
  • 1ounce Cognac
  • Splash of absinthe
  • 1 small sugar cube

Chill a rocks glass.  Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a second glass (or a mixing glass) with the bitters and a teaspoon of water.  Muddle until the sugar cube is completely dissolved.  Add the Cognac, the Rye, and some large ice cubes, and stir well to chill. Pour the Absinthe into the chilled glass, and roll the glass to coat it, pouring out the excess.  (I like to use a food-grade atomizer and mist the glass.)  Strain into the chilled glass. Twist a lemon zest over the top of the drink and drop it in or discard it, according to your preference.

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