Bitters can add flavor to holiday cocktails (recipes)

Spice up your cocktails with locally made bitters

During the holiday season, party buffet tables are filled with charcuterie, cheeses and maybe too many family recipes for dips, but often the heart of the party can be found at the bar. So for those who want to elevate their holiday cocktail game from the standard spiced eggnog or hot toddy, maybe consider what you can do with a little bottle of bitters.

Cocktail enthusiast Louis Anderman has become known for his line of small batch bitters that harness the flavors of chocolate and chili, yuzu, toasted pecan, or sour cherry. In 2011, he turned his love for classic and innovative cocktails into launching Miracle Mile Bitters.

A former film executive, Anderman named his company after the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles, as he was living there at the time and liked the sound of it. "I don't think that my other choice, Drunken Master — a nod to my love of Jackie Chan movies — would have gone over as well."

Anderman orders unusual ingredients and spends a lot of time playing with his sous-vide machine, creating more than a dozen types of bitters — many in collaboration with local bartenders.

Now he's selling to the public his celery and Redeye bitters, previously only sold directly to bartenders.

“For the celery, the reason those are so limited is that I make them sous-vide, which automatically limits batch sizes, and only when I can find super perfect celery at the farmers market with the leaves still intact,” says Anderman.

“I use all parts of the celery leaves, stalks, root, and seed, but much of the flavor comes from the leaves. Other ingredients include gentian, angelica root, lemon peel, juniper berries, and grains of paradise.”

Barman Jim Meehan of PDT, the New York City cocktail bar, has used the celery bitters in a Casa Dragones tequila Old Fashioned. And at Harlowe in West Hollywood, bartender Chris Amirault pairs the bitters with a Paloma made with tequila and grapefruit juice, explaining: “It’s a natural. Pairing something vegetal helps bring out the rich agave notes in the tequila.”

The Fourth Regiment cocktail has become one of Anderman’s favorites with Celery bitters. The original recipe, which features three types of bitters, dates back to the 1880s.

Amirault also created a drink he calls Big Trouble in Little China China with Anderman’s Redeye bitters. “I wanted to do a take on a rum negroni. The Redeye bitters' deadly combination of coffee, tobacco and bacon gives a full-blown savory winter note to it.”

The original formula, called the 7 Deadly Bitters, was inspired by a request from bartender Joey Bernardo of Harvard & Stone. Anderman loved the result, but knew he couldn't sell something infused with tobacco, so he set out to engineer a substitute.

Anderman found capturing the flavors simple, but mimicking the tannic dryness of the tobacco was more difficult. He experimented with toasted oak infusion spirals and neutral spirit in his sous-vide. Then he added spices, fat washed smoky Nueske’s bacon, powdered oak tannins and caramelized demerara, and poured it over ground Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso. Thus the Redeye bitters were born.

Starting this week, Miracle Mile celery and Redeye bitters will be available at Barkeeper, KL Wines and Winehouse as well as Mixing Glass in Costa Mesa, Umami Mart in Oakland, and the Meadow in Portland, Ore.


Serves 1

From Chris Amirault at Harlowe. This recipe was not tested in the Times Test Kitchen.

1 1/2 oz. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum

3/4 oz. Bigallet Viriana China China Amer

3/4 oz. sweet vermouth

2 dashes Redeye bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an orange twist.


Serves 1

From Louis Anderman. This recipe was not tested in the Times Test Kitchen.

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey

1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

1 dash Forbidden bitters

1 dash orange bitters

2 dashes celery bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

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