1.7.13 Bitter/Sweet

Darkside1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
I was glad to see the back of 2012. I know I was not the only one. It was a year in which I saw friends struggle with unemployment, with drug problems, with depression. My darling husband, locked in battle with chronic, acute stomach pain, finally saw a glimmer of hope at the prospect of undergoing an experimental fecal transfer (yes, just what it sounds like), only to find out that the FDA has just banned them until stool—newly defined as a drug—has been properly tested. WTF.

I keep reminding myself that we are not defined by what happens to us but by how we respond to what happens to us. I am focusing on humility, grace, gratitude and joy. I am remembering that slow and steady wins the race. I am confident that this, too, shall pass. Meanwhile, I am taking the bitter with the sweet. Including in my cocktails.
Counter 790 xxx
raise the bar
I am a bar belle, pulling my weight with a jigger and shaker. Mixology is a field ripe for experimentation, creativity and play. Spirits provide endless possibilities—have you ever spent hours (and a small fortune) on a site like this one?—as do the syrups, cordials, bitters and other elixirs that come into the mix. Even tee-totallers can get in on the action, concocting mocktails with teas, fresh juices and tonics. I'm not a big drinker, one cocktail tends to be my limit, so I want it to be a good one.
Chinato 790 xxx
wine country
In recent years, I've become a big fan of amaros and chinatos, the herbal liqueurs and fortified wines that comprise the classic Italian aperitivi. (You may recall my obsessions with the Venetian Aperol spritz and the carbonated Americano from Clyde Common in Portland.) Chinato (kee-not-o) is a family of aromatized wines flavored with cinchona, the bark that is the source of quinine. (I learned about this when I was making my own tonic.) They are not unlike vermouth, with a rich bitterness balanced by deep spice notes and a hint of fruity sweetness. When I came across the Darkside, a cocktail made with chinato, it seemed just right for this moment in time.
Gin 790 xxx
curiouser & curiouser
I also had a delicious bottle of the new Curious Gin from Catskill Distilling Company. I wrote a piece on this local distillery for the recent issue of Edible Hudson Valley, and really enjoyed learning about the elaborate process that went into making this refined spirit. It required about 200 gallons worth of experimentation to get the botanicals just right, but the result is clean and crisp, with hints of local juniper berries, cucumber, grains of paradise and other artfully balanced aromatics.
Tools 790 xxx
tools of the trade
I fetishize gear. The right tools for the job make all the difference. (Don't you love my swordfish bottle opener?) A reamer is hands-down my favorite way to juice citrus, so quick and efficient. If you don't want pulp, just strain after.
Grapefruit 790 xxx
c squared
Grapefruit goes beautifully with Campari, vermouth, amaros and chinatos. The bitter and sweet elements harmonize together like Simon and Garfunkel. Or something. By the way, did you see Under African Skies, the documentary that was on PBS the other night about Paul Simon's Graceland tour? A tonic for the soul.
Darkside2 790 xxx
drink up
I tweaked the original Darkside recipe, adding refreshing grapefruit juice and substituting rhubarb bitters for Peychaud's, which is very floral. A twist of grapefruit rind makes the perfect garnish and tying it in a knot helps squeeze out a bit of its pungent oil. True to its name, this drink is dark but optimistic. A good way to describe these early days of 2013.


makes 1
  • — 2 ounces gin
  • — 2 ounces Chinato
  • — 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • — 3 dashes rhubarb bitters
  • grapefruit peel

Stir gin, Chinato, juice and bitters together. Pour into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with a twist. Quaff.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


if I were going to become a drinker, 2012 would have been my year--and Lord knows I would have turned to you to mix my cocktails. Here's to more sweet than bitter in lucky '13.
Janet on January 7, 2013 at 5:33 pm —
Dark but optimistic, indeed. This drink sounds perfect. I can't wait to try this new gin! I am a big fan of gin. And can I tell you how much I enjoy seeing your byline in the EHV? Looking forward to the next issue.
Julia on January 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm —
Thanks, Julia! Working on a few pieces for the spring issue now.
laura on January 7, 2013 at 11:22 pm —
oh honey! Hope G gets on track. Nothing worse than clenched guts. And that we see each other soon. I can't see what I am writing here - but on a grapefruit note - have you tasted Pamplemousse Rose, a liqueur by Combier? Heaven. I am sure you will find a way to make it better than a sip straight, or a bit over ice or with seltzer and a twist. GO!
Anne on January 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm —
Have not tasted that but will seek it out - sounds right up my alley! xo
laura on January 7, 2013 at 11:22 pm —
Thank you for sharing the bitter and the sweet with us. Wishing your husband some relief, and wishing you both a wonderful year.
Jennifer Hess on January 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm —
Thanks, Jennifer, and Happy New Year to you!
laura on January 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm —
I'm not a mixologist and tend to settle in nicely with a glass of wine, however, I recently created a Rosa Canina (rose hip) syrup that I think would be plummy in a spritz or just blended in with some prosecco (you see, my imagination is lacking because of my limited experience!) ..so I offer you the idea and recipe to do with as you please. The first day of the new year found me gathering juicy rose hips in the hills outside Bologna (climate not that different from upstate NY) . While my partner had the patience to create a delightful blend of raw rose hip paste and honey (equal parts of both, will preserve in fridge indefinitely and is truly a superfood), I was not up for this painstaking process requiring practically a disection of each rose hip to take out seeds, hairs and skin. Though I will say the final result is as close to ambrosia as I've ever been. My choice was much less labor, but preserved (nearly) the gorgeous taste of the rose hip in a dense syrup. Here's how: harvest as many rose hips as you feel like, smash or chop them roughly, and cover them just barely with water. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes, until the rosehips are turning soft and pulpy. Squeeze out the juice using a cotton cloth and your hands. Now that the juice is filtered, make the syrup by adding sugar or honey. With sugar, mine became very dense and kept a lovely ruby color, however, with honey it would certainly be more healthful.... Please let me know how you use it if you feel so inspired. Below is a link I stumbled upon - a selection of Bjork's favorite ted talks. excellent stuff! Be well. http://www.ted.com/playlists/57/bj%C3%B6rk_6_talks_that_are_music.html
Kristina on January 9, 2013 at 5:45 am —
Kristina, thanks for all the inspiration! Another way to use this rose hip paste is to dry it as a fruit leather, by the way. Can't wait to check out the TED talks. xo
laura on January 9, 2013 at 8:09 am —
Mmm, i like the fruit leather idea... and that works so well with honey, too...Thanks!
kristina on January 10, 2013 at 6:13 am —