Friday, May 26, 2017

A "Bitter-Sweet" Class

First off, let me say, the amount of liquor I consume monthly could, some months, be considered, none. I'm not a big drinker. But when I do drink, especially when out in public, I want a really nicely made one. 

Hence, one of the reasons I really enjoy going to Gulch Distillers (formerly Triple Divide). They continually have 'special' drinks, such as the Lilac Bee's Knees, made with lilac infused honey.

So when I found out they were offering a class on amaro, I had to go.

I have been intrigued with amaro since reviewing the book, Amaro. An Italian digestif, it's a bitter-sweet drink made with herbs and spices.  In fact, Gulch Distillers now has their own award winning Fernet and constantly is make a 'house' amaro to serve, experimenting all the time. (Saving my pennies for a bottle of it!)

Last Saturday, between rounds at the quilt show which was only a couple of blocks away, I sat down for a class on making my own amaro. It was especially fortuitous since I had in mind to use some cherries and make a cherry liqueur.

So the line-up of possible additions to the alcohol. Several of the spices and herbs I was familiar with, like cardamom, fennel seed and cinnamon. Others were completely unheard of. And since amaro is based on 'family-recipes', handed down through generations, there is no set recipe for concocting an amaro.

A run-down of the possible additions to your amaro making - 

Gentian Root - common in bitters
Angelica Root - also used in gin
Calamus Root - used in Compari, vermouth
Devil's Club Root - adds earthiness 
Licorice Root, Star Anise, Fennel Seed - for that licorice flavor
Wild Cherry Bark 
Birch Bark
Cinchona Bark - quinine
Cinnamon - and they had cinnamon which was really thin and 'fragile' compared to the honking sticks I usually get at the grocery store
Orange and Lemon Peel - dried 
Nigelia Sativa Seed - spicy flavor
Schizandra Berry - which is suppose to detox your body

Actually, if you are into homeopathy, most of these ingredients are ones you would use to aid digestion, calm an upset tummy, and the like. (Ok, am I deluding myself thinking I am creating a medicine?)

Something interesting in the discussion of making and creating your own bitters was how the two owners of Gulch Distillers sample the herbs they come across to figure out what they want to add to their mixtures. They make TEA! Actually, they take whatever herb/spice they want to see how it will taste and pour hot water over it to make a tea and then drink it. This gives them an idea of what taste it will impart.

I trotted home (actually I drove) with a bottle of 'professional proof' vodka to create my own amaro.

Since I was determined to use cherries (and they didn't laugh at my idea and in fact, encouraged it), we put together my mixture of herbals to use.

I didn't put in cinnamon because of Texter and they suggested when I get to the stage where I add a sweetener I use brown sugar. You can actually use just about any sweetener you want - honey, molasses, cane sugar, etc.

So here is one of my two pint jars with my herbals and cherries infusing away. They are on the counter in the kitchen by the coffee maker so I can remember to give them a shake or two every day.
I have one more week before I can strain it and add the sweetener and 'cut' it. 

They said, since I/we were using 'professional' strength vodka, we needed to cut it with an equal amount of water. So when we get to the point where we strain out the herbals to then take the strainer and run hot water through it to strip out additional flavoring and then put that water into our alcohol infusion. 

And since I had to use two jars to make my amaro (I didn't have one jar big enough), I will blend the two together. Which is what they do at Gulch Distillers! They said, even with the exact same proportion of ingredients, two batches can have different tastes, depending on the quality of the ingredients, when they were harvested and how long ago, the weather - lots of factors. So they will blend together different batches to get the taste profile they are looking for.  What fun!

Once it's strained and back in one bigger bottle, it will sit for several weeks, aging. I can't wait. It already smells wonderful.

June's class at Gulch Distillers is all about making syrups. I see several bottles of different flavored syrups in my future!

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