Speaking of Bitters…

Let’s all shed a tear for the end of The Minimalist column in The New York Times. Mark Bittman has given us years of simpler but not simplistic recipes – particularly the famous no-knead bread (original here, quicker version here) that really jump-started the homemade bread craze in New York City.

Well. At least there are archives of the nearly 700 columns to turn to in moments of need. And as a farewell, he combined my two current cocktail obsessions: bitters and champagne!

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

bittersweet champagne cocktail:

  • 3/4 teaspoon bitters
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce maple syrup
  • 6 ounces Champagne
  • Twist of lemon.

Stir the bitters, juice and syrup in a flute. When combined, add the Champagne. Squeeze the lemon twist over the top, wipe the rim with it and discard.

Yield: 1 drink.

I must try! Bitters and champagne in one drink, what are the chances?


Just what the hell are bitters?

Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters, in many flavors

Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters, in original or flavored

A friend sent me a Wall Street Journal article on recreating an 1896 dinner that included a drink recipe with bitters in it.

But [Mr. Kimball] also discovered perfection in a 19th-century punch (4 tablespoons sugar, 8 tablespoons lime juice, 1 cup rum, 1 cup water, pinch of nutmeg, 5 drops bitters—combine, then pour over ice). “It was so good,” he says, “that we have been drinking it ever since.”

If they had bitters in 1896, they must be somewhat organic, right? (As opposed to some sort of newfangled chemical process, which is how I had always imagined them.)


It turns out they are literally just bitter herbs marinated in high proof alcohol, such as vodka, for several months. Jamie Boudreau has written quite the definitive explanation of bitters on his blog, and included homemade recipes as well as details of the classic flavor combinations to make bitters.

This will be the ingredient that will make your bitters, well, bitter. Common ingredients are gentian, quassia or even wormwood (famous as an ingredient in absinthe). These flora are usually extremely bitter, and a little will go a long way.

This is where you have your chance to show off your creativity. Simple bitters will have one flavor, such as orange or peach or grapefruit. But the sky is the limit when it comes to bitters. Want to add vanilla-cardamom? Go for it! Lemongrass and ginger? Why not? Xocolatl Mole? Been done!

Obviously more ingredients will add more complexity to your bitters, just make sure that they play together and remember, sometimes simple one and two flavor bitters are better.

Most bitters are kept in alcohol, but you can make non-alcoholic bitters if you really wanted (they will have a very short shelf life). I usually try to find the highest proof alcohol I can get my hands on, as this seems to extract more flavor from my herbs and spices as well as give the final product an indefinite shelf life (alcohol is a preservative after all). For lighter bitters I may use a high-proof vodka or gin as my solution, while rum, whiskey and brandy are the spirits that I look to when creating heavier, darker bitters.


Here’s another recipe and explanation from the creator of Urban Moonshine, which makes a – for real – a purse-sized spray of bitters in three flavors. I guess some people just can’t let anything get between them and their bitters.

What To Do With…Bad Champagne

The champagne tasting was SO much fun! We partied so hard we almost missed the midnight countdown, and when we realized it was time, it was a bit of an interruption to the raging dance party going on in the living room. We counted down, threw some streamers, snogged a bit, and went back to dancing.

I’ll post photos when I have some. I was a bit, ahem, too distracted to remember to take proper photographs, but I know others were more on their photography game.


I have a few bottles of leftover champers cooling in the garage and luckily came across this Martha idea of how to play around with a champagne that might not be so tasty on it’s own. And so easy peasy, and so colorful and different! Love it.

Sugar Cube Champagne

Give bubbly a boost with jewel-like cranberry-, pomegranate-, and apricot-infused sugar cubes. Working in batches, soak cubes in a bowl of fruit concentrate or puree until completely saturated. Remove with a fork, and place on a wire rack (don’t let them touch); let dry overnight. Present cubes at a champagne bar, or serve them in passed drinks. The sweet, tangy taste will keep guests sipping long after the toasts.

Read more at Marthastewartweddings.com: Celebrate With Champagne

Oscars Party

What are the Oscars without friends to shout at the screen with you when someone wears rosettes that look like they’re copping a feel? No fun at all, obviously. Lucky for me some friends got decked out in jeans and jewels (it was a casual gathering, yet with a nod to Oscar) and came to yell at Charlize Theron with me. I mean really? (with Seth and Amy). REALLY?

By Jason Merritt, Getty Images

By Jason Merritt, Getty Images

So it was a fun time.

By the way, I love love love the Fug Girls for the red carpet rundown. Check them out, if you haven’t already.

Anyway, back to the shindig: I made two kinds of tea sandwiches, lemon cookiesmy skinny margaritas and a grapefruit champagne cocktail that knocked me on the floor because it was SO tasty that I couldn’t stop myself. So tasty that I forgot to take a photo of it, even as I announced to everyone in earshot how good it was and how it was definitely going on BB&B in the morning. So tasty that I didn’t wake up in time to write this post before morning class and am now posting it well into the afternoon and frankly Ithinkwe’veallbeentheresothere. OKAY?

Raspberries on lemon cookies

Raspberries on lemon cookies


The spread

Please continue for the recipes . . .

Continue reading

Raspberry-Lime Skinny Margaritas


I’ve been trying to invent a margarita that doesn’t have any real sugar and actually tastes good. It’s been so tough, guys: I’ve been working on it and working on it . . . and working, and working some more because you really never know when a little tweak will make a drink far better and the only way to know is to taste every single test cocktail multiple times. Quality control is serious here at BB&B. Don’t let anyone ever tell you throwing parties isn’t terribly hard work.

Lime juice is stultifyingly sour, and there’s no way around needing a sweetener if this drink is going to taste good. I used Splenda as the sweetener, but please use Stevia or Equal or whatever your sugar substitute of choice is – or if you want a little real stuff, go for the honey or agave syrup. Whatever you like best.


Furthermore, if you’re a regular follower you know that I like cocktails stiff and tart. I used 2 teaspoons of Splenda in mine, and it made for a tart drink but still very quaffable. If you prefer sweeter cocktails, start with 3 teaspoons and keep adding until it tastes ridiculously yummy to you.

Raspberry-Lime Skinny Margaritas

  • 4 raspberries
  • 2-5 teaspoons Splenda
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 2 ounces (1 shot glass) good silver tequila
  • 4 ounces (2 shot glasses) sparkling water

Place raspberries in a sturdy-bottomed glass and add the Splenda. Muddle together with a muddler or the back of a spoon.


Add lime juice, tequila and sparkling water and mix thoroughly. Pour into a pretty glass, if you like that sort of thing, and enjoy.

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