Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dale DeGroff Release Own Brand of Bitters

Branding bitters is not new. Writer Gary Regan started off the trend with his ground-breaking orange bitters several years ago. Now, legendary barman has followed his lead. Following a two-year effort, he has produced his own brand of cocktail bitters. I don't expect he is the last contemporary figure in the cocktail world who will slap his name on a bottle. Simon Ford, who recently left the employ of liquor giant Pernod-Ricard USA, will soon release a gin bearing his name. And I know of one bartender is in talks to lend his name to a new amaro. 

Here's the story I wrote on the new product for the Times: 

Bringing Back a Bitters With a Twist
When Dale DeGroff, the pater familias of the craft cocktail movement, was working regularly behind a bar decades ago, he liked to use a strong, spicy liqueur called Pimento Dram to accent his drinks. But in the 1980s, the liqueur, made by the Jamaican rum distiller J. Wray & Nephew, disappeared from shelves in the United States.
“When they pulled it off the American market, I just couldn’t find anything like it,” Mr. DeGroff said. “I had to leave that flavor out of drinks.”
Now he has brought it (or something like it) back, but in the form of a bitters. After two years of work with the American-born, French-based distiller and chemist Ted Breaux — the man largely behind the absinthe revival of the past five years — Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters is finallyon sale online.
The past few years have seen a bitters boom. Where there were once two reigning products, Peychaud’s (needed for a sazerac) and Angostura (needed for almost everything else), there are now dozens, with a dizzying variety of flavors that lend themselves to very specific applications. That sort of narrow profile wasn’t what Mr. DeGroff was after.
“What I was looking for was a real versatile bitters,” Mr. DeGroff said. “It’s a combination of all those baking spices that you find in Angostura Bitters — which is to say ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove — along with just a touch of anise. And there’s a touch of dried orange peel.”
On his Web site, he suggests several cocktails, original and classic, into which a dash or two of Pimento Aromatic Bitters might be dropped. He even boldly suggests that it could supplant Peychaud’s in a sazerac. (“I offer this variation with humility and reverence for the original drink,” he writes.)
For now, curious drinkers can order only a 250-milliliter collector’s edition bottle, priced around $19. Standard 150-milliliter bottles will be available for sale online in September for $10. The bitters are currently made by Mr. Breaux at the Combier distillery in Saumur, France, but production may be moved to the United States in time, Mr. DeGroff said.

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