Episode 008 - Bitters, Vermouth, and Liqueurs

Josh and Eric.JPG

What’s up, cocktail fans!

I’m coming to you right now from the Tales of the Cocktail conference in the hallowed cocktail city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

But just because I’m spending all week learning about cocktails, drinking them, and enjoying all the culinary riches this city has to offer doesn’t mean I get a free pass on the podcast.

Moving forward here, I think I’m gonna try a little something different by STARTING OUT each episode with a featured cocktail. Maybe it’s my guest’s favorite cocktail, maybe it relates to the topic of the episode...or maybe I just want you to drink something delicious and completely unrelated to anything we talk about.

Featured Cocktail: The Manhattan

This episode’s featured cocktail is the Manhattan, and you’ll see why that makes sense when my guest and I use it as a sort of litmus test for comparing different bitters and vermouths.

Many of you have encountered this drink before, and if there were a cocktail version of Mt. Rushmore, the Manhattan would definitely be carved up there, right beside the Old Fashioned and the Martini.

Manhattans are classy, versatile, and timeless. You can use any number of whiskeys, vermouths, and bitters to achieve slight variations on the same recipe, and for me that’s one of the great joys of bartending.

The ancient Greek thinker Heraclitus said famously that you can’t step in the same river twice, and I think the Manhattan certainly proves that rule with the sheer number of possible ingredient variations available in today’s market.

How do you make one? Easy.

  • 2 oz American Whiskey (Rye is traditional, but Bourbon is great too)
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • Several Dashes Orange Bitters

Combine all these ingredients in a mixing pint with ice and stir until chilled. Then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with an expressed orange peel.

We’ll talk more about the Manhattan in the show, but I wanted to give you the chance to make yourself one if you’re listening to this at home and aren’t planning on driving or operating any heavy machinery.

This Week's Guest: Josh Wulf

Moving on to the subject matter at hand, my guest this episode is Josh Wulf of the Wulf Cocktail Den. He’s a great guy who’s really passionate about making delicious cocktails and connecting with other people over a well-made drink.

The goal of this episode is to give you a high level overview of the unsung heroes of the cocktail ingredient world: bitters, vermouths, and liqueurs. But in addition to a lot of great knowledge about those, we also hit a lot of other topics, including:

  • The similarities and differences between bitters, vermouths, and liqueurs
  • Historical oddities and word origins
  • The bitters, vermouths and liqueurs that you should have on your bar cart
  • How James Bond “disrupted” the Martini
  • The value of drinking with your grandfather
  • And much, much more.

This is a fairly lengthy and widely ranging discussion, and I’m not helping any by dragging out this intro. So I’m gonna get out of the way and let you enjoy my interview with Josh Wulf.