David's Reviews > Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas

Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons
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's review
Jan 24, 2012

really liked it

If this is a culmination of the bitters knowledge of the world, then I guess there just isn't that much to know.

But that's fine. Honestly, unless there was a rousing back-story of evil chemists and immortal sex pirates, I'm not sure a long and detailed history of bitters would have been much fun to read anyway.

I certainly learned all I need to know about the creation of bitters as medicinal elixirs and their fundamental importance in the genesis of the cocktail.

Really, the bulk of the book turns out to be a list of drink recipes calling for bitters and a guide to creating your own bitters (and other, less common drink ingredients you're not likely to find on your supermarket shelves like roasted chicken beaks with oak-aged sea cucumber).

I was delighted to learn that I could create a jug of my own passable bitters for less than the price of a used car. And so I have begun the month-and-a-half process of making the lemon bitters. Actually, that reminds me that I need to pull the jar out of the kitchen cabinet and give it the daily shake. We'll see how they turn out. I expect good things.

The drink recipes are interesting. You'll find most of the classics elsewhere, but I enjoyed Parsons' descriptions of them nonetheless. For some reason, cocktail book authors always like to wax poetic about the origins of drinks and how some 1920's movie starlet poured the ingredients down her ample curves under a gleaming moonlight into the hollowed-out head of an Abraham Lincoln ice sculpture in an exclusive and secretive club run by the CIA in the basement of the Empire State Building. But they rarely describe what the drink actually tastes like!

You'll spend a fortune and a week of your life that you'll never get back in order to create some of the modern drinks in listed in the final portion of the book. They're creative and they sound damned interesting. But it's unlikely I'll ever taste any of them.

I give this book four stars for existing. I love obsessive fixations, and cocktail culture is a great place to find them (or form some of your own)!

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