As warmer weather finally sets in, lighter beverages return and nothing takes the place of fresh ingredients in summer coolers. Despite this, one company out of Charleston, called Bittermilk, is aiming to provide a shelf-stable alternative to the core fresh-squeezed juices and herbs found in cocktails.
Many bartenders would agree it's impossible via current scientific processes to bottle the flavor and nuances of fresh ingredients and achieve the same results over time, but Bittermilk's pre-batched modifiers are not aimed at that. Their goal is to bottle the bitter, sweet, acidic, botanical and aromatic complexities found in classic cocktails and use "creative techniques to maximize flavor including roasting, burning, smoking, barrel aging, percolating and macerating." Essentially, they do the hard work for you.
It's easy to be turned off by bottled cocktails or cocktail mixes, given that older generations of these products were often putrid and completely misrepresented even the basic idea of the cocktail they were trying to emulate. Avoiding this bullet, Bittermilk's product starts with an oleo saccharum base and built-in flavor profile when combined with a spirit. Oleo saccharum is the lemon peel and sugar compound that most punches start with, giving a citric acid undertone that supports the other booze, tea and water dilution components in the drink. It's also shelf-stable, and a great starting point for adding in other all natural, organic and uncommon ingredients.
Though Bittermilk suggests a purely pour-and-go approach, I decided to take one suggested recipe from the Bittermilk website a little bit farther, adding in two organic elements and a little physical labor. A typical Tom Collins would involve gin (originally Old Tom), fresh-squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup topped with soda and garnished with a cherry and lemon slice. Starting with the mildly sweet Bittermilk Tom Collins Elderflower and Hops means no added sugar is required when balancing the mixer with equal parts gin (in this case London dry). However, I found adding the juice from half a lemon and mint, then aerating by shaking all of the ingredients together, gave this Collins variant a bit more appeal and complimented the unique hops flavor.
Overall, if you're someone who doesn't want to take on more than opening a bottle and pouring out your evening's tipple, then this product will serve you well in adding new life to your everyday vodka, gin or bourbon on the rocks. Don't be afraid to experiment with adding in a few other fresh ingredients too, though.
- 2 ounces Beefeater Gin
- 2 ounces Bittermilk No. 2 Tom Collins with Elderflower and Hops
- 3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 5-6 mint leaves
- Combine ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously with ice.
- Strain contents into a tall glass with ice, finishing with a mint garnish and straw.
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