Cocktail Implements

Feeling Bitter about Christmas?

Bitterness is only a click away this Christmas.

Only Bitters is an Australian based website specialising in the little bottles that add the finish to so many a fine cocktail.

Many of the brands mentioned in recipes from around the world are only found with web search and a long wait. JD down in Melbourne decided that wasn’t good enough for the budding mixology movement that is happening down here, downunder.

There are currently 125 varieties on the site, and more to come.

While that’s far too many for most, there’s no denying the uplifting effects that a few drops can have on your favourite spirit or cocktail.

If you’ve never progressed much beyond Angostura, do yourself a favour and add a few drops of Brooklyn Hemispherical Sriracha Bitters to your next Bloody Mary, discover the chocolatey goodness lurking in tequila with Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters and pimp your summer Collins with Dr Adam Elmegirab’‰s Dandelion and Burdock Bitters.
Plus it’s the perfect stocking filler for anyone with a bent for booze.


Stolen from Julio

I feel lucky to have in my possession a recipe for the Tommy’s Margarita, signed by Julio Bermejo. I was lucky enough to sit next to him at the 2009 Bar Awards and get a lesson in the evolution of the drink, the move from Herradura to Arete and most importantly, the 2-1-1 measure that make this drink drop dead gorgeous.

Inspired by the bottle of Stolen I received last weekend I thought I might combine it with the dark agave syrup that is on sale each Saturday in Fitzroy Gardens at the Kings Cross food market, some limes from the Organic vege stall and a little bottle of Aromatic bitters I found at the back of a shelf in Coles, produced in an industrial estate in Sydney’s western sprawl. Stolen has fruit and flowers where Reposado brings a dusty earthiness, so I upped the strong portion to balance things out.

Stolen from Julio

60mls Stolen white rum, 20mls freshly squeezed lime juice, 20mls dark agave syrup and a small dash of aromatic bitters. Combine in a shaker, ice and shake. Strain and serve up with a wheel of lime.

While it isn’t quite the symphony you get in a Tommy’s, the aromatics bring out the floral character in the rum, the dark agave adds a caramelly depth and it is a very pleasant little drink.

Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #2: The Saratoga Cocktail

The Saratoga cocktail is the sweeter cousin of one of my favourite drinks in the whole, wide world; The Manhattan. I first found the recipe reading through David Wondrich’s fantastic investigation of the drinks and times of Jerry Thomas, Imbibe!

The springs at Saratoga made it one of the escapes from New York in the days of Jerry Thomas, and it’s probably no surprise that a drink named for a resort is appreciably sweeter than its urban relation. This is achieved by swapping out half of the rye whiskey normally present in the drink for cognac or brandy at a push.

The Saratoga Cocktail.

3omls Rye Whiskey, 30mls Cognac, 30mls Sweet Vermouth, a couple of dashes of bitters. Combine over ice in a tin and stir until cold and sufficiently diluted. Strain up, garnish with the peel of an orange and a healthy dose of disgust for urban mores.

Best served with a newspaper and a back massage.

At home, Bottle Shop, Sydney

The Brothers Fee, now in Sydney

Fee Brothers Bitters

Mr Heinz built his global business on the strength of 57 varieties. Fee Brothers bring no less than 83 different cocktail products to the market. If you read much on cocktails being written around the world, it won’t be long before a recipe stipulates the use of one or more of them in the production of a brilliant new drink or a faithful reinvention of something from the distant past.

The company’s roots go right back to 1863 in San Fransisco, but mass production and distribution only really started during Prohibition when the Fee’s cordial flavourings were a popular addition to homemade hooch to cover up the heads and tails. Global scale has only really occurred since the mid nineties, where a change in labelling aligned with a global expansion of the cocktail business and a new generation of self styled mixoligists went looking for something a little different.

They grace the back bars around town easily enough, but I had been struggling to find them as a mere home enthusiast. Gouldburn Wines and Spirits now have it in stock. You can find them on Brisbane St, which is just off the lower end of Oxford St. Google Map it here.

The entrance might not look much, but the selection as enough to make you giddy.Anything you can’t find in Sydney, this would be a good option to track it down.

The taste profile of the flavoured bitters can be a lot different for those you might have experienced from the Houses of Angostura and Peychaud. I particularly like the Rhubarb Bitters, and I’ll be looking to build my collection and make some great tasty drinks.


The Old Fashioned

Picture 4

On May 13, 1806, The Balance and Colombia Repository printed the first known definition of the word “cocktail”

`Cocktail, then, is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling`

This somewhat unsavoury sounding mix is what we today call the Old Fashioned. 

Like almost all things alcohol related, there are disputes as to who coined the name instead of it just remaining ‘Cocktail,’ the members of the Pendennis Club claimed for some time in their blustery Colonel Sanders way that the name belonged to a Bourbon Cocktail made in the club. David Wondrich, who looks not dissimilar to a member of the Pendennis Club, discounted this theory by uncovering a wealth of examples of the use of the word prior to the Club’s foundation in 1880.

But I digress.

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

Take a sugar cube* and douse it in three or four belts from a bottle of Angostura Bitters, slide this into the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass. I use at least 60 of good quality Bourbon in my version, Maker’s Mark would be a fine choice. Add a little of the Bourbon, with a couple of pieces of ice and start stirring. Keep adding a little more Bourbon, a little more ice and perhaps around 15 mls water. 

The result is an amazingly balanced, rich and seductive elixir. 

*I prefer to use a cube of sugar as the time it takes to get it to dissolve is around the same time it take to mellow this drink to a superior level.


This cocktail is amazingly adaptable, you can change out the spirit for a Rye Whiskey, Brandy, Cognac or Rum.

At Toko on Crown St they do a Old Fashioned with Junipero Gin and there is a fashionable trend for Tequila Old Fashioneds around the world right now.

Once you’ve tried a variety of spirits, perhaps making a move on to changing out the bitters. Peychaud’s, Fee Brothers Peach or Orange Bitters, even Aperol or Campari. I’ll post an article later in the week about the process of homemaking bitters as well, to really change things up.

This really is a drink for the ages, we’ll be putting this up against the Trans-Galactic GargleBlaster when we make it to the restaurant at the end of time.

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