When Joe Fee was in town earlier this year for the first San Antonio Cocktail Conference, the topic of conversation naturally turned to bitters. His family’s company, Fee Brothers, has been making bitters for four generations. In recent years, a number of flavored variations hit the market — mint, grapefruit, peach — and they’re all good. But the one version not to miss is rhubarb, which the label describes as follows: “Using flavors available in 1800s America, Fee Brothers developed Rhubarb Bitters for that authentic historical taste.”
The aroma harkens back to the past with a pleasant floral quality mixed with a strong sense of both cherry candy and maraschino cherries. Tart, delicious rhubarb mixed with bitter spices come in when you taste the bitters alone. Both fragrance and flavor suggest it would be great with bourbon or rye in cocktails as well as gin and even tequila. I tried it in a variation of the classic Old Fashioned called the Old Smashioned, which featured blackberries and a touch of orange flavor (see recipe below).
Don’t stop with the cocktails, though. Bitters add a welcome complexity to cooking as well. I tried the rhubarb bitters in a marinade for squash before throwing them on the grill. I could also see adding a dash or two to a vinaigrette to give it some life.
Just remember, when you use bitters, try a dash first and then build up to your desired flavor level. They are strong, and too much can be overwhelming.
Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters can be found at Twin Liquors on U.S. 281 south of Bitters Road. The price is $5.99. All bitters should keep for as long as you own the bottle.
The Old Smashioned
1-2 drops orange blossom water
3-4 blackberries, to taste
1-3 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar, or more to taste
Rinse your cocktail glass with a drop or two of orange blossom water.
In a cocktail shaker, muddle blackberries. Add bourbon to taste, a dash of rhubarb bitters and the agave nectar with ice. Shake and pour into glass (you can strain the berry seeds, if you choose). Add more rhubarb bitters to taste. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Makes 1 cocktail.
Adapted from tastespotting.com