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Jan 15, 2013 02:30 PM

Lemon and cardamom bitters -- ideas?

I recently received several bottles of bitters as a gift, and while I've been using the orange bitters and, especially, the Fee Bros. Old Fashioned bitters quite a lot, I haven't found any good use so far for other ones. The lemon bitters have a lovely flavor and I could see them being used more as a cooking ingredient than a cocktail bitter, but the Scrappy's Cardamom bitters are just overwhelming. A drop or two, and whatever I'm drinking is infused with intense cardamom flavors... and I haven't yet found a drink in which that's a good thing. Any ideas?

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  1. I use lemon bitters in any citrus-based drink. They boost the citrus peel flavor, without adding additional sourness (which would require sugar to balance). They also intensify the flavor without adding volume, which can distort the alcohol balance.

    I haven't tried cardamon bitters, but cardamon is certainly a distinctive flavor. I would be tempted to try them in a flip (thinking along the likes of kulfi). Or use them with warm, molasses flavors, like a Jamaican dark rum, maybe with sweet vermouth. It may well be such a distinctive flavor that you have the bottle for a long time. It's like organ music -- great for the first few minutes, then you've had enough for a while.

    Both (but especially the lemon) would be great in seltzer water, with a squeeze of citrus of some sort. This is my go-to drink when I want something flavorful, refreshing and non-alcoholic. Julia Child taught me that on PBS a long time ago (with Angostura).

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    1. I've paired the cardamom bitters (just one drop or two) with apple brandy in an Old Fashioned variation. It was okay. Bittercube's Blackstrap bitters worked much better for that purpose.

      1. Cardamom is one of the most delicate spices out there... a hint or "just the right amount" and there's nothing better... but go a bit over the line and it can muddy up a drink or dish fast. Kind of like lavender, less is usually better.

        Ideas: use it in a chai-type drink... I'm thinking it could be great in a chai ice cream or just in your favorite straight chai.

        Also probably nice in drinks or foods with a "gingerbread" or "pumpkin pie" type flavor.

        3 Replies
        1. re: TombstoneShadow

          Cardamom is powerful, with a strong camphor, pine, citrusy and pepper component -- the very reason a little goes a long way. Not a bit delicate.

          My favorite cocktail with cardamom or cardamom bitters:

          To a few drops of cardamom bitters at the bottom of the glass, add fresh-squeezed lemonade and Absolut Citron (or other lemon or citron vodka). I loved it when I first tried it.

          (You can use a eyedropper with the bitters so you don't overdose. Start with just a couple of drops or quarter-teaspoon measure and creep up on the amount to where you like it.)

          Alternately, you can crush a couple of the tiny black cardamom seeds and place them at the bottom of the glass before adding any the lemonade or Absolut Citron.

          Recipes here:

          1. re: TombstoneShadow

            Delicate? Overwhelming is more like it. That's why you need to use it sparingly.

          2. I've played with the cardamom bitters quite a bit. It's tricky stuff to use, since it is both intensely cardamom flavored and also , and also extremely bitter. One or two drops, just as a background note, tends to be quite enough.

            The best pairing I've found for it to date has been in drinks featuring watermelon. I've also put it to fairly good use in a couple of Sidecar variations, specifically one I was messing around with that used Mandarine Napoleon as the orange liqueur. In both cases these drinks were on the slightly sweeter side, which is a natural fit for cardamom. (At least, for me; cardamom makes me think of kheer and other Indian desserts, as well as creamy and slightly sweet curries.)

            4 Replies
            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              Then it seems like it (Cardamon bitters) would go well in a flip, no? I'm a fan of Kheer -- really the only cardamon think I eat.

              Years ago I used to put a crushed cardamon seed pod in the coffee maker at work. I'm surprised that I'm still alive. I certainly would have killed myself now.

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              1. re: EvergreenDan

                For a brief moment at some point I was a fan of Dr. Weil, and he recommended putting cardamom in coffee -- I did the same thing, with about the same result. Is that where you got the idea?

                I think it would be good in a flip, but I'm not sure. The bitters are aggressively bitter -- perhaps more so than any other nonpotable bitter in my collection. I think it might be offputting in a smooth flip, whereas the acid in a sour counteracts it a bit.

                But, only one way to find out -- I'll give it a try. Perhaps it would be possible to emulate kheer in a glass? A bit of orgeat, for nuttiness (pistachio orgeat would be really cool), dark rum (naturally), maybe a touch of Strega (for saffron notes), and then the bitters, in addition to some cream and an egg? Sounds pretty tasty...

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  I wonder why you both had such a bad experience with cardamom in coffee. I've had this many times in Lebanese style coffee. Excellent. You must have added way too much.

                  1. re: JMF

                    Cardamom tea is also really good.