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Feb 21, 2014 10:46 PM

Boker's Bitters?

Need new bitters projects. Thinking this might be a classic addition to my stash, and fairly straightforward to make....but is it worth it? Are there cocktails that specifically require it, or are improved by it?

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  1. I like them a lot in the Martinez. They were Jerry Thomas' favorite bitters so they show up frequently in his recipes. You can always substitute another aromatic bitter for them though. The Martinez is the only cocktail that I make regularly in which I use them though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bg90027

      Thanks for the feedback. I've been sticking with fruit/vegetable/floral bitters so far and have yet to do a general aromatic bitters - I've got a pretty good stash of both Angostura and Fee's at the moment - so I thought this might be worth a shot to get my feet wet. Maybe I'll just dive in so I can see what they taste like.

    2. I made them back in 2008 using the recipe from Wondrich's Imbibe book and they worked great any where Angostura Bitters was called for. Plenty of late 19th century and early 20th century recipes that call for them. The only difficult part was sourcing catechu (betel nut) which I was able to get off of eBay before realizing that Indian supermarkets and spice stores sell it (albeit unlabeled or barely labeled). The quassia and calamus root was acquired via the Frendzco spice shop on eBay (available elsewhere). More 4-1-1 about my experience:

      1. Can you get all the stuff needed to make Boker's for less than the $20 that Boston Shaker sells a bottle for? I ask because, beyond the fun of making your own, I wonder about the economics of the whole thing.

        That said, I use Boker's wherever you'd use Angostura (as Yarm said), and it's my favorite bitters to add to soda water to make it tastier.

        3 Replies
        1. re: kimfair1

          My first batch supplied 6 or 7 of the craft cocktail bars in Boston and myself with a bottle of Boker's for about $3 per 4 oz bottle (factoring in all the herbs (used and unused) but only the alcohol and the bitters bottles I used, not the cost of the full alcohol bottle or the gross of bitters bottles I bought).

          I remember discussing with Adam (of the Boston Shaker) the possibility of a DiY bitters kit to make these. Herbs, jar, strainer, etc. Everything but the alcohol. It seemed more like a for-the-love-of instead of a get-rich idea though back then. Now it would probably sell quite well.

          1. re: yarm

            Well then it's financially worth it. How close to the real thing was it? How does one find a recipe for something like that? I'm interested, but unlikely to make my own (too lazy!).

            1. re: kimfair1

              That one came from David Wondrich's Imbibe Book. Other recipes I made were from other historical sources or collections, and some I developed on my own based off of what I learned from the older recipes.


        2. I like a drop or two in a Martini, especially if I'm stuck with a bland, cheapie gin.