Recently I’ve been trying to gain experience by participating in cocktail competitions. While I’d love to win or be a finalist in one, I’m cognizant that I have a few more years of experience that I need to obtain before I have a deep enough level of knowledge to submit something really great. I was invited to participate in Auchentoshan’s New Malt Order cocktail competition in which about 250 bartenders from across Canada were given special competition kits which included two small bottles of Auchentoshan American Oak and a 200 mL bottle of their new make (unaged) whisky. As part of a new promotional program, each year, the New Malt Order will unite 12 bartenders from cities around the world to collectively create a new limited edition Auchentoshan expression. Working together, The New Malt Order will design both a new liquid and new packaging for distribution in the on-trade in 2017. By bartenders, for bartenders.
Participants were challenged to create a unique take on their classic “Auchentoshan + Ale” cocktail which includes:
35 mL Auchentoshan American Oak
15 mL Lemon Juice
1 dash Orange Bitters
25 mL Honey Syrup
1 heaped barspoon of Quince Jelly
The rules? Create your own home made bitters and a signature version of their classic cocktail using the Auchentoshan American Oak, your bitters, other ingredients and some sort of stout, pilsner or ale.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH BITTERS?
Now despite the fact that I have never made bitters before, I was excited to try. To give you an extremely brief and basic overview of bitters, bitters is an alcoholic preparation that uses botanicals (which are natural plant matter like roots, bark, seeds, fruit etc.) to create a bitter, sour or bittersweet flavour. There are two types of bitters: potable (or Digestive Bitters) and non-potable (or Cocktail Bitters). Potable bitters (which means drinkable) are the ones that can be drank straight in regular quantities (and of course be used in cocktails etc.). In fact you’ve probably already tried one this past weekend. Some well known potable bitters include Aperol, Averna, Campari, Jagermeister, Fernet Branca, Chartreuse and Suze. Non-potable bitters are the ones that are used in very small quantities (i.e. drops or dashes) in cocktails and are classified as non-beverage products because they can’t be consumed like typical beverages. Examples of well known bitters include Angostura and Peychauds.
So in general when we talk about bitters, most people mean the non-potable type.
Now with these non-potable or Cocktail Bitters, they are comprised of two parts: the Bittering Agents and the Aromatic/Flavour Agents which are fairly self explanatory. Common Bittering Agents include things like gentian root, angelica root, black walnut leaf, burdock root, citrus peel, sarsaparilla, or wormwood. Aromatic/Flavour Agents include spices, herbs, fruits, nuts or beans.
Now I am by no means an expert but here was my process in creating my bitters. To complement the stone fruit, citrus and vanilla notes of the Auchentoshan American Oak, I decided to work with nuts and tropical ingredients for the bitters. For the bittering agent I imported gentian root from Winnipeg. For the aromatic/flavouring agents, I used organic dried mango, toasted macadamia nuts, Madagascar vanilla pods and Lapsang Souchong tea.
With the Auchentoshan New Make, I decided to make each tincture separately and blend to taste after the ingredients had macerated. The breakdown was as follows:
30 ml of New Make + 2 tbsp of dry roasted organic macadamia nuts (which have been finely chopped)
30 ml of New Make + 2 tbsp of gentian root
30 ml of New Make + 2 tbsp lapsang souchong tea (this is a smoky tea)
30 ml of New Make + 1 Madagascar vanilla pod (that’s been split open and cut into pieces)
50 ml of New Make + 5 pieces of dried organic Mango (as the dried fruit absorbs quite a bit of liquid).
Each ingredient was placed into a small mason jar, tightly sealed and shaken daily. I let the Mango, Vanilla and Macadamia nuts macerate for a week and the Gentian Root and Lapsang Souchong for only 48-hours.
After macerating, each tincture was strained out and then restrained through a paper coffee filter. Once all the ingredients were ready, I used a dropper to mix together the ingredients, creating multiple iterations of the bitters and testing them with a small amount of the recipe as well as on its own until the perfect formula was achieved.
The final breakdown of the composition of the bitters was as follows:
90 parts Mango
130 parts Macadamia Nut
10 parts Gentian Root
90 parts Vanilla
5 parts Lapsang Souchong
I literally mixed together probably 20 different iterations of these ingredients to come up with that specific breakdown. From this I found that 10 drops of this worked perfectly to complement the flavours in the American Oak, pineapple, orange zest and wheat ale, creating an extremely refreshing summer Scotch + Ale cocktail.
After playing with a number of different ingredients, proportions and beer types, my cocktail “The Haole Scotsman,” was created. The name is derived from the term “Haole” which is a cheeky Hawaiian slang term for “a person who is not a native Hawaiian, especially a white person.” Because pineapple, mango and macadamia nuts are native to Hawaii, which is an American state, and this expression of Auchentoshan is aged in American Oak casks, I thought that it was as if the Scotch was on a “Hawaiian vacation” with this cocktail.
60 mL of Auchentoshan American Oak
60 mL of Pineapple Juice
10 drops Homemade Bitters
1 Orange Peel Zest
For this cocktail you add in all the ingredient (including the orange zest) into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a mug full of ice. Top with the wheat ale and a fresh orange zest and serve.
We’ll find out on Friday who’s advancing to the Canadian finals of which one will be selected to become part of the New Malt Order! Judged by the best in the business, the inaugural 12 members of the New Malt Order will be flown to the home of Auchentoshan in Glasgow, Scotland, to join Master Blender Rachel Barrie for a five-day masterclass and immersion into the city’s effervescent, creative culture. After visiting some of Glasgow’s most inspirational and pioneering businesses to meet the entrepreneurial owners shaking up their industries, each bartender will be guided through a unique experimental blending of Auchentoshan maturing whiskies to make their mark on the limited edition single malt. I’m really excited to see what other bartenders have come up with for their bitters and cocktails!
Share your recipes below if you submitted one.