Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brooklyn bitters

I hate to talk about making bitters when it's the latest cool thing to explode into the mainstream from Brooklyn. Just pretend I have my fingers in my ears and am going lalalalalalala and haven't heard and am doing my own foraging thing. Except that I'm not. While I have been infusing alcohol with various foraged botanica for a couple of years, now - sweet fern, spice bush berries, Juneberries, beautyberry -I have not made bitters for bitters' sake.

So it's time.

We are at peak wild cherry season right now. The tiny fruit drop off the tall trees when black-ripe, and cause mockingbird squabbles high in the branches. The tree above is in Dumbo, on a quiet cul de sac between a mansion and a sewage plant.

And in Green-Wood Cemetery, raccoon scat at the base of the trees showed ample and pebbly evidence of  wild cherry orgies. That place must be rocking at night.

I stopped under the local Cornelian cherry this afternoon and picked a bagful.

And no, I did not go to the trouble of tracking down Everclear, the highest proof alcohol around, so perhaps I am a bitters dilettante. But we'll see. I have some cherry leaves, satisfyingly lethal in large doses, some pits, cracked, the fruit, and a few other bits and bobs.

We'll talk in a month.


  1. I'm waiting for the Dorothy Parker explanation to "satisfyingly lethal in small does"..... That would be one bitters-sweet cocktail!

  2. Cant wait for the blog update after you down that yummy concoction. Im sure it will be very creative :)

  3. Janet but if "small does" ate too many cherry leaves they would be ill :-)

    Peach, apricot, sweet cherry, Juneberries have similar poisonous parts - (wilted leaves, twigs, bark, pit-kernels), but I imagine the dose must be significant. Livestock can die if they browse on the leaves of thse trees, for instance. The toxins, are glycosides and amygdalin (forms cyanide). The French (and I imagine manymany others)have been flavouring eau de vie with fruit tree leaves and pits for a while now, and they seem alright. Mostly.

    Rob, Strong. Astonishingly, it is touted at between 150 and 190 proof. So 95 to 75% alcohol per volume. It is banned in some states.

    Lisa, I hope it is useful, but it may be plainly too bitter. Getting some fruity of floral aromatics in there is a challenge.

  4. Congrats! After reading about you and your blog in the NYTimes, I have nominated you for the "One Lovely Blog" award:

  5. Everclear is available in NJ.


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