Tales of the Cocktail 2011 Kicks Off

The nation’s premier cocktail industry event keeps getting bigger and bigger. This year, over 300 media-types alone are present, representing outlets from all over the world.

I’m looking forward to the seminar entitled “The Emperor’s New Bitters.” Bitters, as the name implies, are flavoring agents, usually highly concentrated, which add that “there’s something in there but I can’t put my finger on it” taste to a cocktail.

New Orleans’ own Peychaud bitters are a prime example. They were concocted in the 1830s by pharmacist Antoine Amédée Peychaud at his shop on Royal St.; the building (437 Royal) now houses Cohen’s Antiques. Cohen’s, by the way, is worth a drop in. While everything in there is for sale, most items would be at home in any decent museum. Coins, NOLA memorabilia such as Carnival favors and krewe badges,Civil War items and many antique guns are on display.

I heard a representative of the Bitter Truth bitters company on Eric Asher’s show yesterday. She said Peychaud’s recipe is not the same as it was back in the day, and her company had located a sample of Peychaud’s from the 1800s and analyzed and reverse-engineered to make their version, which they call “Creole Bitters.” Their website doesn’t mention any reverse engineering but says:

The Bitter Truth – Creole Bitters are reminiscent of a style of bitters dating back to an era before cocktails even existed. Back then, bitters were made by doctors and apothecaries, primarily for the use in liquid tonics and then eventually as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages. The Bitter Truth – Creole Bitters reflect the Creole way of life with all its beautiful complexity and spiciness.

Science or marketing hype? I don’t know, but I’m willing to buy a bottle to try in the next Sazerac I fix.

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