At the "Blood & Sand" event
at 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar
on Monday night, Angostura bitters were not used in any of the night's eight featured cocktails, although four other kinds were. The event was sponsored by Pernod-Ricard
, and as such, each cocktail showcased at least one of their brands. The drinks were $8 per, with proceeds going to promote the new St. Louis chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild
. Kind of like a really classy bake sale, with each of the participants (including Ted Kilgore of Taste by Niche
) mixing up a different signature cocktail for the crowd.
My companion and I dutifully sampled them all. Although each was tasty, for me the standout was the Pastis Plenty mixed by Michelle Bildner of Monarch
. Several of the evening's drinks featured absinthe, Pernod-Ricard's namesake spirit, but none so prominently as this one. Absinthe has a dangerous reputation, earned through the bad behavior of its enthusiasts, as demonstrated by Ernest Hemingway: "Got tight last night on absinthe and did knife tricks. Great success shooting the knife into the piano." (Some have surmised that it was absinthe that caused Vincent van Gogh to do knife tricks as well.) In modern times, the chief danger in mixing absinthe into your cocktails is in overwhelming the drink with its powerful anise flavor.
Indeed, the first sip of Pastis Plenty was like biting down on a black jelly bean. As that first impression faded, the cocktail distinguished itself from more commonplace mixed drinks. Apricot and maraschino liqueurs layered flavor and added complexity, lemon juice and Peychaud's bitters struck sour and bitter notes that balanced out the sweetness, and the presence of egg white gave the whole thing a pleasing viscosity and a frothy cap. This drink was served in a coupe glass
-- the saucer-shaped, stemmed glass that champagne was once served in.
Supposedly the world is running out of bitters. Not bitter people, mind you, but the cocktail mixer. Specifically, Angostura bitters, those that come in the ubiquitous paper-wrapped bottle with the yellow plastic cap. Just a few years ago, such news wouldn't have attracted much notice. After all, cocktails rarely call for more than a few dashes of bitters, so a bottle would last most bars quite a while. But now that classic cocktails are all the rage, bar patrons are partying like it's 1929, knocking back Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds and running down those bitters supplies.