Bitters Lesson with Travis Nass of Last Drop Bar at the Hermosa Inn

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
Don't be afraid to experiment with bitters.
Nass demonstrates this in an experiment. He takes a mix of stirred rye whiskey and sweet vermouth. After tasting that, he adds bitters in the mix. After that, he does an absinthe mist rinse on the glass. Finally, he adds an expressed orange peel. Comparing the first to fourth iteration of an improved Manhattan you can see how much the little things really impact the flavor of a cocktail.

Finally, he mixes up an Old Fashioned, which had to have been one of the best we've tasted. Using a historic rye spirit, Turbinado sugar, and, of course, bitters, Nass explains that an Old Fashioned cocktail simply means spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. What you pick from there is all a matter of taste and what you have in your liquor cabinet.

Of his favorites, Nass picks out Bitterman's Elemakule Tiki bitters, a blend of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and almond, as well as his blend of Don's bitters, which mixes absinthe and Angostura in the traditional Don the Beachcomber style. However, before there were tons of bitters available on the market, Nass usually just made his own varieties. He still makes some specialized blends, such as his Pho bitters which use the same herbal elements as the Vietnamese soup's broth, but can now concentrate more on making cocktails taste great, rather than just making every element of a cocktail.

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Heather Hoch
Travis Nass makes his own bitters, as well as buying several different varieties.
When it comes to choosing which bitters you'll use, you can go by old cocktail recipes or even color, with Angostura adding a rusty red and Peychaud's adding a bright red, while many others are brown. Nass uses the Flavor Bible to pair flavors, but he says you can also smell your cocktail and then your bitters to try to see if the flavors mesh. In the end, with all of the bitters on the market, it's really about testing combinations for yourself.

"It's all about experimentation," Nass says. "You'll start to get a feel for it when you play around with bitters enough."

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Hermosa Inn

5532 N. Palo Christi Road, Paradise Valley, AZ

Category: General


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