Barguy to Sous Chef: "Hey Cory, do you know what today is?"
Sous to Barguy: "No man, what's today?"
"It's Orange Bitters Blending Day!"
"I don't know what that means, but it sounds awesome!"
Yes my friend, yes. It is awesome.
Three years ago I started making orange bitters with the peels of the Navels and Valencias were were using for OJ. It was a simple affair of rum and orange zest, nothing else. It was good, but not better than a nice healthy orange zest over a drink.
In 2007, wanting more depth, I started with a plan and began infusing peels of different orange varieties as they came into season. The process went from November to December and it provided for a much more layered bitters that we have been quite happy with. I labeled it as an 07/08 vintage and it has served us well. It has also come to an end.
As the last bottles dwindled this week, I have been growing nervous about this season's infusions. Again, I started in November but broadened the range of fruit and kept shaving peels right into February. I just kept layering new varieties of orange peels on top of the old in the infusion jars. I varied the spirit, using rum and neutral grain and to keep things extra lively, I also added coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, white pepper and some rangpur zest. Was it ready? Well, it had to be, we were almost out of the previous vintage.
I keep a cache of tinctures for when I blend big batches like this in case any one element needs bolstering (clove, cinnamon, sarsaparilla, etc.) I am happy to say that I only needed to add a few ounces of quassia tincture to get the 08/09 vintage up to par.
I collected the making tape I used for labels on the infusion jars and here is the record of peels;
Clementine, Page Mandarine, Moro Blood, Maltese Blood, Bream Tarroco Blood, Navel, Cara Cara, Tangelo, Tangerine, Calamandini, Kumquat, Seville, Bergamot and Valencia.
The yield was a little over 17 .750 bottles and I couldn't be more pleased.