Review: Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari
Mark Bitterman, Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari: 500 Bitter, 50 Amari, 123 Recipes for Cocktails, Food & Homemade Bitters, (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015), 216 pages, $25.00. ISBN: 9781449470692
Mark Bitterman is the author of Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari: 500 Bitter, 50 Amari, 123 Recipes for Cocktails, Food & Homemade Bitters and the owner of two bitters emporiums called the The Meadow in Portland, Oregon and New York City. Bitterman has lectured at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. He has has also written two other books, Salted (2010), which won a James Beard Award, and Salt Block Cooking (2013). Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari is organized into six chapters. The introduction covers some of the basics of bitters, including their history. The second chapter covers the basics how bitters are created, and Bitterman describes in good detail the bittering and flavor characteristics of over 50 botanicals. In the second half of chapter two, Bitterman offers 13 sample recipes for homemade bitters that run the gamut from traditional to exotic. Chapters three and four include recipes for bitters-forward cocktails and recipes that incorporate bitters into cooking. Bitterman concludes the book with descriptions and tasting notes for hundreds of non-potable bitters and more than 50 amari.
Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari is a very well-written and beautifully photographed book. While the book was clearly written with the home cocktail enthusiast in mind, it is an excellent resource for professional distillers interested in creating their own concoctions. The recipes included map out the building blocks for creating well-structured and creative bitters. The tasting notes in chapters five and six create a framework on how to think about and describe these products. Distillers interested in entering this segment of the market can ask themselves: How bitter, sweet, or aromatic should this bitter or amari be and what flavors or colors should stand out? A small number of distilleries have successfully started making bitters as a compliment to their spirits portfolio. Producing bitters and amari offers inspiration to be creative and can jump-start collaborations with bartenders and chefs, who often have great senses for how flavors commingle.
Originally published in Distiller Magazine (Fall 2016): 145