Assorted bitters. Photographed by Anna Parks for February 2015.

On Pinterest: Bitters and Cordials

This sounds foolish to say now, but when Pinterest first launched I was skeptical to see if it was going to be successful. Mood boards — collections of images, words, thoughts, colors, and other inspiration — have been used in creative design (graphic and fashion design, branding…) for quite some time. Social bookmarking sites like Delicious and StumbleUpon already had been around the block. Social giants Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and a number of other image sharing and microblogging sites were already well-established and, for some, in the process of or thinking about going public. Could users really get behind yet another social site?

Apparently, yes, since Pinterest grew at incredible rates throughout 2012 and came toe-to-toe with surpassing the number of active users of even the established social sites in no time. Almost three years later and the popularity of Pinterest hasn’t let up, with businesses getting on-board with sponsored pins and suggested content showing up in users’ feeds. I don’t think we are out of the woods yet when it comes to the long-lasting effects of social media in our society. It is certainly well-adopted, of that I am 1,000% sure, but customer advertising, data collection, and data sharing efforts are bound change with the laws related to big data and user privacy that I have a gut feeling are on the cusp of blowing up in the U.S. and E.U., especially.

Anyway. On to the fun stuff, right?

I truly enjoy Pinterest and like many of you am addicted to pinning anything and everything. I talked about my foodie to-do list a few weeks ago and a few of the resolutions looked to Pinterest for inspiration, since I started a few food and drink boards a while back that I have been populating on a near-daily basis with new things to try. One pin was a cocktail featured on the 10 Bourbon Drinks to Try Now list, which I haven’t gotten around to yet. Today, though, I’m looking for inspiration for homemade bitters and cordials.

The first question that might come to mind is what are bitters and cordials?

I have seen cordial used interchangeably with liqueur, and since I don’t claim to be a trained bartender I don’t know if there is a true different between the two, but familiar ones I think the whole world can recognize (distinct bottle shapes included, courtesy of some awesome marketers and product developers out there somewhere, who I am sure focused on the designs for months when building the brands) include Disaronno® amaretto (almond) liqueur and Chambord® (black raspberry) liqueur. Serious Eats offers further clarification on the differences between spirits/liquors and liqueur/cordials as well as some other misinterpreted cocktail terms, for any interested in learning more.

Bitters might be a new term for some, though. Per everyone’s favorite anti-reference, Wikipedia, bitters are alcoholic liquids infused with herbs, spices, and other botanicals and historically used as medicines, digestifs, and cocktail flavorings. As the name would imply, they have a pungent, bitter flavor, which means they certainly should not be consumed alone.

A cool, old advertisement for Dr. Copps Bitters, courtesy of Wikipedia. Public Domain.
A cool, old advertisement for Dr. Copps Bitters, courtesy of Wikipedia. Public Domain.

On to the recipes, and three particularly stood out in my initial search:

This Orange Bitters recipe from Chow sounds like something that could be used in a lot of different cocktails, since citrus goes well with basically everything. This will probably be the first I will to make, due to its all-purpose potential and use in several of the bourbon drinks — The Revolver and Scofflaw included. It reminds me of a meyer lemon version that I purchased recently, made by Brooklyn Bitters, which is also good for everything.

A Homemade Elderflower Cordial recipe courtesy of BBC goodfood made my mouth water, since I am a fan of St. Germain, and featured a relatively short ingredient list. Finding fresh elderflower heads might be a challenge, though, so I wonder if dried would be available online? This one requires more investigation.

Finally, an article about how to make homemade bitters from the kitchn is a good reference, too, offering some DIY flavor combinations and general guidelines for bitter-making. Admittedly, this is more of my speed, since I generally dislike following recipes to a T (but that would be failing one of my foodie to-dos so soon in the game… ha!)

See more bitters and cordials inspiration on Pinterest