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Organize Your Bitters

If you are like us, you have collected quite a few bitters brands over the years. Cocktail bitters typically come in "woozy" bottles for dashing small quantities into drinks. However, not all of them are sized consistently. There are flat narrow bottles, short stocky sizes, and some that are huge compared to others. We buy Angostura, for example, in big 18-ounce bottles—not a very convenient size to keep at the ready wherever you mix drinks. Our solution is to use small eye-dropper bottles for everything. They store easily and can be labeled using simple envelope address stickers (for laser printing, we like self-adhesive 1" x 2-5/8" address label sheets). Some brands like Bittercube already market their products in 1-ounce dropper bottles. This not only saves space, but allows precision when you need it. For example, administering dashes is easy enough with just a squirt from the dropper, but you can also add drop-by-drop if you want to be consistent with your dash measurement. You can also use the dropper for exact placement of decorative drops over frothy egg whites like you might on a Pisco Sour, or when a recipe calls for it.

We store all of our branded bottles out of the way and use them to refill a set of dropper bottles and misters. One of the best choices we have found come from infinityjars.com. Their 30ml Glass Pipette Dropper Bottle holds exactly one ounce. There is also a fine mist spray version which is perfect for absinthe, smokey Scotch or any other ingredient that you use to coat the inside of a glass. What makes these bottles so good is the fact that the glass is totally opaque. The high alcohol content of most bitters will help preserve them, but light can have an adverse affect on almost anything you put into bottles. The black glass in these will block that light. Black bottles also look fantastic, as you can see in the image here. Even with the sun's backlighting there is no light transmission compared to the cardamom and Angostura bottles. Both the dropper and mister bottles are consistently sized so you can use them together without taking up much room.

Another surprise with these dropper bottles is the glass pipette dropper itself. We were impressed to find that they are designed with a small bulb of glass at the end of the dropper which allows surface tension to create consistent drops every time. We suspect this also reinforces the glass lip making the tip a bit more durable. If one ounce is too small and you would rather not refill them as often, they have larger sizes and several other shapes for various projects. We think matching Apothecary Jars for cocktail cherries would work nicely! Although we would probably recommend clear glass for storing syrups so you can tell if they have turned, we love the 1 Liter Round Glass Bottle for storing finished projects like barrel-aged cocktails or liqueurs. These come with a nice, screw cap and feature the same, light-limiting black glass.

White Whiskey

White whiskey has many names. It can be marketed as white dog or white lightning, or even the yokel moonshine, although that usually refers to illicit varieties. A few things are clear, however, besides this unusual spirit. First, it is an unaged product, meaning it does not typically spend time in oak barrels. Second, because it is whiskey, it is a distillate made from fermented grain. This is where products differ. Depending on the grain used, where it is farmed, the water added, and of course, the distillation process itself, one white whiskey can taste dramatically different from another.

Traditionally, whiskey is thought of as a "brown" spirit, but all of that color and much of the flavor comes form the aging process. Time spent in charred oak barrels allows the high concentration of alcohol to extract flavors from the wood. Caramel, vanilla, smoke, fruit, spices—these are all derived from

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Water

It's often a good sign when you sit down at a bar to be greeted by the bartender with a glass of water. We don't drink alcohol to quench our thirst—it's a full-sensory experience—so a glass of water not only satisfies the need for hydration, it also balances the social ritual allowing you to extend the enjoyment of your selected beverage. It sounds like an over-the-top description of simply drinking a glass of water—which it is—but we think every great drink deserves this "sidekick" and we can't over emphasize the importance of drinking water while you drink booze. Whether you ordered the expensive and obscure signature cocktail from the seasonal menu at your favorite bar or you are happily sipping beer at home, water should always be within reach. We don't often feature this unsung hero in photographs, but it is the most important beverage you can drink and serve,

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The Ferrari: a Bartender's Handshake

Often regarded as the "bartender's handshake", a shot of Fernet-Branca has become a modern fixture for bartenders visiting one another at their respective craft cocktail establishments. It is as much a nod from one professional to another as it is confirmation that, as a fellow enthusiast of the craft, your tastes have evolved to the point that an intensely herbal, bitter Italian aperitivo is a perfectly acceptable refreshment that doesn't require extra time mixing up a signature recipe.

Regular patrons can also sometimes upgrade their "bar table image" and gain immediate street credit by ordering Fernet, (or if it's not too busy, requesting a bartender's choice cocktail made with the stuff). Calling out Fernet-Branca is still unusual enough—even in better bars—that it might earn you a smile or a double-take from the bartender and occasionally leads to conversations about ingredients or recipe construction. But, sipping Fernet neat is just

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Final Say

There are a handful of cocktails in our experience that anyone reading this should recognize, or at the very least, drinks you should try. One example is the Last Word—a forgotten classic until it was unearthed by Seattle bartending legend Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café. To the uninitiated, its bold and unusual flavor profile featuring both Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse can be a revelation. The fact that it is citrus-based makes it accessible, and if you are a self-proclaimed gin hater, it is a drink that can definitely open your mind to the wonderful possibilities that a good craft cocktail can offer. Don't feel like you need to make the Last Word before you try today's feature, but if you haven't had the pleasure you are certainly missing out. Knowing one drink can also serve as a convenient benchmark for judging another.

As good as

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Cold Brew & Tonic

Normally, we don't reach for tonic when we want a cocktail. The old G&T may be a popular choice, but we think it's because people don't know what else to make with gin. It's a shame because many of the best classic cocktails call for gin—not vodka—not only because vodka was unknown in the pre-prohibition era, but because gin brings something extra to a cocktail that simply isn't there otherwise—and we don't mean juniper. It may be a requirement in gin, but not all brands choose to emphasize juniper flavor, allowing other botanicals, citrus and even spice to play the center role. Yet, even with strong, piney examples, gin is transformed by other ingredients in a way that can be hard to explain to people who think they are gin-averse. But tasting is believing.

On a recent trip to Minnesota to visit some of our former haunts, we happened

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Otoño Cocktail

Some years ago, we received a gift from a family member living in Spain. Pacharán (or Patxaran) is a sloe berry and anise flavored liqueur from the Navarre community of northern Spain. Dating back to the middle ages, homemade pacharán recipes are still followed today similar to several Italian traditions (like nocino and limoncello). To make pacharán, sloe berries from the blackthorn tree are soaked in anisette along with a few coffee beans and cinnamon. After a time, the solids are strained and the resulting liquid is bottled. Eventually, commercial brands became available. The oldest is Zoco, dating back to the 1950s using a family recipe from the early 1800s.

Similar to Sloe Gin, Pacharán Navarro production is regulated to contain no color or flavor additives, yet it boasts a deep reddish hue and an intense berry flavor alongside the expected hint of anise. While it is

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