Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Bitter Elder

Here is a cocktail we first discovered years ago in the comments of a post on Paul Clarke’s Cocktail Chronicles. A lot has changed in the intervening time. Paul is now Executive Editor of our favorite magazine (so you know this is good source material) and Summit Sips made the big move to Portland, Oregon. Over the years, cocktail enthusiasm has grown alongside an explosion of great bars and distilleries. Yet, even with evolving tastes, a great drink never gets old, so we are revisiting this flavor combination with an improvement.

Nine years ago, we featured Paul’s Dunniette (done yet?) cocktail. It’s a delicious mixture of gin, elderflower, Aperol and lemon. Today, we are trying a variant, possibly developed even earlier by a commenter called AmateurHour. The Bitter Elder is the similar and possibly more assertive older relative.

Bitter Elder
by AmateurHour, commenter on Oh Go.sh and Cocktail Chronicles
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Given the fact that our own appreciation for bitter ingredients has evolved, we think this is the better cocktail. That said, we know not everyone is familiar enough with Campari to love it, but the flavor here is direct, if not also somewhat complex. There is no question this drink tastes like Ruby Red grapefruit—a description often given to the Jasmine cocktail. Here, the effect is inspired by the aroma and confirmed by the citrus while the Campari hits you with bitterness that is very akin to grapefruit. It is alchemy in a glass. The wonderful floral character of St-Germain is at least partially responsible, but let us not forget that this is a gin cocktail which always brings a brand of magic dependent on the gin used—something vodka never does.

And don’t think you are limited to the recipe as written. We have read plenty of reviews in favor of subbing Aperol 50/50 with Campari with good results. Cynar is another option, though we do think the three-quarters of an ounce of St-Germain is right for the Campari-lemon combo. So if you sub, you may need to adjust the liqueur. Some folks are tempted to hit the drink with cocktail bitters like Angostura or Peychaud’s, but reviewers have noted the destruction of balance with the drink taking on a medicinal character. Whatever you do, let us know in the comments what you think of this drink!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments