I’ll Drink to That!

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Summer gatherings might include cocktails and drinks on the deck or by the water while watching the sun set or the spectacular full moon rise. Drinks that make use of the garden bounty of high summer are particularly delicious and can be healthful, too. As mixologist Jules Aron reminds readers in the introduction to his new book, “Restorative cocktails were originally created in early pharmacies and apothecaries as early as the 16th century.” Two new books detail some of the interesting history of tinctures, bitters, elixirs, and tonics made with herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables and teach you how to recreate them at home.


Zen and Tonic: Savory and Fresh Cocktails for the Enlightened Drinker 
By Jules Aron
(Countryman Press, 2016)

Nutrition coach and mixologist Jules Aron has a new book offering instructions for creating delicious, nutritionally dense cocktails which use organic spirits, fresh produce, herbs, botanicals, and natural sweeteners–ingredients you can find in your own backyard or at your local farmers’ market. With more than 100 recipes combining fruit and vegetables to delicious effect, his cocktails have a healthful angle too. A mixture he calls “Glow, Baby, Glow” combines kale (more calcium per calorie than milk and more iron than beef), apples, melon (plentiful in the markets now), cucumber, lime, and gin. According to Aron, the libation “works to purify your skin from the inside out.” Aron also offers up interesting bits of trivia, like the fact that gin and tonic was first introduced by the British East India Company to prevent malaria among soldiers in India. If that’s not enough, you’ll also find recipes for simple syrups like Blueberry Lavender Syrup, Blackstrap Molasses Simple Syrup, and Raspberry Rose Syrup. Well-illustrated with full-color photographs.



Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters and Amari:
500 Bitters; 50 Amari; 123 Recipes for Cocktails, Food & Homemade Bitters

By Mark Bitterman
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015)

Food writer and bitters expert Mark Bitterman offers this excellent guide to bitters and cocktails, which discusses and decodes the burgeoning selection of bitters and amari now available. According to Bitterman: “Bitters are concentrated flavor extracts for seasoning. Amari are concentrated flavor extracts for drinking. That is the sole difference.” In his comprehensive volume you’ll find 123 recipes for making citrus, herbal, baking spice, aromatic, and many other bitters at home. Bitterman also offers excellent recipes for mixing drinks with bitters, as well as cooking with them. Sip a Sicilian Bitter Almond Sour or try one of the especially creative and delicious recipes like Fried Olive-Stuffed Olives with Bitter Lemon Olive Oil or the EEB staff favorite: Ethiopian Chicken with Preserved Lemon Relish, made with cardamom bitters. The final section includes a comprehensive field guide to 500 great bitters and 50 amari, together with tasting notes, profiles of important makers, and illustrative photography.

Find Mark Bitterman’s recipe for Ethiopian Chicken with Preserved Lemon Relish using cardamom bitters here.



Bitters, Beer, and Spirits Abound at Ledger’s

Ed Ledger gets help in the shop from his sons Nick (left) and Austin.

Ed Ledger gets help in the shop from his sons Nick (left) and Austin.

If you’d prefer to buy rather than prepare your own bitters or botanical spirits, follow area chefs and others in the know to Ledger’s Liquors, a family-owned business that has served the East Bay since 1935 on University Avenue in Berkeley. The spacious, well-stocked shop is currently operated by Ed and Susan Ledger, with assistance from their sons Austin and Nick. Ed Ledger is justifiably proud of carrying unique, harder-to-find libations. If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for among their extensive inventory (thousands of bottles), the owners are happy to try to track down something wonderful you sampled in another country. Stop by and explore their shelves of bitters, the fantastic beer selection (more than 999 in stock), over 100 different whiskeys, 90 different vodkas, lots of kosher wine, an intriguing supply of artisan and other sodas and mixers, glassware, and many other liquid delights. Try some of the selections from favorite East Bay producers like St. George Spirits, Hangar One California vodka from Alameda, the remarkable small-batch Botanica Spiritvs Gin, and seasonal liqueurs from Falcon Spirits Distillery in Richmond.

Ledger’s Liquors
1399 University Ave, Berkeley