Well hello there bee fans! Not much has been happening in the apiary today. I got stung again – a few zaps when I triggered a huge attack changing the feeder ( hungry bees get a bit tetchy) and a morning surprise from a bee that was hiding in my jacket ready for my cycle to work, roll the counter on to 45!
I would dearly like to brew but I’m at an impasse – with all this enthusiastic liquor production I’ve actually run out of available brewing vessels.
What can I do to fulfil my desire to produce more hive themed drinkies?
I need to try something smaller scale, refined. A more elegant beverage for a more civilised age. In fact something downright poncey.
They may be neglected as a food but there are a lot of hawthorn berries around here and they’re little effort to pick. They also happen to taste good if you chuck them in vodka for a couple of weeks and add a bit of honey. It’s lightly bitter-sweet and a bit sharp – worth a go if you like your sloe gin but that’s not where this story ends.
I love a splash of Angostura in my gin and hipster bars all over the world are serving up their own variations on cocktail bitters. Can I be so snobby and stubborn as to try to make my own? Well it’s a terrible effort but yes, I can!
For the base of my bitters I’ve chosen Californian poppy petals with their vivid copper tones . They don’t taste much other than bitter so I’m adding grapefruit peel for aroma and further bitterness.
I want something heavy as a background to that and something to make this bee themed so I’m going to try propolis.
Propolis is bee glue, collected from buds, the weeping wounds of trees and basically anything sticky it’s brown, resinous and mildly antimicrobial. Bees use it pretty much as we use pollyfiller. People make claims about its magical health properties, it’s mostly unsubstantiated baldercrap, however it makes a good violin varnish and more usefully it dissolves in alcohol and smells of bees, honey and wood.
All these things are steeped separately in alcohol for a good number of weeks making tincture.
A big tip here, work at an establishment with a large number of continental students; befriend them. Sooner or later one of them will go home and if you ask nicely come back with a bottle of 95% Primasprit – rectified spirit for you. As a drink it’s a bloody stupid idea but it’s just what you need for this. Vodka will work, but doesn’t extract the flavour as much.
The tinctures get cautiously blended. Tasting neat bitters isn’t one of life’s great epicurean adventures, get ready to say ‘Akk’ and grimace a lot.
It doesn’t take long to work out what to use lots of ( poppy, grapefruit) and what you need to be really careful with ( propolis). A tiny hint of honey rounded it off and I got 250ml of beautiful florid bitters. In honour of the dog I’m calling them “Doctor Strangepaw’s Melancholy Bitters”
How could I resist a field test? – a double measure of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin stirred over ice, strained into a prechilled glass with eight drops of bitters dropped on the top. This stuff tasted so good I had to double check, twice, which is why I was a bit flakey at work this Monday.
Hey, Hayman’s! Send me a bottle and I’ll mention you in every blog.
Well it never hurts to ask…