Somewhere back in our vulnerable past, we relied on our detection of bitterness to avoid eating certain plants because they’re toxic. So what can explain the trend towards bitter in modern-day cocktails? Sales of bitter liqueurs such as Campari and Fernet Branca are way, way up – especially among the fashionable crowd in large metropolitan areas. Is the stylish set bent on destroying itself through the consumption of the very bitter roots we are predisposed to avoid? Are tragically hip hipsters really that tragic? Is the bitter cocktail some cruel form of natural selection? Or is there a certain beauty found in the forbidden?
A Bitter Cocktail
What about you? Do you like a bitter cocktail? It seems to be a very personal thing. In fact, there is scientific proof that not everyone perceives bitter in quite the same way. There’s a gene in our DNA that determines how we perceive bitter. All people have two copies of every gene, and how these bitter gene variants line up determines the genetically based differences in our bitter taste receptors (taste buds). This affects whether we perceive something as intensely bitter, somewhat bitter, or without taste. Which means, of the five tastes (bitter, salty, sour, sweet, umami) bitter may be the most complex.
As for me, I probably fall in the middle category. I’ve grown to love bitter flavors. But I realize they’re not for everybody. So the challenge in presenting a bitter cocktail on this blog is to try to judge just how bitter I can go and still create a drink that will get along with anyone.
Aperol Gin Summer Sour
Which is why I reached for Aperol.
Aperol can indeed get along with anyone. It’s got a hint bitterness, but only delicately so. This Italian liqueur has the complexity of orange peel yet it goes down easy. It’s easy on the eyes too – with a crimson hue that sparkles gold in the setting sun. Making this the perfect not so bitter bitter cocktail for those possibility-filled hours between work and dinner. GREG