Wednesday Beer Cocktails: The Bitter Imposter
Have you ever heard of something called the lupulin shift? As a person who does not spend very much time drinking bitter, hoppy beers like IPAs, I certainly had not. It’s a phrase that was coined back in 2005 by Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing to describe the tolerance that beer drinkers develop to the stinging taste of hops. In nature, bitterness represents poison and we are conditioned to avoid it. Yet this doesn’t seem to apply to the world of alcohol. Just ask the many Campari fans out there, or consider the question as to where the cocktail world would be without Angostura bitters. According to Cilurzo, even though we may find our first sip of an especially bitter IPA to be offensive, before long we’ll actually begin to crave more and more of the same flavor. We’ll begin to experience the lupulin shift. Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn happily pushes this tolerance threshold to its limits with its Resin double IPA. Coming in at a whopping IBU (International Bitterness Units) level of 103, Resin launches a serious assault on our taste buds right from the very first sip.
Recommended to me by my good friend Chris Countryman, with whom I’ve had many deep, soulful conversations about everything from Haruki Murakami’s themes of love and loss to hoppy beers, Sixpoint Resin was the perfect ingredient to replace the Angostura bitters in a Manhattan cocktail. Traditionally, Manhattans are made with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes of bitters, with the rye being the largest part of the drink. For this recipe, I kept the rye at 2 ounces and chose Standard Wormwood again partly because I’m obsessed with it, and partly because it’s distilled in Brooklyn. Once I’d made this choice, I decided to substitute Bonal Gentiane Quina for the sweet vermouth. It has a flavor profile of raisins and figs, giving it some nice sweetness, but it also has a distinct herbal streak that comes from gentian root, and bitterness that comes from cinchona bark. Are you thinking that I’m trying to impress you by throwing cocktail terms around?? I might be, but actually you know more about these two ingredients than you think you do. Gentian is what Suze is made from, and Cinchona bark gives us quinine, which is the very thing that makes tonic water taste the way it does. The Standard Wormwood and the Bonal combined beautifully with the Resin double IPA to make a magical Manhattan. It was rich and smooth, and very complex.
The Bonal is worth seeking out. If you’re local to the Philadelphia and South Jersey area, I would give Benash Liquor store in Cherry Hill a try. If it’s not available there, it’s in quite a few New York stores and can be ordered online. The Sixpoint Resin is fairly easy to find, but the Standard Wormwood is only available at the distillery or through the online distributors listed on their website. Who’s up for a road trip to Brooklyn with me?? Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
The Bitter Imposter
2 oz Standard Wormwood Rye whiskey
1 oz Bonal Gentiane Quina
1 oz Sixpoint Brewery Resin Double IPA
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe and garnish with an Amarena cherry and a grapefruit peel that you’ve expressed over the drink. Enjoy!