The primary thing I learned about navigating an abstemious 5PM is that there are scant non-sweet options. I didn’t drink juice or soda before I went on the wagon, and I wasn’t about to start. I was grateful when I could find a non-alcoholic beer, but the majority of places don’t offer any. Servers are, of course, happy to ask the bartender to whip up something, but then we are back to juice.
Aside from a perfect meal at Del Posto where our charming steward said the bar could make me an NA gin and tonic–juniper berry syrup and tonic–I had to take matters into my own hands. My preferred cocktail over the past months has been seltzer and bitters–cherry or rhubarb ideally–served in a champagne flute. This also happens to be the first recipe listed in Brad Thomas Parsons’ 2011 book Bitters.
Parsons covers the history of this infused spirit–from elixir to cocktail flavoring–how to make your own, and drink and food recipes that employ them. I regularly use Angostura, orange, grapefruit, and rhubarb, but this only scratches the surface of what’s out there. I find creole bitters for a Manhattan and celery bitters for a martini very intriguing. While not an essential bar book, Parsons’ volume would make a fine gift for anyone who likes to experiment behind the bar. I received several copies for Christmas this year!