Truffle Bitters: The Truffle Oil of Cocktails?
Rare Botanical Bitters Co.Truffe Amere Bitters
If you ask 10 food writers what their least favorite food is, about 8 of them will say "truffle oil." A few weeks ago, Amy Scattergood and I were discussing a theoretical top-10 list of ingredients chefs should never use again, and we decided 1-10 would all just say "truffle oil." Fake truffle flavoring is one of those things that's especially upsetting, because not only does it taste like a bad chemical version of the real thing, it's the flavor that almost everyone now associates with truffles. Even when chefs get real truffles they'll often pump up the flavor with truffle oil, so people don't complain that the truffle flavor isn't strong enough.
How could you make fake truffle flavor more annoying? Take it out of your eggs and put it into your mixed drink. I was horrified to see truffle bitters at this year's Tales of the Cocktail -- so horrified I naturally had to grab a sample, bring it home and make drinks with it.
The bitters smell strongly of soy, but with an undercurrent of cocoa. Straight, they taste of chocolate and dark cherry, but also of that illusive pungent earth funk that only comes from a truffle -- a real truffle, and not truffle oil.
These truffle bitters are made by Rare Botanical Bitters Co., and the Perigord black truffle version is the company's inaugural release. And after a little research I found that, unlike truffle oil, the bitters are actually made with real truffles. The kind I tried are made with Australian Perigord black truffles, and if held up to the light you can actually see slivers of truffles floating in the bitters. The company hopes to have their first batch of truffle bitters available to buy from their website by September, and the bitters will change seasonally. For instance, in the winter, a white Alba truffle version will be available. Price will vary depending on the cost and availability of the truffle and time of year, but bottles will start at around $50.
In a Manhattan, the truffle flavor is virtually undetectable, even when paired with the smoothest rye in my collection with very little vermouth and more bitters than should be put in anything. But I was able to detect an umami roundness and a very subtle musk. This means the bitters are not good for the equivalent of truffle cheese pizza in a glass, but they might actually be an interesting addition for bartenders who hate truffle oil.
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