Bogart’s Bitters: 2018 Non-spirit Cocktail Ingredient of the Year (if it was up to me)

I think the best analogy for radiants is salt with regards to cooking. If you analyzed a pot of chili, you’d find a pound of meat, pound of beans, pound of tomatoes, etc, and maybe a few grams of salt, way less than 1% of the total mass. Yet that salt, in the right amount, is what will make or break that chili. Too little and it tastes flat and dull, too much and it’s inedible. Also, salt on it’s own is not very appealing to eat. In common with salt, radiants with regards to scent:

  • are ideal at very small percentages compared to everything else in the blend.
  • don’t smell very good on their own. I think of them as a catalyst for other aromas.
  • become overwhelming and sickening at too high a concentration.

There are some literal radiant molecules, that @Bostonapothecary and others have described, and there are some ingredients I find to have ‘radiant’ effects, although I don’t know the exact molecule(s) that might be responsible. Orris, angelica, bay leaf, ambrette seed, black cumin, most animal-derived scent ingredients (musk, civet, ambergris) check all the boxes for radiant qualities.

I’ve been making a house bitters I actually call “Radiant Bitters” for my bar in Detroit, Castalia, for a few years. I’m working on sending a bottle to @Bostonapothecary for birectifier analysis, and I’ll paste the recipe here. Everything is equal parts by mass, macerated in 151-proof rum (Cane Run) for 2 months, then diluted to 75 proof and chill filtered.

Bittering Maceration
Burdock root, gentian root, cinchona bark, wormwood

Flavor Maceration
Coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fresh orange peel

Radiant Maceration
Orris root, angelica root, schisandra berry, bay leaf