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Janel Johnson

Bitters Recipe Book
Download our cocktail bitters recipe book here...
The science behind your cocktails: Calculating ABV

Have you ever blended a batch of bitters using a bitters kit and wondered about its final Alcohol By Volume (ABV)? Or wanted to dilute to a specific ABV but weren’t sure how much water to add? Is freshman algebra a hazy memory of “solve for x?” Here are the formulas you’ll need to calculate the alcohol content in your cocktails.

The History of Spices
Today we take many spices for granted: pepper shakers on every table, that dusty bottle of cloves you pull out at Christmas, a splash of vanilla in everything from cookies to pudding. Five hundred years ago, things were much different, spices took a long journey passing through many hands to reach consumers. Many spices only grow in tropical countries such as India and Mexico, which are along way from the markets in Europe. The spice trade fueled wars, genocide, slavery, and European colonization of the globe.To learn more about how these seemingly simple ingredients changed the world, visit o..
Orange Spice Bitters Recipe
Orange Spice is one of our most popular bitters recipes, and with good reason.  This flavor is very versatile and can pair with many types of drinks from citrus to coffee. The ginger, cloves, star anise, and caraway give this recipes a complex, warm, spicy flavor while the horehound lends a minty bitterness. While dried sweet orange can be used, the combination of dried bitter orange and fresh sweet orange gives the most complete citrus flavor.Ingredients:4 tablespoons dried bitter (AKA: sour, Seville) orange peel, dried4 teaspoons dried horehound 2 teaspoons Oregon grape 2 teaspoons cara..
Grown Up Slushies
After a tasting event we had some left over ginger ale and sarsaparilla syrups from our homemade soda kits and lots of ice so we decided to get creative and turn those leftovers into fun summer cocktails. Serve in an insulated glass to keep your slushie cool on a hot day and a word of warning, don't use metal straws for these blended drinks unless you want to re-enact the flagpole scene from "A Christmas Story."Ginger Bourbon Slushie1.5 cups ice cubes1 ounce ginger ale syrup2 oz bourbonBlend until smooth and serve.- Peachy Ginger Bourbon Slushie: Use 1 cup frozen peach slices and 1/2 cup ice.R..
Cinchonism: too much of a good thing
The primary active compound in Cinchona bark is quinine, an alkaloid that treats and prevents malaria infections.  Cinchona also contains several other related compounds: quinidine, cinchonine, cinchonidine, dihydroquinidine, and dihydroquinine, which are used to treat cardiac arrhythmia and as precursors in making other drugs. While cinchona extract and purified quinine is safe for adults in low doses, consuming too much too quickly can result in an overdose called cinchonism.  The first sign of a quinine overdose is tinnitus (ringing in the ears), followed by headache, nausea, and ..
Restoring yellowed artwork with Corel Draw
I'm a big fan of the old style of botanical illustration. Sadly, many of the older botanical illustrations were painted or printed on paper that has yellowed or discolored in some fashion, muddying the colors of the original illustration. With a lot of tinkering, I've come up with a method to remove the yellow color from scanned images while preserving the original colors. I started with images from Franz Eugen Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, downloaded from When I first started trying to restore the color in these images, I adjusted the hue, white balance, contrast, etc, b..
I am often asked how long will our spices last and it varies from a few months to several years.  The shelf life of spices is determined by four main factors: volatility, temperature, surface area, and storage containers, all of which influence the interaction between spices and air. Many spices get their flavor from volatile compounds that will eventually evaporate. Many of the bitter herbs on the other hand get their flavor from alkaloids that are not volatile and they retain their flavor much longer. The more volatile the flavor compounds are, the more quickly their flavor will fade if..
General use, care, and how to open a stuck stopper.Many of our kits include reagent bottles for steeping and storing bitters. This type of bottle has been used to store chemicals for at least 150 years, though the idea for the ground glass stopper dates back to the late 1700s. The combination of glass bottle and stopper makes the container very resistant to chemical corrosion with a few exceptions. Very strong alkali should not be stored in these bottles because the alkali can cause the stopper to corrode and fuse to the neck of the bottle. Also, hydrofluoric acid should never ..
Who was Ira Remsen?
Ira Remsen grew up in New York and graduated from the Columbia University College of Physicians before going to Germany to study chemistry.  During his years in Germany, he learned the value of observation and experimentation in teaching chemistry. When he returned to America to teach chemistry, he was appalled at the lack of laboratory instruction and the inadequacy of the available textbooks.Remsen wrote a new textbook, “Theoretical Chemistry,” and translated important German works to English,as well as publishing papers on the results of his own lab work.  This attracted the atten..
Toasted Tiki Buttered Rum
Reese and I have been working on developing a tiki kit that will soon be available exclusively through UncommonGoods. We've been making plenty of great tiki drinks to test our recipes but with the cold, wet weather this week we were in the mood something a little warmer than the usual frosty tiki drink. I've developed a variation on my favorite hot buttered rum recipe that takes advantage of the bottles of tiki mixers in our bar. Toasting the butter gives the drink a rich flavor reminiscent of molasses cookies.Toasted Tiki Buttered RumHeat in a small saucepan over medium heat:1 tablespoon unsa..
Hibiscus Grenadine Recipe
If you've never had homemade grenadine, you're in for a treat. Unlike the commercial stuff, which is little more than corn syrup and food coloring, this homemade grenadine uses real pomegranates and dried hibiscus flowers. If you can't buy fresh pomegranates, bottled not-from-concentrate juice (such as POM) can be substituted. The hibiscus and pomegranate juice give this grenadine and deep, garnet red that will give any drink a brilliant crimson hue.Hibiscus "flowers" are actually the fleshy red calyx that remains after the petals fall off. The fruit with its fuzzy black seeds is usually remov..
zest from 3 limes zest from 3 lemons zest from one grapefruit 1 cup sugar 3 cups water 1 1/2 tablespoons cinchona bark 1 teaspoon gentian root 1 1/2 tablespoons citric acid 2/3 cup chopped lemongrass 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 2-3 cups rich simple syrup or other sweetener equivalent.Optional spices: 6 juniper berries 4 whole cardamom pods 6 whole allspice berries 2 teaspoons lavender 1 piece star anise 1/2 teaspoon quassia barkFor dry tonic, omit simple syrup and reduce citric acid to 1 teaspoon.Stir zest and sugar together, let sit, covered, overnight. In a saucepan, bring all ingredients excep..
More Tiki Recipes
Additional recipes for the Tiki Mixers Kit. Pimento (Allspice) Dram:12 oz rum1/3 cup allspice berriesSteep allspice berries in rum for 10 to 15 days. Strain and sweeten with brown sugar simple syrup (1.5 cups sugar to 1 cup hot water)  Cinnamon and vanilla syrups:1.5 tablespoons cinnamon chipsOR2 vanilla beans 1 cup water1 cup sugar Place cinnamon or vanilla in a small saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for two minutes; stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for two hours. Strain out the cinnamon or vanil..
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