The Bitter Housewife Is On a Mission to Help Home Bartenders

Portland's home bar heroine wants you to spice up your liquor cabinet—and shares her recipe for brandied cherries.

By Kelly Clarke September 16, 2014 Published in the October 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Genevieve Brazelton has two babies: a 6-pound, 15-ounce boy named Dylan; and a 25-liter stainless steel tank filled with bourbon, bits of bark, black walnut leaves, and dried Bing cherries marked “Aromatic Bitters.” Both keep her awake at night. 

Under the cheeky moniker “The Bitter Housewife,” Brazelton is on a mission to help home bartenders boost their ambitions. “I think of bitters as the spice rack for cocktails,” says the Corvallis-born restaurant and PR industry vet. “They can heighten certain flavors in booze and soften others. It’s like seasoning a soup.”

Local bartenders have been toying with their own arcane tinctures for years, and N Mississippi Avenue’s foodie boutique the Meadow stocks bitters in flavors from celery to Aztec chocolate. But Brazelton’s distinctly homey formulations are the first locally made bottled bitters available for sale. Less concentrated and, well, less bitter than mass-produced brands like Angostura, her spice cake–like blend of 15 ingredients—including fresh ginger, walnuts, nutmeg, and allspice sharpened with fruity Grains of Paradise peppercorns, barnyardy quassia chips, and acerbic gentian root—lend a lingering warmth and a satisfying depth to cold-weather quaffs. 

The Bitter Housewife Old-Fashioned

Muddle 1 tsp Bitter Housewife aromatic bitters* and 1 tsp sugar with an orange wedge and a brandied cherry (see recipe below) in an old-fashioned glass. Add 1½ oz Eastside Distilling’s Burnside Bourbon and a generous splash of soda water to taste. Add ice, stir, and enjoy.

*Purchase Brazelton’s bitters at New Seasons or her website.

The Bitter Housewife’s Brandied Cherries

Recipe adapted from Imbibe magazine

1 pound Bing cherries, washed and pitted (I've tried Rainier, but like Bing the best)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup brandy
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

For immediate gratification and short term storage: In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cherries and brandy and bring to a rolling boil. When sugar is dissolved, reduce heat to medium. Add cherries and simmer for 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat, add the brandy and let cool. Transfer cherries and liquid into clean jars and refrigerate, uncovered until cherries are cool to touch. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to two weeks. 

Want enough cherries to last the whole year? Double or triple the recipe and follow these directions: Wash and pit the cherries and pack in sterilized 5–8 oz glass canning jars. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cherries and brandy and bring to a rolling boil. When sugar is dissolved remove from heat and add brandy. Pour hot liquid into jars packed with cherries, put on the lids and gently place in a large stockpot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove, let cool, and check that each jar sealed. They will stay good at least a year, but never seem to last that long. 

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