Raiders of the Lost Cocktail Cabinet IV – Boker’s Bitters


Boker’s Bitters was founded by John G. Boker in 1928. Boker’s was at the height of its popularity in the 19th Century’s Golden Age of cocktails, a time when experts such as Jerry Thomas & Harry Johnson were making cocktail history.In fact many cocktail books of the era specifically called for “Boker’s Bitters (Genuine Only)” so it must have been hailed a very special product. Unfortunately Boker’s, like many other Bitters companies, fell fowl of the Volstead Act and American Prohibition. The Boker’s company was closed by the end of the 1920s.

In cocktail books, ancient & modern there are recipes for Boker’s Bitters but, as far as I know, there is only one commercial product available today; this is produced by Modern BonVivant Adam Elmegirab.

#1 East India Cocktail

[1 tsp Curacao, 1 tsp Pineapple Syrup, 3 Dashes of Boker’s Bitters, 2 Dashes Maraschino, 1 Wineglass of Brandy STIR]
This recipe came top out of a four-way tasting of different East India recipes, the comparisons can be found here
, this drink is sweet and spicy with a complex finish, courtesy of the Boker’s. Crisp and rather wonderful.

The East India Cocktail

#2 Artillery
[30ml Dry Gin, 15ml Sweet Vermouth 2D Boker’s Bitters: STIR – Lemon Twist]
Similar to the Sweet Martini but he Boker’s adds an extra fragrant bitter twang. This has a good balance of sweetness and is great for raising the appetite. 

#3 Japanese
[30ml Brandy, 10ml Orgeat Syrup, 2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters: STIR]
Delicious, the orgeat sweetens up the brandy, Boker’s adds a level of complexity. Really excellent, top notch.

#4 Moonshine Cocktail
[35ml Dry Gin, 10ml Dry Vermouth, 5ml Marashino, 2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters: STIR]
Martini-like with  added sweetness from the Marashino; the Boker’s Bitter bring-out and compliment the herbal notes of the vermouth. Overall not a bad drink but not that great either, need a little something to make it stand out.

#5 Nineteen
[20ml Dry Gin, 20ml Dry vermouth, 20ml Kirsch, 1/4 Tsp Sugar, 2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters,1 Dash Pastis: STIR]
Quite a dry and complex cocktail, unlike many other cocktails around. All the flavours *Dry Gin, Dry Vermouth, Dry Kirsch) tie together well, this is an excellent drink.

#6 Submarine Cocktail
[30ml Dry Gin, 10ml Dry vermouth, 10ml Dubonet, 2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters: STIR]
Similar to the Moonshine Cocktail in many ways but, for me, the Dubonet dominates and any subtleties of flavour from the dry vermouth and the Boker’s Bitters are lost.


The Improved Cocktail

#7 Improved Cocktail
[50ml Brandy, 2 dashes Boker’s Bitters, 3 dashes Sugar Syrup, 2 dashes Maraschino, 1 dash Absinthe: STIR]
Although it’s possible to use brandy, whisk(E)y or genever I use Mashale, South African Brandy. I think this is a pretty good drink with a colonial feel, I used Butterfly Absinthe which comes through very subtly. The complex herbal elements of the bitters balance out the sweetness of the sugar and the maraschino, which makes the drink well-balanced.

In Conclusion
I realised how much difference Boker’s Bitters can make last year and it was great to try it out in a few more drinks. It’s now become one of the staple four in my cabinet (Angostura, Orange & Peychauds being the others) and given the fact that it was so popular in day gone by, it’s great that it has been bought back from the dead.
*D = dashes

This entry was posted in Raiders of The Lost Cocktail Cabinet, Vintage Cocktails and tagged by DTS. Bookmark the permalink.

About DTS

partial to a martini? to a smoke-hazed gin joint & a perfect tipple poured with the style, swank & skill of a true aficionado? …then pull up your stool to the bar, prepare to stock up your cocktail cabinet & get ready to drink it all in as we introduce you to a stitch in times’ resident barman… David T. Smith is a drinks enthusiast currently residing in the U.K. a long-time fan of tasting & exploring various types of alcohol, he has a fascination for vintage spirits and cocktails, in particular their heritage & origins; this was strengthened last year when he presented a talk and accompanying monograph on the Martini. it was as a result of his research of this topic that he was introduced to drinks paraphernalia, & he is now the happy owner of a colourful collection of bottles, books, and gadgets from a wide range of eras… an avid believer in the validity and variety of personal opinion, particularly in the subjective area of tasting, he enjoys hosting tasting sessions for friends, constantly challenging them to find their own favourite tipple. in addition to all of this, he is also interested in economics, three-piece suits, board games & keeping alive the art of engaging in enjoyable conversation with a good glass of port whilst surrounded by pipe smoke… Thanks to Analiebe for writing this rather flattering blurb for me.

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