Recipe from Western Living Magazine
Please enjoy this recipe for Grapefruit Campari Bitters. I've become a big fan of bitters lately -- they are easily found in any grocery store, but why buy a ready-made bottle when you can make your life much more complicated and DIY your own? The actual way to make bitters is to extract the flavors from dried roots/herbs/fruits/etc. by soaking them in some sort of liquor. Vodka seems to be the most popular, according to the (minimal) research I've done online. Then, once you've extracted all of your individual flavors, you mix them together to make something more complex and delicious, and then you add tiny amounts of them to cocktails, or sparkling water or whatever you like. There is a much more in-depth explanation at Adventures in Cooking (also, amazing photographs!).
Bitters have become important in my life lately, so I'm building myself a little collection, and and I am really excited to get all the tiny mason jars and labels and eye-dropper bottles and herbs and whatnot to make my own. But that's later, and ain't nobody got time for that today, so above is a quick/dirty method for making grapefruit Campari bitters. Which sounds delicious, let's all go make some.* But first, a story:
The reason I've come to love bitters so much is because, 32 days ago, I quit drinking. And sometimes a girl needs to have something that feels like a cocktail.
I'll give you a minute to compose yourselves.
Now, y'all know I love a drink. I'm from the South. I'm from LOUISIANA, for God's sake, where our definition of binge drinking is not the same as your definition of binge drinking. We can and will turn anything into a celebration: LSU games, Mardi Gras parades, a crawfish boil, Wednesday morning. And much of my identity for at least as long as I've been writing on this site is tied up with that kind of celebrating. I serve champagne ALL DAY at my design camps. It's supposed to be fun! What makes everything funner? Booze!
But there comes a time where, somewhere, your body crosses a line. Where drinking isn't fun anymore -- it's maintenance. Not the kind where you hide bottles of vodka in your car or go all Meg Ryan in When A Man Loves A Woman -- it's much more subtle, like, "Now cocktail hour starts at four." "Now cocktail hour starts at three." "Why have one glass of wine with dinner when six is better?" It's all about numbing pain : the anesthetization of a bad week; a bad day; hell, a bad hour. It's not affecting your day-to-day life, or your job, or your family, right? (PS, these are all lies.) That shit creeps up on you.
Anyway. A few months ago I read Drinking: A Love Story, by the inimitable and much-missed Caroline Knapp, and saw myself in so many of the passages: the romanticizing of a glass of white wine hit me hard, for example. During some parts of the book, I was so ashamed and embarrassed at the self-recognition that I almost had to stop reading. And I realized that I didn't just love drinking -- I was IN LOVE with drinking.
I. It happened this way: I fell in love and then, because the love was ruining everything I cared about, I had to fall out.
II. I drank. I drank Fumé Blanc at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and I drank double shots of Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks at a dingy Chinese restaurant across the street from my office, and I drank at home. For a long time I drank expensive red wine, and I learned to appreciate the subtle differences between a silky Merlot and a tart Cabernet Sauvignon and a soft, earthy Beaucastel from the south of France, but I never really cared about those nuances because, honestly, they were beside the point. ... I drank when I was happy and I drank when I was anxious and I drank when I was bored and I drank when I was depressed, which was often.
The funniest thing about this is that every single one of my friends were like, "GOD, FINALLY." Girl, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was all, "Whaaaa?" As if they didn't know. That's one of the dumbest things about drunks -- they think they're so damn smart. My friend George said, "The only thing standing between you and conquering the entire world is that bottle." THAT IS SOME HEAVY SHIT, MAN.
So, it's been 32 days. I am still working through all the feels, of course, but I already feel like a different person. I feel like a person who is present in her own life, after a long time of doing the opposite. I have an amazing support system, including my friends, family, and some perfect strangers who have become devoted pals. And for those people, I am so grateful.
I don't know what the future holds for me and alcohol. I don't know that I'll never have a drink again. But I certainly won't have one today, and that is what counts right now.
*I find it very funny that bitters, which are allegedly non-alcoholic, are made with such vast quantities of booze. Way to get off on a technicality, bitters.
PS. If anyone has any favorite boozeless bevs ideas, I'm all ears. A girl can only drink so much iced coffee.