Rachel Maddow acknowledged tax day on Thursday night's show with "a salute to the bane" of April 15 with "a cocktail, and a really good story about cocktails."
The cocktails -- a champagne cocktail and a Manhattan, which both contain bitters (spoiler alert) -- are detailed below.
The "good story" about cocktails, as told by Maddow, is the infamous bitters shortage of aught-nine, which, according to Maddow and her guests last night, may finally be over (emphasis added):
The common denominator here is Angostura Bitters -- the label doesn't fit -- it's a whole long story. You can't actually have a cocktail without bitters. In fact the word cocktail at its core means booze, sugar, water, and bitters. That's what a cocktail was. And this cocktail could become a million other things, but really, bitters is core.
Back on St. Patrick's Day of this year, you might remember, I needed Angostura Bitters to make a cocktail that we made here on set called Ocean's Dram. Now, I keep my bar in Massachusetts, not here in New York, so our producers couldn't tap my personal supply of Angostura. They therefore called every liquor store in New York City to find a bottle and nobody had any for sale. We ended up having to bogart a bottle of bitters -- a really old bottle of bitters -- out of Tina's personal stash in Brooklyn, yet another reason to thank God for producer Tina.
But here's the question: why were there no bitters in all of Manhattan? Because for a very few bad months, starting like last September maybe, there was what at least felt like a worldwide Angostura Bitters shortage, and that led bars and distributors to ration what they had; it led the lucky few cocktail aficionados who could get their hands on some bitters to start hoarding their Angostura."
Maddow then said, "the shortage is apparently over, sort of," and she brought on two guests from Angostura -- Genevieve Jodhan and Giselle Laronde-West, Executive Manager of Export Sales and Business Development, and Communications Manager.
A portion of their conversation on bitters follows, emphasis added:
RACHEL MADDOW: What happened when we couldn't get bitters in this country for such a long time?
ANGOSTURA BITTERS: we had a problem with the supply of the bottles.
RM: The bottles, not the liquid.
AB: The bottles. At the same time the bottles were short, the demand for bottles was just rising, with cocktail drinkers everywhere....
RM: And so the bottles problem has been solved.
AB: It has been solved
RM: Was it solved through some dramatic cloak-and-dagger Superman means? Or just, got a new supplier.
ANB: Got a new supplier.
. . .
RM: People who are wondering what's in this little bottle that they've got in the back of their cabinet that they've never thought about before -- what's generally the most important thing to know about what's in this bottle?
AB: It's herbs and spices
RM: Okay, secret formula.
RM: People who still can't get bitters right now at their local liquor store right now, it's going to get better, the distribution is back in effect.
AB: Yes, yes, it will.
AB: I think this has done a great deal for us, actually understanding how much people really appreciate Angostura Bitters.
Angostura's declarations confirm an earlier report by the New York Post, as summarized by Eater:
A spokeswoman for the Angostura Bitters company tells the New York Post that the catastrophic shortage of the cocktail staple is near an end, blaming the whole problem on a dispute with the bottle maker. The company says a new bottle supplier from China is on board, and production is expected to be back on schedule by next month.
In honor of the imminent return of Angostura Bitters to our shores, and all shores, here are eight (8) cocktails that you should know, all relying on Angostura Bitters:
Ingredients 2 parts brandy or rye whiskey 1 dash Peychaud's bitters 1 dash of Angostura bitters 1 teaspoon sugar or simple syrup 1 teaspoon absinthe Preparation Rinse the inside of a small old fashioned glass with the absinthe and discard the excess. Stir all the other ingredients together gently in a cocktail shaker with ice, and strain into the absinthe-coated glass. -- Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em by Stanley Clisby Arthur, 1937.
Pink Gin is perhaps the simplest of all bitters cocktails, and also the preferred drink of Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, the book, and most Graham Greene novels.* Ingredients One part gin Dash of Angostura Bitters Preparation Chill the glass, then coat the inside with the Bitters. Add the gin very well chilled, garnish with a shave of lemon rind, and serve straight up. *Thanks to Andy Yaco-Mink for pointing this out to us. (Photo from Flickr: StuartWebster)
As transcribed from the live broadcast: Here's how you make a champagne cocktail. It's vewwy vewwy simple. Ingredients champagne flute sugar cube Angostura Bitters Preparation Soak the sugar cube in Angostura Bitters. Don't be afraid, it'll be fine. Depends sort of on the size of your sugar cube, but, there you go. So you do that, then you open your champagne. It's not fdiiffcult at all. One, two, three, four, five, fix -- always six turns on the little cage there. Remove the cage, open the bottle by twisting the bottle, not the cork, right? Hold it at an angle, so it doens't foam out the end, and you get lots of air in there and it's fine. And this is it: this is a champagne cocktail -- it's an Angostura-soaked sugar cube topped with champagne. Some people put a lemon twist on the top of their champagne cocktail, some people put in a dash of cognac. Those people are wrong. I'm sure they're nice people. Actually, probably not. They're probaly bad people -- ignore them.
Ingredients 4.0 cl. Bourbon, Scotch or Rye whiskey 1 sugar cube 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters 1 Splash Soda Water Preparation Place suger cube in old fashioned glass and saturate with bitter, as a dash of soda water. Muddle until dissolve. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add whisky. Garnish with orange slice, lemon twist and two maraschino cherries.
Ingredients 4.5 cl Scotch Whisky 2.5 cl Red Vermouth 1 Dash Angostura Bitter Preparation Pour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry. (Photo from Flickr: StuartWebster)
Ingredients 3 parts rye whiskey 1 part sweet vermouth 5 goodly dashes Angostura Bitters Preparation Mix 3 to 1 rye whiskey to sweet vermouth. Add a goodly 5 dashes of Angostura bitters. -- The Maddow Blog
"Into a small mixing-glass full of cracked ice place a few drops of Angostura bitters, two dashes of Orange bitters, one-third of a jigger of Picon and two-thirds of a jigger of French vermouth; stir briskly, strain into a cocktail-glass, squeeze a piece of lemon peel over the top and don't forget to ring up the money." -- Boothby, William "Cocktail". The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them, 1908. (Photo from Flickr: biskuit)
Ingredients 2 fl oz (8 parts) Pisco 1 fl oz (4 parts) Lime juice 3/4 fl oz (3 part) Simple syrup 1 Egg white 1 dash Bitters Preparation Shake hard or blend with ice and strain into old-fashioned glass, straight up, without ice. The bitters are an aromatic garnish topping the finished drink, put on top of pisco sour foam.
Ingredients 1 ounce Bourbon 1/2 ounce Cointreau 7 dashes Angostura Bitters 7 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters 5 ounces Champagne Orange Twist Garnish Preparation Pour Bourbon, Cointreau and bitters into a champagne flute. Stir. Add Champagne. Stir. Garnish with an orange Twist. (Photo from southernaccents.com)
Why we're here today. (Photo from Flickr: Annie Mole)
And here's the video of the entire "Maddow" segment: