I’ve known Simon Lange, chef at Apartment 138 (138 Smith Street in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn), since he played high school soccer with my kid brother in Key West. When I first was getting interested in bitters a couple years ago, we took a road trip to Maine for another kid brother’s wedding. In our friends Mark & Nan’s rental mini-van we caravaned from Manhattan to Northern Maine. I was packing a small kit of bitters-Angostura, Fee Brother’s Rhubarb and the very rare, not-even-supposed-to-exist Beefeater 24 Bitters. (Note to fellow bitters makers (and self): more gin-based bitters.). A half gallon of Sprite was transformed into Spitters with the addition of some Angostura, and we were sure we were onto something. At a Friendly’s in Northern Connecticut we all really went for it on the milkshake front, and Simon and I added bitters to ours. I think we wound up with a blend of Ango and Fee’s Rhubarb, and it was pretty damn exciting.
Flash forward 4 years, and Simon’s put together a rather more complex version of that bitters shake. Simon was further experimenting with ice cream and bitters while cheffing at Apartment 138 while Mark & I were first developing our bitters, and I’d pass on some tests for shake experiments. But it was when I got my first good whiff of the Black Mission Figs that had been soaking in a bitters base for 10 days that I thought to use the actual botanical-in this case the figs-with ice cream. I packed a mason jar with a few super-saturated figs in a mason jar and took them to Simon. A few weeks later I stopped by and he’d come up with the fig shake and put it on the menu. He’d mixed some honey chestnut Il Laboratorio di Gelato, about 3 oz Old Forrester’s Rye and one hyper-bittered fig in a blender. A graham cracker from One Girl Cookies rests as a garnish on the lip of a pint glass. Best shared, probably, as two sips in you immediately start to enter a luxurious fat, sugar, fig, bitters & Rye comaphoria. “And it all started on that trip,” Simon reflected when I stopped by to shoot some photos of the beast.
Tags: apartment 138, bitters, black mission fig, cooking with bitters