The Best Spiced Nuts We've Ever Had!  (Secret Ingredient:  Bitters)

Our friend in Brooklyn is OBSSESSED with bitters.  I didn’t even know what bitters were.  And yet this guy carries a bottle with him everywhere he goes.  He adds bitters to ginger ale, apple pie…really anything he wants to add some amazing spices to.  He said he first discovered them at a bar when he ordered a ginger ale (since he doesn’t drink).  His friend said, “You should really get ginger ale with bitters.”  He’s been a changed man ever since.  🙂  He even took a class on bitters at The Brooklyn Kitchen.

It was at that class that he learned how to make these nuts with bitters.  Oh my.  These nuts are so, so good.  He recently served them at a large party and every single person there was flipping out and wanting the recipe.  That’s how good these were.  They really are the best, most unique and flavorful spiced nuts I’ve ever had.

The Best Spiced Nuts We've Ever Had!  (Secret Ingredient:  Bitters)
So what are bitters?  They are herbal essences using aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and/or fruit.  They come in many different varieties and are often used to flavor drinks, but are also used to flavor all kinds of foods.  See the recipe for the nuts, below.  This recipe is going in the Kofoed recipe hall of fame…and for sure I’ll want to make these nuts for the holidays – maybe as gifts.  I’m also thinking a bottle of these bitters would make an amazing gift for anyone who geeks out over artisanal cooking of anything.
The Best Bottle of Bitters (great for a gift)
Makes 4 cups
4 cups unsalted raw nuts, preferably a mix of cashews, pecans, walnuts and almonds.
1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons unsalted melted butter  (or substitute coconut oil)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters (this is the secret ingredient nobody will guess)
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 to 1 Teaspoon Cayenne pepper (depending on desired heat)
1 1/2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon Coarse Sea Salt
Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
Spread nuts on a baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes, giving the pan a shake at the 5 minute mark.
While the nuts are toasting, combine the brown sugar, butter, bitters, honey, cayenne, cinnamon and rosemary in a large bowl. Add the warm nuts to the bowl and mix them to throughly coat. Add the sea salt in stages during the mixing. 
Let cool but they are best served warm. 
Fee Brothers Bitters Aromatic Bitters can be found at Union Market (in Brooklyn) for around $7 or on Amazon.  The bottle lasts a long time.  Bitters go great in Ginger Ale and Cream Soda.  I also have used it in apple cider, apple pie and apple Cinammon oatmeal to add a little kick.  Think of it as liquid spice.
A fun note:  Fee Brothers, in Rochester, NY, has been making bitters since 1864.  Our friend has tasted many, many different bitters but says the one above is the all time best one. 
Have you ever used or tasted bitters?  What do you use it for?  I know I could be one of the few that has never heard of it.  

(images by Lady Gouda)
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  1. Anonymous March 13, 2013 at 11:36 am - Reply

    We use bitters all the time in cocktails, but haven't cooked with them. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe for my next cocktail party!

    Just FYI, bitters are traditionally alcohol based. Fee Brothers isn't, but the most popular/bets known bitter, Angostura, is 90 proof, for example. Yes, you only use a tiny bit but for people who cannot have any alcohol at all, it's worth mentioning.

    Fee Brother's has the plus of no alcohol, but does get knocked for using artificial flavors and colors.

  2. RATCH March 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Never even heard of them… I love learning about something new! Thank you. 🙂

  3. Lauren March 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    How fun! I've heard of bitters, but always thought they were strictly for cocktails. I'm a huge fan of spiced nuts though, so will definitely want to give these a try.

  4. Lisette March 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    I would have never thought to put bitters on toasted nuts. Great idea!

  5. katilda March 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    This is all new to me! Never heard of such a thing. Must investigate.

  6. Elizabeth March 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    A non sequitur for this post, but Mara, have you ever considered going "paleo" to help with your endometriosis?

    I came across this, and I know that adopting a paleo lifestyle has helped many of my health problems immensely, and I immediately thought of you!

  7. A.Co March 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    I've only ever heard of using bitters in alcoholic beverages, so this is new!!

    Thanks for sharing, it excites me that sooo many people went NUTS over this recipe, I'll have to try it!! 😀

  8. SarahN March 13, 2013 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    So, as a not huge drinker, the staple in Australia is Lemon, Lime and Bitters (Lemonade, lime cordial and bitters – usually Angostura). Whilst it's alcoholic, overall the drink has negligible alcohol content. Love it to bits. I will try your nut recipe when I'm back to eating sugar.

  9. Shiloh Donkin March 14, 2013 at 12:17 am - Reply

    We threw a mocktail party for Andy's 31st birthday back in Brooklyn and Elizabeth told me about bitters. We didn't use them (always curious though) but Tyson was just getting into bitters when we moved to Seattle. I had one of his pies with bitters, it was fantastic, but all of Tyson's pies are amazing. Love that guy. I'll for sure have to try the nuts. On the first commenter, good to know that this particular kind of bitters isn't alcoholic, as it was my understanding that they all were. I imagine its just like using vanilla though, which is also just alcohol. We make our own, just vodka and vanilla beans, its amazing.

    • Anella July 4, 2016 at 12:23 am - Reply

      Would love to know your recipe for vanilla using vodka and vanilla beans.

  10. Miggy March 14, 2013 at 2:01 am - Reply

    One of my claims to fame was that I was a bartender while at BYU. I've never consumed alcohol myself, but I learned bar skills at the popular Los Hermanos where all their mixed drinks are non-alcholic. Then when another restaurant I worked for found out I had bar tending skills (a rarity in Provo if there ever was one) they had me back in the bar in no time. (Not the kind of bar where people pull up a seat and sit at–the kind of bar where servers come grab all drinks and desserts. Big difference.) Mostly I made non-alcholic drinks–brazilian lemonades, virgin daiquiris–but on occasion I had to mix up a mean long island ice tea or a caipirinha. The point to this long tale is that yes, on occasion I used bitters. But I really thought it was just for drinks…now I'm gonna need me some bitters and try this amazing recipe. That and I still want to order that mexican cookbook you guys talked about.

    Imagine how proud my mom was to tell her friends I was working my way through BYU as a bartender…good times.

  11. HDH. March 16, 2013 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Lemon, lime and bitters is my favorite thing about visiting family in Australia — we drink it every day! It's got alcohol in it, but it's hard to imagine how many drinks you'd have to consume to even get tipsy. It's the staple beverage for adults and children alike in our large LDS family. We've found it bottled here in the States at World Market (the Bundaberg brand is traditional Australian) but it's not nearly as good as having it mixed fresh in a restaurant. We keep a bottle of Angostura in the kitchen, though, just in case. 🙂

  12. JLH March 19, 2013 at 2:48 am - Reply

    Rhubarb bitters in San Pellegrino with a lemon is so good, you must try. Or Grapefruit bitters, or peach, ah, so many options.

  13. Anonymous March 23, 2013 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    I've tried Urban Moonshine's Organic Citric bitters. They have a whole line for medicinal purposes. I'll have to try it in San Pellegrino.

  14. Anonymous May 20, 2013 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    I bet he likes them if he doesn't drink. It has alcohol in it:
    A bitters is an alcoholic beverage flavored with herbal essences and has a bitter or bittersweet flavor. Numerous brands of bitters were formerly marketed as patent medicines, but are now considered to be digestifs rather than medicines. They commonly have an alcoholic strength of 45% ABV and are used as digestifs and as flavoring in cocktails.
    If you don't drink, you might want to avoid bitters. In many states you can only buy it in liquor stores.

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