A new use for orange bitters

For the past six months I’ve been putting in a lot more practice time on sleight of hand with cards, trying to get back to the level of skill I possessed back in high school and early college. One thing I’ve noticed is that my hands have become drier since then, often making it harder to handle playing cards. My palm and fingertips don’t get the traction they need for some essential moves. This goes away to some extent with practice, but it’s still problematic.

Many years ago I bought a bottle of Chamberlain Golden Touch, a glycerin solution that works wonders for dry hands. Unlike oily lotions, it moisturizes without leaving a slick residue, imparting a slight tackiness to skin that makes card manipulation much easier. I’d barely used it until this year, but lately I’ve been wondering in the back of my mind where I will find more when it runs out.

Coincidentally, I recently picked up a few bottles of Fee Brothers bitters. Looking at the bottles, I noticed that glycerin is one of the primary ingredients (this may be why their orange bitters are sweeter than others). Bitters are great in cocktails, but would they also be good for skin? This afternoon I tested the idea with a couple drops of West Indies Orange.

Oh man, the cards handled like a dream. There’s one sleight in particular that I’ve struggled to get back. Even with an old deck I was suddenly performing it flawlessly. It’s amazing how much of a difference the bitters make. Even now, a couple hours later, I can still feel the difference. They work just as well as the Golden Touch, perhaps better. And while the Golden Touch smells somewhat medicinal, the bitters have a nice orange aroma. Plus they’re good in cocktails and available in well-stocked bars and liquor stores. Unless it turns out that the Golden Touch goes great in a Martini, I don’t think I’ll be buying any more of it.

(I realize this post is probably useless to everybody who reads this blog, but someday a magician with dry hands will find it on Google and thank me.)

Comments

  1. Presto McChappedhands says:

    Thanks!

  2. Zhubin says:

    OT, but the New Yorker has a (somewhat) interesting profile of Bob Barr’s Libertarian candidacy (If only because it’s always interesting when people shift their ideologies so late in life): http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/27/081027fa_fact_khatchadourian

    Don’t know if you’d read it yet.

  3. Barzelay says:

    Glycerin, like most sugar alcohols, is actually much less sweet than any of the sugars we’re used to. Anyway, the reason it works for your dry hands relief is probably the hygroscopic properties (unless it’s something specific to the bitters). Given that, rather than rubbing bitters on your hands (since bitters have a bunch of other crap in it), you can get various other highly hygroscopic humectants in purer form. For instance, sorbitol is available in most health food stores (which I’m sure are plentiful in Portland), as is maltitol (for diabetics and such), and sometimes even glycerol. They are available in syrups.

    Alternatively, you could just pee on your hands, since urea is apparently a good humectant.

  4. Jacob Grier says:

    Hey, good to know. Thanks for the tips. As for the sweetness, other brands of bitters don’t have other sugars at all, so my guess is glycerin is still what’s accounting for it.

    I’ll get back to you on the peeing on my hands thing, but I might have a hard time convincing people to pick a card if they knew how I prepped for the show.

  5. ellie says:

    Dry-handed magician problems! Fascinating!

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