Featured

Introduction Notes

009

Hello,

Welcome to the Bitters Hub !

The main purpose and content of this blog is for location and purchasing information in regards to bitters, basically the where and what of market availability. There’s hundreds of interesting flavors produced by a lot of great brands. I don’t sell bitters here. I just show you where to buy them. This site is the first of its kind on the Internet.

Since the launch of the Bitters Hub online global directory in late 2017, thousands of viewers from 34 countries so far have visited, learned and purchased more of what is now available in today’s bitters world. Those countries include Austria, Czech Republic, Greece, Malaysia, Mexico, Venezuela, France, Netherlands, Columbia, Cayman Islands, Brazil, Philippines, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Singapore, Spain, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Germany, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, China, Indonesia, Poland, Switzerland, French Polynesia, Haiti, Argentina, Canada and the U.S., so it’s slowly gaining further reach.

There is no descriptive information next to each flavor of bitters. If I were to add all of that in, it would be overwhelming on the page and only a small percentage of people would actually take the time for all of that extra reading. In my opinion, the best thing to do when you find an interest in certain brands and their flavor profiles, is to go directly to the brand website and read up on the descriptive content they provide for each of their flavors. They are the creators of the product, so they know better than anyone.

Not all of the flavors in the A – Z listing will always be available. Most bitters are small batch, so at times certain flavors may be temporarily out of stock, while other flavors may be of seasonal or limited release quantities of say 150 bottles, yet others may be in development or retired. Every brand is different in how they go about crafting their product, how much of it, the variety of flavors, product line, inventory, packaging, distribution and so on. To be aware of exactly when a favored flavor will become available again, get to know the owners and producers and get on their mailing list if they have one.

I will only list the main online sources of where to purchase the bitters – the brand website if they sell direct, and the main country hub website (United States, Canada, Europe, Australia/New Zealand) where you can purchase many different brands and flavors all under one roof. Many times they can offer discounts and/or free shipping on orders over a certain $$ amount.

If you want to know the various stores and shops where bitters brands are being sold, in case they happen to be in or near the area where you live and can just simply drive over and support your community retailer, or the bars and restaurants where they are being used behind the bar, again it is best to go directly to the brand websites for that current information, as they usually have a store locator link on their site that lists all of that, as it changes and updates often.

I will keep with updating as frequent as needed, usually occurring when I come across or hear about new brands and/or flavors, and if the brand owner contacts me of anything new as well. Also, if you hear or know of any bitters that I have not yet listed in the A – Z, please feel free to drop me a line through the Contact section above, the Reply section below, or you can Email me at kyle@barprofessional.com

I also conduct monthly interviews with brand owners, that started with the October 2017 debut post to delve deeper, as a Bitters Profile, into the world of what we all want to know more about. There are currently around 20 interviews posted in the series so far.

A quick mention in regards to Amazon. They do sell several brands of bitters. Some are a good price, and some are not, mainly because Amazon charges a 55% purchase discount with vendors, which means that Amazon makes more profit on the product than the provider. Therefore, even though I’ve listed Amazon as a way to buy certain brands of bitters a few times in the A – Z, my tendency is to support the brands as much as possible by listing more direct routes and hubs to purchase from as a way to keep them alive. I can only hope that you’ll consider doing the same.

This community of apothecary-like brands and the artisans behind them, needs more of the recognition and support that they deserve, to not only stay in business, but to grow and thrive as a continued market benefit to all of us interested.

Enjoy your stay and browse the A – Z as long as you’d like . . . and the Interviews are cool reads too.

To go to the Bitters A – Z listing, simply scroll back up, look to the right column under Archives, and click-on the very bottom one where it says September 2017.

To go to the monthly bitters brand owner Interviews, simply scroll back up, look to the right column under Archives, and click-on any of the months following September 2017 – October, November, December of 2017 and so on into the 2018 and 2019 months listed. These are where all of the monthly interviews are located.

This site is simple in its complexity.

Three sections > Introduction Notes (here), Bitters A – Z, and the monthly Interviews.

That’s it !

Cheers !

Kyle Branche

Drunken Crane 2

 

Advertisements

Interview – with Kylan Liesy of Messina Bitters – Portland, OR

44070881_1930392953696056_6040800845317013504_o

 

Flavors Produced to Date

CBD-Infused Aromatic ~ CBD-Infused Grapefruit ~ CBD-Infused Orange Blossom

Retired – CBD-Infused Cardamom ~ CBD-Infused Coco

Founded – 2015

15585056_1190153054386720_1793692424294464881_o

Bitters Hub – What was it that motivated you to get started in the world of bitters production?

Kylan Liesy – I’ve always been fascinated and enjoyed bitters, Angostura bitters was always the go to whether a cocktail or  a little hangover cure in some tonic water, a trick shown to me by an Irish bartender friend. In regards to the CBD aspect we wanted to do something different and bringing together two elements of products that have historically been used for medicinal benefits. We saw a lot of synergy in this approach and seeing a booming interest in CBD market reinforced or thoughts around this.

BH – What experience do you have in the culinary field, or another field of study, that gave inspiration to delve into the now-popular craft of bitters products? Have you worked in a bar or restaurant before?

KL – One of our partners Phil Boyle from Ireland has worked in bars from the age of 12 always a big advocate for bitters. Being in Oregon is a unique place to be a craft centric market and consumer, if we found a place in the market here we felt it would translate into other markets.

BH – Are you from Portland originally?  If not, how did you end up in Portland?

KL – I’m originally from Portland, a rare breed at this stage, my other partners, John and Phil are both from Ireland.

18595490_1350020501733307_188634878081171859_o

BH – How is the supply and demand going so far with your bitters, and what could be improved, if anything, knowing that bitters is for the most part, a small-batch artisanal endeavor?

KL – We have received great feedback on the product. We felt it key, to position partnerships with people in both the Cannabis space and alcohol space. Educating the consumers, bartenders and sellers alike. Like any business improvements will always be made to improve, we take pride in what we do but also understand we don’t know everything so our own education is also a key factor.

BH – Managers of restaurants, owners of bars, and hotel F & B directors. How do we open them up to our amazing world of bitters and their usage behind the bar, so bartenders eager to experiment (for the betterment of the establishment) don’t have to face such an uphill battle with gaining easier acceptance bringing them in?

KL – Normalization! Educating them on what is bitters, what is CBD, giving them the tools to play and use the products in an everyday scenario. When we give them this education and confidence using the CBD bitters they themselves will become advocates of this product.

BH – How do you go about handling the various tasks of the job description when it comes to getting things done so it all comes together?  Do you have help?

KL – Working as a team. We all have our day jobs. Carving out time from our work and personal lives to make the time to do our project can be difficult. We also see our family as partners who help give us the time and support to continue on this venture. We create a central database of products, processes, inventory and tasks we all have access to and assign tasks, we all have our strengths and we try to play to them.

18595609_1350001505068540_8572780864306402152_o

BH – What is it like and what do you see from your perspective hanging out in your city/community in regards to support with your various products?

KL –  Portland is incredible melting pot of new emerging products industries and discerning consumer from people all across the country as well as a great supportive community, We have enjoyed working with people in our industry and other industries, on how best to not only get out to our customers but different consumer segments. Being a CBD infused bitters, we are seeing an overlapping of interested customers, from alcohol, Cannabis and Wellness.

BH – Do you sell from your online website? I noticed prices next to your products, but no Cart or anything. And what’s your situation with getting your brand selling outside of Oregon, or do you just prefer to remain local?

KL – Our main focus at the moment is our local market, working with local partners from local retailers, liquor stores and farmers markets. We will be rolling out an online platform to get our product out to a more wide reaching market.

BH – What is the facility like in which you create your bitters?

KL – We work a local community kitchen that works great for us.

16665134_1242437355824956_3319022856402900276_o

BH – Are the legal requirements and approvals strict and/or lengthy for producing bitters in Multnomah County?  Do you need some special license, how does that all go for you?

KL – We closely with our regulatory partners and DOA to ensure our product met all the requirements. We can speak to difficulty in comparison to other counties or states.

BH – Being closely related to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is it therefore also high-inducing or no?

KL – Our products have no THC, the intoxicating element from Cannabis.

BH – Is all of your bottling and labeling done in-house?

KL – Yes we do all our own bottling and labeling. Usually a great time for us to converse and discuss plans and enjoy this part.

17835220_1299676080101083_3986090548523950702_o

BH – How do you decide on which bottles and tops to use when it comes to eyedroppers, atomizers, dasher tops, woozy, Boston round, flask-style etc?

KL – We went with classic brown Boston round. For our 4 oz bottles typically geared to bars and the more consistent user while using droppers for our variety pack of 3 flavors of .5 oz

BH – How did you determine the best bottle sizes to use?

KL – Looking at the market and talking to people in the industry and consumers.

BH – I like your label design with the use of the amber-colored bottles. Who’s in charge of the design creation and does it represent anything in particular? And what does “The Virgin” mean on your label?

KL – We no longer carry the Virgin line a non-Cannabis version. The label represents simplicity, good branding on front and contrasts the brown bottles nicely.

16177693_1230598333675525_6713708916120901539_o

BH – What were the deciding factors in your flavor choices of bitters to produce?

KL –   We went with Grapefruit, Orange Blossom and Aromatic to give people the best options on usability. Classic plays well, Grapefruit delightful in a margarita, IPA, Orange Blossom for Old Fashioned, Mimosa or Champagne and Aromatic to play on the original plays seen for the classic cocktail approach but to be also approachable to just be added to any soda or tonic with a wedge and enjoy.

BH – Do you still host the pop-up dinners in Portland? How long did you do that? There was a lot of that happening here in L.A. for a while to the point where there was an article in a local online publication about it, even though it’s not supposed to get coverage quite like that.

KL – We love to work with pop up events usually a showcase of a new concept or business. We recently paired up with Coalition Brewing based in Portland who are pioneering CBD beer in the nation! We partnered on a CBD infused Beer pairing dinner.

BH – Kylan, thank you so much for taking the time with this insightful interview into your bitters world. I’m sure the visitors/buyers here on Bitters Hub will appreciate you sharing your knowledge on how things go in creating Messina Bitters and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task master of your own brand. Cheers!

KL – You’re welcome, and thank you for including us in your interview series.

Website – http://www.messinabitters.com

17388847_1279847982083893_1872733985549156870_o

18620985_1350016035067087_5051297327244477389_o

Interview – with Katie Schneberg and Anthony Martino of Bear Root – Jackson Hole, WY

56862435_2272515572967137_3435927859175096320_n

Flavors Produced to Date

Old Fashioned Aromatic ~ Lemon Y Snicket ~ Black Cherry ~ Cacao Coffee ~ Habanero Ginger ~ Orange ~ Teton Lavender

They also have a mini 5-bottle sample pack

Founded – 2018

BittersPicKatieOnTablesaw

Katie

Bitters Hub – What was it that motivated you to get started in the world of bitters production?

Katie Schneberg – The birth of Bear Root Bitters was unexpectedly organic. I had been wildcrafting bitter gentian and angelica roots from the Teton area for a while. One Christmas I was planning on selling bitters for our community at a local fair. Anthony was excited about the idea, and wanted to make the label and help me perfect the recipes so they tastes good while maintaining the medicinal benefits. It was received really well in our community and basically just grew from there.

BH – What experience do you have in the culinary field, or another field of study, that gave inspiration to delve into the now-popular craft of bitters products?

KS – Anthony has been crafting cocktails at home for years. The combination of his developed taste and my herbalism and wildcrafting experience made a great combination. A lot of people don’t know that cocktail bitters are digestive remedies as well, so it’s fun to share that.

BH – Where are you both originally from?

KS – Chicago suburbs. Neither of us have lived there since growing up though.

BH – Did you decide to settle in Jackson Hole, WY because of what you could gather with wildcrafting in the Tetons and Yellowstone, or near where you live in the Jackson area, as far as sourcing the ingredients needed to produce the flavors of bitters you had in mind for the Bear Root brand?

KS – We’re snowboarders and nature lovers. That’s why we moved to Jackson Hole. Bear Root Bitters came to us naturally. We incidentally fell in love with bitters making and loved the idea of incorporating herbalism and medicine with cocktail making.

Bear Root

BH – I love the write-up on your website about the Grizzly Bears and their behavior, and that you use many of the same roots and botanicals the bears use, as you say, to quote “to kick start their digestion after coming out of hibernation”. Can you talk about the special capabilities the Grizzlies have and what they hunger for in their more active months?

KS – Oh wow yes. Glad you asked this. Bears are natural herbalists and botanists. Native American people learned so much about food and medicine from the bears, and we can still learn so much from them. Bear also eat a lot less meat than I think most people realize. They bulk of their diet is from plants.

In the fall, bears find fiber rich barks to prepare for winter. They don’t defecate at all during this time. When they wake in spring, they search for bitter and carminative herbs to relax and promote natural digestion and gastric movement. Gentian and Angelica are some of the plants that they look for since they contain those properties. Upon waking from winter, they also eat a lot of animals that didn’t survive the winter.

Bears eat a lot of roots, and berries throughout the spring and summer months. Nuts, berries and moths in fall. They use plants for food and medicine. Like I said, humans have learned so much from bears about local foods and medicines. We can learn so much about the useful plants on our landscape by watching the behavior of bears.

37880783_10156445582109547_8791166102014001152_o

BH – How is the supply and demand going so far with your bitters, and what could be improved, if anything, knowing that bitters is for the most part, a small-batch artisanal endeavor?

KS – Yes, good question. We have had a lot of discussion about our wild crafting impact as we expand. Our company is growing really fast. Faster than we expected. In order to compensate for this, we started to support our bitter root use with organic roots grown on sustainable herb farms. We get a lot of our roots from Oshala Herb Farm and Pacific Botanicals.

The discussion of responsible wildcrafting is very deep and probably beyond the scope of this interview. In short, human interaction with natural plants is a sensitive but essential relationship. The plants benefit from a certain amount of human interaction, but exploitation or poaching of plants is extremely destructive. We prioritize maintaining healthy native plant population and ethical wildcrafting.

BH – Managers of restaurants, owners of bars, and hotel F & B directors. How do we open them up to our amazing world of bitters and their usage behind the bar, so bartenders eager to experiment (for the betterment of the establishment) don’t have to face such an uphill battle with gaining easier acceptance bringing them in?

KS – A lot of people don’t realize how much better the cocktail can be when high quality ingredients are used! I guess more bartenders need to try out good bitters and incorporate them into their bar.

BH – How do you go about handling the various tasks of the job description when it comes to getting things done so it all comes together?  Do you both have help?

KS – We have meetings every week and keep quality notes and calendars. I don’t know. We really love what we do, so it hasn’t been a struggle. I recently moved to Ashland, OR to do an extensive herbalism course, so now we’re both finding some local help.

BH – What is it like and what do you see from your perspective hanging out in your city/community in regards to support with your various products? And do you have pretty good reach so far with sales from your online presence?

KS – In both locations, people are really excited about having small batch, high quality bitters. Since we just expanded to having two locations, we haven’t spent as much time trying to increase our online sales. We still get multiple orders a week from people who have met us at markets and want to re-order.

46429133_2212863522321454_1199330644874756096_o

BH – What is the longest maceration for any of the bitters flavors you’ve produced to date?  Can you help us understand your production process?

KS – Our longest maceration is over a month. That is mostly for the bitter roots, fresh and wildcrafted. We percolate a portion of our botanicals because it extracts a better flavor. We basically tincture the bitter roots with a variety of organic botanicals, then add in different ratios of percolated botanicals, depending on which flavor we’re talking about.

BH – What is the facility like in which you create your bitters?

KS – It’s a regular commercial kitchen that we rent from a friend. Some other local companies use the same kitchen so sometimes we get to hang out with our neighbors. All in all, nothing to write home about on this account.

BH – Are the legal requirements and approvals strict and/or lengthy for producing bitters in Wyoming?  Do you need some special license and/or certification, how does that all go for you?

KS – Because the bitters are extracts and meant as an additive, we don’t need a liquor license. We work with the TTB and local government for some pretty standard permits. Originally, the business portion was a learning curve for us, because neither of us had a background in this. With a lot of help from the local college, and government agencies, we’ve got it all worked out and it’s not hard anymore.

BH – What are your storage and temperature necessities that you feel equate to the best results for your bitters?

KS – Dark and cool, but not freezing, areas. We make sure our bitters stay temperature stable, out of the sunlight and in the amber glass to maintain the best flavor.

36909264_2098687930349903_2498107181564428288_o

BH – Is all of your bottling and labeling done in-house?

KS – Yes

BH – How do you decide on which bottles and tops to use when it comes to eyedroppers, atomizers, dasher tops, woozy, Boston round, flask-style etc.?

KS – Boston rounds are standard and easy to find. The amber glass in to prevent UV damage. The dropper tops on the smaller sizes are preferred by home bartenders and medicinal bitters users. Our 4oz have orifice reducers, because working bartenders prefer this for a faster pour.

BH – How did you determine the best bottle sizes to use for your brand?

KS – At first we only sold 1oz, because we were making the bitters in quart size jars! After expanding and truly establishing a company, we ask people at market what they would prefer and also base our decisions on the data of what sells.

BH – I love your overall label design with the Grizzly at the center of it all, along with the main off white tan to go nicely with the amber bottles you use, and then followed by those side colors that I’m guessing somewhat match the color of the bitter flavors in the bottle?  It’s very attractive I must say!

KS – Thank you. Anthony is an amazing artist. I’m thankful to have him as a friend and business partner.

BH – What were the deciding factors in your flavor choices of bitters to produce?

KS – Ah, this was so hard! There are still so many flavors I want to bring into the line. Again, we asked people what they wanted and basically made a huge list of all the potential flavors we were interested in and then narrowed it down.

35480972_2076720115880018_3274613337123454976_o

BH – I love all of the flavors you’ve come out with so far. Not only is that Habanero Ginger combination a possible first in the current bitters world, but there is always room for a real authentic, clean Orange bitters without a bunch of other take-away flavors added into it to make it more complex. I’m not against that at all, as I have a couple of those myself, but it would be nice if there were an orange out there that was primarily just that, nothing else. You know what I mean?

KS – Totally, it’s surprisingly hard to find a good orange bitter! We’re really happy with ours because it is so straight forward and high quality. Some of the leading brands of orange taste so fake and sweet.

And yeah thanks. Our habanero-ginger is a big hit. I love hot spice of the habanero plus the unique spice of the ginger. This flavor makes it easy to add spice to a drink without the forethought of infusing a bottle. It also allows for people to make cocktails for guests and give them the options of spice of not. Not everyone can handle the heat!

BH – What are the most samples and least samples of trial and error testing you had to go through to get the flavor profile you wanted with a couple of your bitters releases ?

KS – Hah, honestly the hardest one to nail was lavender. All of the flavors have gone through at least 10 variations before a final agreement, but the lavender took at least 40 tries. We tried mixing it with hibiscus, multiple types of citrus peels, different bitter roots etc. Not to mention playing with the different varieties of lavender grown at our local lavender farm (Jackpine lavender in WY, and English Lavender Farm in OR)! You would be amazed with how many lavender varieties there are and how they vary. All in all, we settled on long infusion of a simple combination of orange peel, angelica, and lavender. The least amount of variations we went through was 10. That was with habanero-ginger. These were mainly ratio combinations.

38754353_2127495200802509_4132899544058822656_n

BH – I’ve hinted to Beam Suntory over the years when asked about new flavor ideas, for them to consider creating a special or limited edition whiskey with say, your Old Fashioned Aromatic, others like Smoked Apple, Charred Cedar with Cherry, Toasted Oak and Orange, or a host of other possible bitters flavors. And they’ve yet to explore the potential. What do you think about doing this with bottled spirits in the future?

KS – Oh yeah, we’re totally open to that idea. I’ve had some barrel aged bitters before and they’re amazing. We’ve been talking a bit with Wyoming Whiskey about potentially creating a barrel aged cherry, but don’t tell anyone about that! It’s still in the works.

BH – Any other flavors you’re thinking about creating/producing down the road?

KS – Absolutely. We don’t want to spoil any surprises, but our next flavor will probably be some type of walnut mixture.

BH – Katie and Anthony, thank you so much for taking the time with this insightful interview into your bitters world. I’m sure the visitors here on Bitters Hub will appreciate you sharing your knowledge on how things go in creating Bear Root and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task masters of your own brand. Cheers!

KS – Thank you for having us! Cheers!

Website  – http://www.bearrootbitters.com

14333841_10154507126120960_4485511536015966460_n

Anthony

35547727_2077713169114046_2169519570417614848_n

10396293_10152973165245948_5827727693600877938_n

Katie

Interview – with Joshua Cockle of Winship’s – Oklahoma City, OK

11898934_785812144849861_6051156419918868720_n

Flavors Produced to Date

Old Fashioned Aromatic ~ Cucumber ~ Blood Orange ~ Dynamic Lime ~ Wormwood ~ Hibiscus ~ Barrel-Aged Aromatic ~ Tobacco ~ Cafe y Chicory

Founded – 2013

1005299_10151709369656281_694893719_n

Bitters Hub – What was it that motivated you to get started in the world of bitters production?

Josh Cockle – I was bartending at a cocktail bar called “ Ludivine” in Oklahoma City when the craft cocktail boom caught up there.  There was not a lot of quality bitters available in our market and as new cocktail bars were popping up the supply diminished even more.  We decided to begin making our own bitters for the cocktail program at Ludivine. After 2 years I was approached to help develop bitters for a new company.  That company never came to fruition, and as I had already developed multiple products I decided to start my own brand.

BH – What experience do you have in the culinary field, or another field, that gave inspiration to delve into the now-popular bitters products?  

JC – My craft cocktail and culinary experience really took shape at Ludivine.  It was one of the first high quality farm-to-table restaurants in OKC and I learned so much there from chef Johnathen Stranger.  We were provided a very liberating opportunity there to be creative with cocktails and fresh, interesting ingredients and were encouraged to experiment.

BH – Are you originally from Oklahoma?  If not, how did you end up there?

JC – I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and moved to Oklahoma when I was 11 because my step father was in the oil pipeline business.

BH – How is the supply and demand going so far with your bitters, and what could be improved, if anything, knowing that bitters is for the most part, a small-batch artisanal endeavor?

JC – The demand for our products in Oklahoma City has gone up every year, and we are now getting a lot of national and even some international support.  Last July we moved to a new facility so that we can up the production accordingly. Our new facility has given the ability to produce a lot more bitters, but we expect to move again in the next year or so to keep up with our rapidly increasing demands.

13041141_902834096480998_9093478215481734924_o

BH – Managers of restaurants, owners of bars, and hotel F & B directors. How do we open them up to our amazing world of bitters and their usage behind the bar, so bartenders eager to experiment (for the betterment of the establishment) don’t have to face such an uphill battle with gaining easier acceptance bringing them in?

JC – I believe education and inclusion are the best tools we have to help get bitters into a more mainstream and accessible position.  The cocktail craze has become something huge beyond just craft bars and speakeasy culture. The mainstream public has embraced cocktails and bitters and have a desire for them.  Educating guests, bar owners, and distribution companies about the ways to use bitters and the history of cocktail culture and bitters will only break down the barriers that exist for a “niche” product like bitters.  Inclusion is the other thing I speak about a lot when referring to this topic. The overwhelming nature of cocktail lists and exotic ingredients has become normal in our industry with bartenders looking for more interesting and dynamic ingredients for our creations.  Making guests feel more comfortable and less intimidated by products and processes they do not understand yet is key to helping our craft explosion reach its potential.

BH – How do you go about handling the various tasks of the job description when it comes to getting things done so it all comes together?  Do you have help?

JC – I have a few great people who help me and I owe so much to them.  A lot of what we do is in between work hours and on weekends and late nights so It takes the right people to adhere to such a schedule on top of their full time jobs.  I utilize their help when I can and ultimately I go about personally making sure it all comes together. With our next expansion we hope to employ 4-8 people full time in addition to myself.

BH – What is it like and what do you see from your perspective hanging out in your city/community in regards to support with your various products? And do you have pretty good reach so far with sales from your online presence?

JC –  We have a very good, loyal local presence here.  Oklahoma City is an amazing city of unbelievably supportive people.  I have been a bartender here for 20 years and people are always very enthusiastic about our bitters and supporting me.  It makes me very proud to be in Oklahoma and having my company here. Our online presence is relatively small. With our latest expansion and sales spiking we hope to be able to attack the online market aggressively this year.

19437218_1262790830485321_6317692542246348212_n

BH – What is the longest maceration for any of the bitters flavors you’ve produced to date?  Can you help us understand your production process?

JC – We macerate everything initially for 2 weeks to begin.  The different flavors have some differences in production but we strain the 190 proof out after 2 weeks. We then boil the solids that were strained out in water and let that sit for 3-5 days before filtering and blending.  We filter everything at least 4 times throughout the process, and add distilled water at the end to get to our final 42% abv

BH – What is the facility like in which you create your bitters?  

JC – We share our current facility with a few other food producers, as we have since we started.  The new industrial kitchen was built last year and has a lot of space, however we intend to get our own private facility up and running in the next year.  Our plans are to increase production 300% in 2019.

BH – Are the legal requirements and approvals strict and/or lengthy for producing bitters in Oklahoma?  Do you need some special license and/or certification, how does that all go for you?

JC – The liquor laws in Oklahoma went through major changes last October. This affected us in multiple different facets of the production and distribution process.  We moved facilities and changed distributors over the last 6 months, which ended up proving to be a challenge with licensing (ABLE) that had changed and inspections of new facility from health department.  We are now back in full production.

20604210_1302578539839883_2783308574501924738_n

BH – How and where do you go about sourcing the ingredients you use for your bitters?  

JC – We source as many organic ingredients as we can locally and our fruits generally come from Freshpoint. Our Kaffir limes are sourced directly from Kirkpatrick Farms in Central California. The most difficult ingredients for us to attain locally are the Gentian, Cinchona, and Wormwood, which we order and get shipped from Frontier Co-Op.

BH – What are your storage and temperature necessities that you feel equate to the best results for your bitters?

JC – We always suggest that our bitters be stored between 55 degrees and 89 degrees Fahrenheit.   We have never encountered any problems to date with quality changing due to temp.

BH – Is all of your bottling and labeling done in-house?

JC – Yes, we still hand bottle and hand label every Winship’s product in-house.

BH – How do you decide on which bottles and tops to use when it comes to eyedroppers, atomizers, dasher tops, woozy, Boston round, flask-style etc?

JC – We originally started with 5 oz. woozy with dashers because our primary target was bartenders and bars.  We are now offering 1 oz. droppers designed more for home users. We are currently looking at some more, different options for new products and markets.

12249759_824102394354169_2488138901268149312_n

BH – How did you determine the best bottle sizes to use for your brand?

JC – I feel like different consumer bases will use different sizes, and having a wider selection will give the user more ability to get what they need due to volume and application.

BH – I love your overall label design with color usage of bright and pastels. And the logo being a Ship’s wheel or the helm, does the inspiration stem from the life of your direct descendant, a noted English brew-master and distiller in the 1600’s named Albert Edward Winship?

JC – Yes, the logo was definitely inspired from Albert Edward Winship and his journey from Europe to America. We really liked the imagery of the “Sea Captain” and the idea of clipper ships and mermaids, etc.  Phillip Danner is a local graphic designer and artist, and I asked him to help visualize our concepts. We thought the captain’s wheel was a very identifiable symbol and it went well with the classic sound of the name Winship’s.  Most of the design was Phil’s vision, including the cocktail swords, color schemes, etc. It was primarily his genius.

BH – What were the deciding factors in your flavor choices of bitters to produce?

JC – Our flavors have come about from many different places. The Blood Orange was the original, made out of necessity.  The Dynamic Lime was a result experimentation because I had some rare Kaffir limes and it just worked. The Hibiscus was a bit of an accident, due to developing something else.  The Tobacco was a request. Our flavors have come about very organically, or they have been things I have personally wanted to do or have been asked to try. I also try to make bitters that are accessible and able to be used for multiple applications. We always try to be unique and different, and that plays a role as well.  I do not want to try to reproduce existing products or flavors that others are already doing well. We want Winship’s Bitters to stand alone as a product that is incomparable to others.

12310578_829188290512246_81677051455039485_n

BH – I love all of the flavors you’ve come out with so far. When I got a hold of a bottle of your Dynamic Lime, I was thrilled with the flavor profile from my nose anyway, being a delightful combination of fresh lime with a little floral and cucumber tailing behind. It was perfect for me to use with variations of the Southside cocktail and other drinks with vodka, gin and tequila. Am I correct or at least close with what my culinary senses are telling me?

JC – Yes, you are pretty close.  The floral notes you are getting are primarily from the Kaffir lime peel.  There is also lemongrass and ginger, as well as some other things. This is my favorite bitters in our line and I use it in drinks with most  any lighter liquor application. I have also found it to add a new dimension to classic citrus cocktails. I like to make a people a classic daiquiri and have them taste it, then put 2 dashes of Dynamic Lime on top and taste again.  It is a great way to show how bitters can take a great drink to new amazing levels.

BH – What are the most samples and least samples of trial and error testing you had to go through to get the flavor profile you wanted with a couple of your bitters releases ?

JC – The Blood Orange and Dynamic Lime came about relatively easily, we only had a handful of trials for those.  Some of the others have taken up to 20 or so experiments.

BH – You’re one of only eight brands out of 140 that produce a wormwood bitters? Is there a special process of maceration with wormwood or is it not too different from all the other flavors produced today?

JC – We macerate the Wormwood the same as the other flavors.  We wanted to get the bitter qualities of wormwood, and complement that with fall spices, etc

21764746_1341248402639563_5816120154488019216_n

BH – I’ve hinted to Beam Suntory over the years when asked about new flavor ideas, for them to consider creating a special or limited edition whiskey with say, your Old Fashioned Aromatic, others like Smoked Apple, Charred Cedar with Cherry, Toasted Oak and Orange, or a host of other possible bitters flavors. And they’ve yet to explore the potential. What do you think about doing this with bottled spirits in the future?

JC –  I have always had a desire for this and I would welcome the opportunity to do so with great enthusiasm!  When I was initially developing the first flavors of bitters, we were also going to do a series of barrel aged cocktails bottled for home use.  I even went as far as to design packaging, began sourcing ingredients, and worked up a target for marketing. When I moved into starting the company by myself these dreams sadly drifted to the back of the stove.  Any opportunity to work with an amazing company like Beam Suntory would be incredible. We are always open to collaborating with other companies and their visions.

BH – Any other flavors you’re thinking about creating/producing for the future?

JC –  We do have a few new things in the works. I would prefer to keep them a surprise due to having had some of my ideas “borrowed” in the past. Although imitation is the most sincere form of flattery,  we like to maintain our unique portfolio and want our loyal supporters to be able to use products that do not exist elsewhere as much as possible.

BH – When it comes to ordering your bitters through your website, I noticed you have samples that can be requested, as well as ordering all flavors by case only via  5 oz. bottles that come 12 to a case or 1 oz. bottles that come 48 in a case. What is the benefit of doing business and creating sales in this very different way compared to other brands selling any amounts online? Does it have something to do with a law limitation in your state of Oklahoma?

JC –   Some of this has to do with our expansion and move last summer, in addition to the laws changing in the fall.   We were out of production for almost 6 months and our distribution deal was changing, so we only made online sales available in bulk until we had things sorted out.  In the very near future you will see the ability to order the 5 oz. bottles in any quantity online, as well as our dropper bottle gift packs. We also plan to expand our online sales through other outlets as well.

BH – Josh, thank you so much for taking the time with this insightful interview into your bitters world. I’m sure the visitors here on Bitters Hub will appreciate you sharing your knowledge on how things go in creating Winship’s and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task master of your own brand. Cheers!

JC – Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about our company.  I really appreciate this series, it is people like yourself who are at the forefront of getting things like bitters out there in the world so thank you again!!   We are hoping to have our best year to date in 2019! Any other inquiries anyone may have can be explored on our website and messages will be answered promptly. We are always happy to send excited users samples of all our products.  Cheers!

Website – http://www.winshipsbitters.com

12304372_826533224111086_3941745157814499223_o

Interview – with Michael Fair of Black Ink – Detroit, MI

18814887_1686687351635098_6471865589645912884_o

Flavors Produced to Date

Orange ~ Smoked Apple Chicory ~ Mint Hibiscus ~ Citrus Twist ~ Vanilla Coffee

Seasonal – Blueberry Vanilla ~ Coconut Raspberry

They also have a 5-bottle core pack available

Founded – September 29th, 2016 the first experimental batch made

Founded – October 22nd, 2016 BIB name was made

FB_IMG_1527457066347

Bitters Hub – What was it that motivated you to get started in the world of bitters production?

Michael Fair – After being hired in at the English Inn as a bartender, I became instantly intrigued in the craft. I researched with my mentor, Eric Nelson various fields of wine, beer, and spirits. The field that caught my eye the most, was bitters. Quickly after finding out the history of bitters, I realized that Michigan did not have a brand. This was a big endeavor because I had no connections or mentors in the bitters field. I had to go with what I had in the bartending world. After trying a few experimental batches and messing around with different flavoring agents, I finally felt more confident to follow through. I wanted to be the first bitters company in Michigan and make my mark on the industry.

BH – What experience do you have in the culinary field, or another field, that gave the inspiration to delve into the now-popular bitters products?

MF – My only experience was working at the English Inn and American Fifth Spirits in the Greater Lansing Area. Those two establishments not only gave me hands-on experience with flavors and cocktail making, but also knowledgeable mentors in their field.

BH – Are you originally from East Lansing?  If not, how did you end up there?

MF – I am originally from Troy, Michigan. I moved to East Lansing because I attended Michigan State University. I am currently living in Midland, Michigan. Currently looking into warehouse space in Detroit, Michigan for expansion purposes.

BH – How is the supply and demand going so far with your bitters, and what could be improved, if anything, knowing that bitters, for the most part, a small-batch artisanal endeavor?

MF – The supply and demand are quickly growing, especially with customers from the South East region of Michigan. We have only shipped under 50 orders outside of Michigan. I believe that we can improve with more coverage to all of Michigan, especially the upper region near Traverse City. We are seeking more exposure for our brand to develop more partnerships with other big companies in the cocktail industry.

20180715_165744_0001

BH – Managers of restaurants, owners of bars, and hotel F & B directors. How do we open them up to our amazing world of bitters and their usage behind the bar, so bartenders eager to experiment (for the betterment of the establishment) don’t have to face such an uphill battle with gaining easier acceptance bringing them in?

MF – I do agree that it is an ongoing uphill battle and I have been seeing better results that are more indirect. What I mean by that is that I notice that more bars and restaurants are eager to accept our brand when their own customers are knowledgeable about bitters and our product. How have we done it? For example, by selling our bitters to the individual at home bartenders, we have expanded the knowledge to the general public. Those same people have dropped our name, asked for bitters and shown attention to our brand. This has then intrigued bartenders and owners to use more bitters and our brand. Indirectly spiking interest by starting with the customers first.

BH – How do you go about handling the various tasks of the job description when it comes to getting things done so it all comes together?  Do you have help?

MF – Currently I work alone on production and sales, but my associate and cousin, Victoria Shappow works on the graphic design and label designs. She was the one who made Black Ink Bitters come to life on the bottle and I am very grateful to have her on my team.

BH – What is it like and what do you see from your perspective hanging out in your city/community in regards to support with your various products? And do you have pretty good reach so far with sales from your online presence?

MF –  Tons of support from the community, but we are still working on our reach with our sales online. We currently use Facebook and Instagram to help with broadening our sales and exposure.

BH – What is the longest maceration for any of the bitters flavors you’ve produced to date?  Can you help us understand your production process?

MF –  3 weeks in the longest maceration period and it is identical for all of the flavors. Using a high proof vodka, rum or whiskey, we combine our flavoring agents and bittering agents inside its storage container. We do agitate the container daily to help with flavor absorption. We then filter the batches carefully and then immediately bottle the flavors. Caps and seals are put on promptly and then put into our stock.

28827606_1793554110948421_853679040296270973_o

BH – What is the facility like in which you create your various bitters?

MF – Currently, a new facility and space we are developing in Detroit is around 5,000 sq. feet. Very simple kitchen set up. Lots of space for cutting, peeling and dry storage area for keeping fresh ingredients.

BH – How and where do you go about sourcing the ingredients you use for your bitters?

MF – We source directly from Michigan farms. We can get 90% of our ingredients from the area and the rest are specially ordered through Amazon (rare spices or herbs). We are considered Michigan Made and have a strong connection with the regions.

BH – What are your storage and temperature necessities that you feel equal to the best results for your bitters?

MF – Room temperature, dry storage, no sunlight.

BH – Is all of your bottling and labeling done in-house?

MF – All of our bottling and labeling is done in-house. Makes everything very easy for production and sales.

received_10209720936327698

BH – How do you decide on which bottles and tops to use when it comes to eyedroppers, atomizers, dasher tops, woozy, Boston round, flask-style etc? I really like that specialty volcanic black Boston round bottle that you use. I think it’s the first time I’ve come across it. Is it glass as well?

MF – We decided on the volcanic black for our branding, but decided eye droppers were more common/preferred among the cocktail community. At-home bartenders wanted precise measurements, but also something cool to add to their at home bar.

BH – How did you determine the best bottle size to use at 1 oz. for your brand?

MF – It is what people wanted. 95% of people on our survey wanted that size. Dash bottles were not popular to our customers.

BH – I love your overall label design. It’s a real beauty, so clean and yet so artful, and seems to go very well with the volcanic black. May I ask what the inspiration was?

MF – I wanted to introduce a dark and modern brand to the state of Michigan. Dark and robust flavors are my specialty when creating flavors. I wanted the brand to have a modern sleek look utilizing black and gold. The Kraken came into play when thinking of “ink” droplets. Black Ink and black bottles went together. I then created the gold Kraken to be the gold trip on our brand.

BH – Are your flavor choices of bitters produced in consideration to work with food and drink in equal footing?

MF – Yes, flavor choices and batches were made to not only push the limits of flavor design but usage in both food and drink.

28947580_1582129055188501_2907251817144338152_o

BH – What is your relationship with Williams Sonoma?

MF – I currently sell all 5 flavors and seasonal edition inside Williams Sonoma. We are still currently in their Troy location but plan on expanding. Everything depends on sales and exposed to the brand. Williams Sonoma has an interesting relationship with us as well because we plan and work events together. For example, Forbes and Williams Sonoma worked with us to make drinks and sales at the Detroit Cocktail Classic(the biggest cocktail event in Michigan). We love working with them!

BH – I love all of the flavors you’ve come out with so far. When I saw Mint Hibiscus, it made me wonder how that tastes. Can you elaborate on how the process of maceration went with the mint leaves knowing they’re a bit delicate? The reason I ask is there isn’t much attempt out there with other brands to get the mint stable for a bitters. But I don’t know if that’s a problem, or not.

MF – Just like making a mojito or mint drink, you don’t want to destroy/rip the leaves. We can extract more flavor out of the mint by slapping or bruising the leaves before putting them in their batches. With our brand pushing the limits on flavors, I am not surprised that other brands still do not even attempt mint. It is difficult!

BH – What are the most samples and least samples of trial and error testing you had to go through to get the flavor profile you wanted with a couple of your bitters releases?

MF – The Smoked Apple Chicory went through 7 long trials which totals out to 10 weeks worth of waiting! It is more frustrating because it is time-consuming vs. a money investment.

BH – Where does the smoky aftertaste come from in your orange bitters?

MF – We use smoked chicory root and smoked orange rinds. It is very faint, but it is there. We do not advertise the orange as a smokey flavor, because our smoke lovers lean towards the Smoked Apple Chicory more.

WS_ad_seasonal

BH – I’ve hinted to Beam Suntory over the years when asked about new flavor ideas, for them to consider creating a special or limited edition whiskey with say, your Smoked Apple, or Charred Cedar with Cherry, or Toasted Oak and Orange, or a host of other possible bitters flavors. And they’ve yet to explore the potential. What do you think about doing this with bottled spirits?

MF –  Smoked Apple is a great flavor profile in general, and it would be great for a bottled spirit brand to flavor their brand naturally. Quality whiskey companies usually stay away from fruity flavors, but it would definitely be an interesting avenue to explore.

BH – How did you work the chicory and smoke so it wouldn’t completely take over the apple, of which I’m guessing you may want at the forefront on the nose?

MF –  This was a difficult battle! With many batches and trials, it came down to smoking the rinds, the chicory and smoking the container itself. The amount of smoke from the smoking gun and also wood used all came into play. We are very happy with the current flavor profile!

BH – Any other flavors you’re thinking about creating/producing for the future?

MF –  We have created two experimental batches, but not available to the public yet. Smoked Chocolate and another is Maple Nut. We wanted to introduce a sweeter and also a smokier flavor. These would fall under seasonal flavors.

BH – Michael, thank you so much for taking the time with this insightful interview into your bitters world. I’m sure the visitors here on Bitters Hub will appreciate you sharing your knowledge on how things go in creating Black Ink and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task master of your own brand. Cheers!

MF – Thank you, Kyle! It has been a pleasure. It is an honor to be included!

Website – http://www.blackinkbitters.com

received_10209720932367599

31036443_10211297129091532_674824103263579250_o

Interview – with Cindy Capparelli of Portland Bitters Project – Portland, OR

Portland Bitters 4

Flavors Produced to Date

Super Spice ~ Pitch Dark Cacao ~ Rose ~ Woodland ~ Aromatic ~ Orange ~ Lavender

They also have a mini 3-bottle gift box available

Founded – Autumn 2013

Portland Bitters 1

Bitters Hub – What was it that motivated you to get started in the world of bitters production?

Cindy Capparelli – I’ve always enjoyed making things, and particularly those made from plants. I got into craft cocktails, was making my own and looked into how these mysterious bitters were made. It was right up my alley – I started tinkering and really enjoyed it. I have a background in herbalism, botany and cooking, so this gave me a way to push the edge with flavor and test that knowledge in a way I hadn’t.

BH – What experience do you have in the culinary field, or another field, that gave inspiration to delve into the now-popular bitters products?  

CC – I’ve been cooking since I was a kid – it was the way my mom and I spent time together. In school I studied abroad every chance I could wrangle and took cooking courses in Europe. In my 20’s, I worked in flowers, made art, managed a cafe, and eventually got a degree in horticulture and landscape design. I spent years as a full-time designer, so I really had to know my plants.

BH – Are you originally from Portland?  If not, how did you end up there?

CC – Nope. I’m an East Coast woman. Born and raised in upstate NY. I went to school on the North Shore of Boston, and when I graduated I wanted to see what the West was like. Portland had the most of what I wanted, so I moved here and it went pretty well.

BH – How is the supply and demand going so far with your bitters, and what could be improved, if anything, knowing that bitters is for the most part, a small-batch artisanal endeavor?

CC – It’s great. There are some bottlenecks in our process that we’ve come a long way with in 2018. This year is about refining that work flow and figuring out what we can outsource without compromising integrity.

Portland Bitters 3

BH – Managers of restaurants, owners of bars, and hotel F & B directors. How do we open them up to our amazing world of bitters and their usage behind the bar, so bartenders eager to experiment (for the betterment of the establishment) don’t have to face such an uphill battle with gaining easier access bringing them in?

CC – It’s about education, right? I try to get people to understand that good bitters are a really simple way to elevate your cocktail game. They’re even easier than citrus. Maybe craft bitters cost more and the time savings of a simple way to add flavor and create balance is the real value proposition. (I won’t dive into the power of bitters in the kitchen – though it’s relevant, too.) That’s where the consumer side comes in. I spend a lot of time teaching classes, giving people the knowledge to drink better at home, and that trains a palate to expect better when someone else is making the drinks.  

BH – How do you go about handling the various tasks of the job description when it comes to getting things done so it all comes together?  Do you have help?

CC – The magic question. I have some part-time help, mainly with sales and marketing. This is part of the 2019 goals of making a more efficient process, taking me out of it a bit more, so I can do what I really love which is formulating and teaching.

BH – What is it like and what do you see from your perspective hanging out in your city/community in regards to support with your various products? And do you have pretty good reach so far with sales from your online presence?

CC –  They’re well received. There are still those unfamiliar, so there can always be more outreach, and as an introvert I constantly work to push myself in that regard. Yes, online presence is good. We sell a lot to both coasts, to Chicago, and we’re gaining ground in the Midwest. I recently did a wholesale show in Atlanta, GA where we got to introduce the bitters to a wider audience.

BH – What is the longest maceration for any of the bitters flavors you’ve produced to date? On your site, it’s mentioned that you mingle for up to 10 days, while most other brands are 3-4 weeks. Can you help us understand your production process?

CC – After 10 days, you don’t see a lot of change in most tinctures. Some you run the risk of over-extraction, and then you’re getting flavors you don’t want in there. Our proportion of herb-to-alcohol may be higher than other brands, so maybe they need a longer steep to see the results they want. We also macerate everything individually so we can control for variance in the raw materials.

21743788_1443918602394376_9052015002246110840_o

BH – What is the facility like in which you create your various bitters?

CC – It’s addition to a kitchen we gutted and rebuilt last year. We did the work ourselves so it could be just right.

BH – How and where do you go about sourcing the ingredients you use for your bitters?  Is it pretty much all organic?

CC –  Yes. The supplier I’ve had the best luck with and the longest relationship is Mountain Rose in Eugene, OR.

BH – What are your storage and temperature necessities that you feel equate to the best results for your bitters?

CC – We store mostly underground in the Bitters Bunker as that buffers temperature swings and gives the most consistent conditions year-round.

BH – Is all of your bottling and labeling done in-house?

CC – Yes.

BH – How do you decide on which bottles and tops to use when it comes to eyedroppers, atomizers, dasher tops, woozy, Boston round, flask-style etc?

CC – I hate woozy tops and their lack of precision. Droppers make it easy to drop or dash. I’ve been talking with a company that claims a calibrated dasher top that’s consistent no matter the fill level of the bottle – stay tuned on that. The amber Boston round was chosen for its protective qualities against UV degradation.

17425927_632150750311708_3289318882890094941_n

BH – How do you determine the best bottle sizes to use – 1oz., 2oz., 3oz., 4oz?

CC – That’s market response. We want to provide various sizes to allow for different points of entry.

BH – Does/Can the use of cane spirits and raw sugar make the bitters too much on the sweet side where it’s a bother to those who may be opposed to it, or is this just not properly understood?

CC – Over-proof cane spirits are sweeter … than other alcohols at 190 proof. I perceive it not as sweetness, but as a rounder mouthfeel that lacks the harshness of, say, a wheat spirit. This complements our formulae and has the added benefit of not setting off so many allergies/sensitivities. Most bitters include a small amount of sugar and raw sugar echos that rounder flavor whereas white sugar tastes washed-out.  

BH – Are bitters in general, gluten-free and grain free, or does your process result in such, say from the use of your non-GMO cane spirits?

CC – It’s our base spirit and our choice of sugar. Many bitters are made from either wheat spirit or corn spirit, and people with grain issues can react to them.

BH – I love all of the flavors you’ve come out with so far. When I saw Super Spice, it made me wonder how that tastes. Can you elaborate on the process and how this idea come about and a little more of the flavor profile beyond the base of Fenugreek?

CC – Super Spice developed from a collaboration with another food business and we were going for a bitters that would add a warm, spicy goodness to cocktails and also come through in intensely flavored NA drinks like hot chocolate. It started as classic holiday spices and I took it in the direction of tiki flavors with an extra helping of clove and orange.

11149399_956958531001505_2988071535573615646_n

BH – What are the most samples and least samples of trial and error testing you had to go through to get the flavor profile you wanted with a couple of your bitters releases ?

CC – The flagship Aromatic was in the 30’s. The Woodland I nailed in two.

BH – What does therapeutic-grade botanicals mean exactly?

CC –  They’re the same level of quality as those used by practitioners of herbal and Traditional Chinese Medicine. They’re a particular lot.  

BH – Do you find that floral bitters like Lavender either need or best to be nuanced with something else in its flavor profile so it’s not so BAM on the nose?

CC – I do. Thanks to the success of the body care industry, scents like lavender and rose are linked to soaps and lotions. A little balance with savory goes a long way to making people reframe these flowers as flavors.

BH – I’ve hinted to Beam Suntory over the years when asked about new flavor ideas, for them to consider creating a special or limited edition whiskey with say, your Woodland bitters, or Charred Cedar with Cherry, or Toasted Oak and Orange, or a host of other possible bitters flavors. And they’ve yet to explore the potential. Yet, I’ve read where you’re now working with Widmer Innovation Brewing to do this very thing with beer. How’s that going, and what do you think about doing the same with bottled spirits?

CC –  Yes! It was so fun and the beer is now GONE. It went out in kegs and it was all drunk through in less than 6 weeks. It was a super interesting process: we brewed a strong ale together, then put most of it in rye barrels and added dark cherry, bitter orange peel, and my bitter botanical blend to individual barrels. We let it sit a few months and then blended the results into the Manhattan of Beers – PDX Bitters Takes Manhattan. It was smooth drinking and got a lot of love. I look forward to making a spirit ready-to-drink and any distilleries who want to work on one should hit me up.  

36327572_1836534619702758_4154604006670336000_o

BH – In the spirit of collaboration, here’s a custom flavor combo of a bitters that I’d like to see together – Orange, Mint, and Cinnamon, from high to low in that order. And with fresh mint, not peppermint. This idea came from the fact that I have a toothpaste with these three exact flavors from a brand called Jason Nutrismile. It’s my favorite toothpaste. I thought “Wow, this would be a great bitters”. What do you think?

CC – Haha, as soon as I read ‘Orange-Mint-Cinnamon’ I thought ‘toothpaste.’ How funny. I’m always wary of orange + mint because of the whole toothpaste-and-mimosas clash. If it was made with a gentle hand it might work. Maybe some coriander?

BH – I like the solid color simplicity of your label design. May I ask what the inspiration was?

CC – I didn’t want to make another bitters with old-timey branding. I went to art school, and clean design appeals to me – who said “good design is when there’s nothing left to take away?” As for the bright colors, I want the product to be recognizable from across the room or the bar or the shop.

BH – You mention Proof*Reader on your website. What is that?

CC – They are the bar of the Portland Downtown Marriott. I make a custom bitters for their signature Old Fashioned that they sell something like half a million dollars worth of a year.  

BH – Cindy, thank you so much for taking the time with this insightful interview into your bitters world. I’m sure the visitors here on Bitters Hub will appreciate you sharing your knowledge on how things go in creating Portland Bitters Project and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task master of your own brand. Cheers!

CC – Thanks to you, Kyle! Keep working on Beam Suntory for me. Hopefully we’ll meet one day and have a real shot at collaboration.

Website – http://www.portlandbittersproject.com

 

Portland Bitters 2

Interview – with Phaedra Achor of Monarch Bitters – Petaluma, CA

14729232_749725701851572_3850414204254119189_n

Flavors Produced to Date

Citrus Basil ~ Cherry Vanilla ~ Rose Petal ~ Wormwood ~ Cayenne Ginger ~ Aromatic ~ Orange ~ Celery Horseradish ~ Lavender ~ Bacon Tobacco ~ Honey Aromatic ~ Honey Lavender ~ Smoked Salt & Pepper ~ California Bay Laurel

They also have 2-bottle, 3-bottle and 4-bottle Gift Boxes available

They also have an interesting selection of Flavored Syrup combinations

45026479_1426119204212215_4599116676376559616_o

Bitters Hub – What was it that motivated you to get started in the world of bitters production?

Phaedra Achor – Back in 2015 I decided to host a summer cocktail party.  I planned ahead and wanted to offer a unique experience.  I researched forgotten pre and post prohibition cocktails and ended up selecting 5 with interesting names and hysterical stories behind them.  All 5 cocktails called for bitters.  Being the inquisitive person that I am I researched bitters.  I wasn’t clear what, exactly, bitters were.  It didn’t take me long to convince myself that I could make my own bitters for my cocktail party.  Due to my culinary background and knowledge of plant ingredients, where to source them and a deep desire to make everything by hand. I formulated 5 recipes.  I purchased ingredients and crafted a bitter for each cocktail I served.  The party was a hit!  At one point I walked in from my backyard and a woman I didn’t know (had come as a guest of a guest) was standing at my bar with the tincture bottles in her nose.  She asked me where the bitters came from.  I told her I made them for the party and her mouth about hit the floor, she couldn’t believe I had made them just for that party.  She told me she was a bartender and that I should go speak to the owner of where she worked to see if he would buy them from me, she felt they were far superior then what they were using.  I never did that but this stranger-bartender-angel planted a seed.  Shortly after that conversation she left the party and I have never seen her again, I don’t even remember her name.  I need to find her, thank her and offer her a lifetime supply of bitters.  Unbeknownst to her she and our 45 second conversation transformed my life.  Through her suggestion my company was born (after many months of research, exploration into the world of bitters and the alcohol industry).  There wasn’t anyone in Sonoma County making bitters at the time, it was an interesting and unique niche.  Coupled with the cocktail renaissance happening across the globe I felt the timing was right to give it a go.

BH – What experience do you have in the culinary field, or another field, that gave inspiration to delve into the now-popular bitters and other products in your line?

PA – I have a lifetime love of cooking, blending flavor, exploring flavor chemistry, etc.  I grew up cooking with my mother, although never professionally trained, she is a wonderful cook and taught me everything I know about flavor, cooking with heart and love, the gesture of sharing that with others and the importance of nourishment and joy in consumption.  I owned my own restaurant many years ago, a wine bar restaurant, where I developed my palate further.  My background made it easy for me to explore bitters making.  However, roots, barks and extracting I was less familiar with but eager to learn more about.  I have come to realize and feel comfortable owning that I have flavor wisdom.  I have tried my best to translate this to bitter and syrup crafting.

BH – Are you originally from Petaluma in Sonoma County?  If not, how did you end up there?

PA – I was born in Palo Alto but moved to Petaluma by pre-school age.  I lived in Petaluma through second grade and then moved a couple of times until landing in Bernal Heights, San Francisco for a few years.  We moved back to Petaluma the summer before eighth grade and I graduated from Petaluma High School 5 years later.  I moved for college but returned in 1996 and haven’t left since.  I’m convinced Petaluma is a magic bubble; it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth with the most incredible community I have ever experienced.

BH – How is the supply and demand going so far with your bitters, and what could be improved, if anything, knowing that bitters is for the most part, a small-batch artisanal endeavor?

PA – Growing a successful business and residing in the development phase for some time creates a constant struggle to maintain a consistent supply and demand balance.  With increased order sizes and frequent new accounts there is constant change which makes nailing down a solid production schedule challenging.  Over the past year and a half I have had to back order only a couple of times but each was a learning lesson.  My biggest epiphany has been to stop underestimating people wanting my product!  As a result I have increased batch sizes and the beautiful thing is that every time I scale up the demand increases.  This year I am making some capital improvements to create more efficient processes which will help supply greatly and hopefully ease the struggle for balance.  However, as long as I am in the development and growth stage I anticipate supply and demand to be a constant dance.  My goal is to eventually share my brand far and wide while still maintaining the artisanal, small batch feel, taste and quality.  I can’t foresee my hands leaving the batches, remaining close to production regardless of growth is important to me.

monarch 6

BH – Managers of restaurants, owners of bars, and hotel F & B directors. How do we open them up to our amazing world of bitters and their usage behind the bar, so bartenders eager to experiment (for the betterment of the establishment) don’t have to face such an uphill battle with gaining easier access bringing them in?

PA –  Whenever I have a tasting the response to my products is very positive!  Getting in front of them is the challenge.  Many don’t accept walk-ins and getting a call or email back for an appointment is rare.  The tasting is just one part, rarely do they order on the spot and rarely will they order to just bring in new flavors.  I find many want to craft cocktails with a specific bitter or syrup in mind which narrows the chances of them using the products even more.  In addition, I find that each city has its own micro-culture and getting my finger on the pulse of how each works is difficult, I have never been in sales before.  Where I live, Sonoma County, industry folks are open to walk in’s and excited to learn about local products they can use.  San Francisco and Oakland (nearest large cities) are completely different.  I think in large cities with higher volume establishments, product they have easy access to through their distributor’s works for them which makes it harder for small producers like myself who also self-distribute.  I find larger city programs have different values, generally speaking.  The way business is done now makes effective market visits to on-premise accounts hard.  I, too, would love to know how to open them up more and have them eager to meet and experiment.  What I have found to be the best method for getting my foot in the door is the power of suggestion; word of mouth from other industry people.  High regards with a well-connected industry person who will talk-up, recommend or make an introduction can help.  But that only works within a certain radius.  If I could make a wish it would be for a shift in the way bar managers and program directors do business and their responsiveness to and interest in working with craft producers, especially those who self-distribute and hit the pavement themselves.  There are such incredible high quality, craft products on the market.  One would think managers and directors would want to explore and include these products for the betterment of their establishments but alas, an uphill battle remains.

BH – How do you go about handling the various tasks of the job description when it comes to getting things done so it all comes together?  Do you have help?

PA –  I am a one-woman-show, I do it all.  How I go about it is a mystery.  I just do.  I think I am a stellar multi-tasker, thank goodness!  And I have an entrepreneurial spirit and am very determined.  I believe those characteristics aid me greatly in handling every role in a bitter and syrup company.  I do production, bottling, labeling, packaging, I hand write flavors on all labels and boxes, hand stamp each box with a wax seal, handle purchasing, sales, distribution, bookkeeping, marketing, consumer and trade events, etc. I have occasional help from a family member or friend here or there but it really is just me.  This is by no means an ideal business model and certainly not a sustainable one but it is what I have done to get it off the ground solely, with my own savings and two hands.  I have definitely created a method to my madness but am excited for more streamlined processes and help in 2019.  I am happy to share that I have graduated to a level to be able to afford the next stage in development.

BH – What is it like and what do you see from your perspective hanging out in your city/community in regards to support with your various products? And do you have pretty good reach so far with sales from your online presence?

PA – The Petaluma and larger Sonoma County community is magic.  I have received an overwhelmingly positive response to my products.  The community where I am from is generally very supportive of one another and local businesses, people genuinely want to help others and see them happy and successful.  The community is full of entrepreneurs, many artisans and craft producers of all kinds, the farm-to-table, know your farmer and producer way of life is prominent and people love high quality, organic and locally made products.  I don’t think I could have chosen a more fitting product to produce in Sonoma County, it fits in every way.  And I honestly don’t know if I would have been so successful in such a short amount of time if I tried launching in any other place.  Consumers, business owners and industry folks are very supportive and love what I am doing. For example, last September Monarch won #2 Peoples’ Choice Award for Top 10 Best Craft Mixer in USA Today’s national competition.  I was up against some large, well-known companies with national distribution, how could I compete?  It was my community that stepped up and voted little Monarch to #2 in the nation!  I was getting messages from strangers and people stopping me on the street saying they were voting for me.  THAT is an example of the power of community where I am from.  I am incredibly grateful for my community and owe a large part of my success to them.

The majority of my online sales are out of state which I am so excited about!  I love that people far away can access my products and are seeking them out!  I wish I could hear every story of how each person found Monarch, I so appreciate the connections my products are creating.

BH – What is the longest maceration process for any of the bitters flavors you’ve produced to date?

PA – I am currently macerating some bitters that are going on 13 months, these are experimental recipes.  The flavors I produce and currently distribute macerate for 3-4 weeks.

44037130_1416008465223289_804136801160658944_n

BH – What is the facility like in which you create your various bitters?

PA – I produce in a CA State and County Health Department approved kitchen with annual inspections.

BH – How and where do you go about sourcing the ingredients you use for your bitters?  How far is it that you go to forage out in the fields and hills of Sonoma?

PA – The predominate source of my ingredients is from herb companies that sell organic and wild harvested botanicals.  I also grow some ingredients as well as forage for some.  My majority of my foraging comes from west Sonoma County and the Sonoma Coast, 30-45 minute drive from Petaluma is the furthest I travel to forage.  Different locations and seasons offer different options, all exquisite in their own right.  Foraging for wildflowers was the inspiration for my Wildflower Syrup, a beautifully unique flavor that combines floral and herbal notes; a Sonoma Coast wildflower terroir syrup.

BH – You’ve located some interesting tropical flavors growing out in the wild of the countryside, like pineapple guava and Kousa Dogwood tree fruit. Is there something about the Petaluma area and climate that produces these interesting edibles?

46441747_1442427625914706_8046453480518320128_o

PA –  We have a temperate climate in Sonoma County, pineapple guava and Kousa Dogwood happen to thrive here which is similar to the native climates of both plants.  Finding them here seems odd due to the tropical flavors that both embody.  They are unique flavors for temperate climate fruits.

BH – What are your storage and temperature necessities that you feel equate to the best results for your bitters?

PA – I macerate in glass or stainless steel, my product never touches plastic.  After filtration my products are bottled straight into glass.  Ambient temperature is best for maceration and storage but being in a commercial kitchen/warehouse building the temperature can fluctuate in summer and winter.  Bitters are stable and I have not noticed the fluctuation cause any difference in the maceration process or finished product.  Once the bitters and syrups are packaged and cased the boxes act as sufficient insulators to maintain adequate storage temperatures while in house, which isn’t for long.

monarch 3

BH – Is all of your bottling and labeling done in-house?

PA – Yes, everything is in-house and by hand.

BH – How do you decide on which bottles and tops to use when it comes to eyedroppers, atomizers, dasher tops, woozy, Boston round, flask-style, etc.?

PA – Initially I envisioned a beautiful, unique glass bottle unlike anything on the market.  I did a lot of research and found some incredible options.  But with my production levels so low it did not make financial sense to package so uniquely with the glass I desired to use.  I reluctantly chose the Boston round, reluctant because it isn’t unique.  And I chose amber because it was the most appropriate color to match with my branding.  However, the amber Boston round with dropper top is the typical tincture/elixir bottle and I like my product being associated that way.  How I set myself apart is packaging in a tube box with a wax seal closure.  I was able to reconcile the lower cost and simplicity of the bottle with a unique outer package.  I am happy with the outcome.

I am not a fan of the dasher top, I find it messy and inaccurate.  I chose the dropper top because of the accuracy of measured use.  Bartenders can also use drops for esthetics, not possible with the dasher.  And although my bitters are not categorized as a dietary supplement or true herbal medicine, I wanted the traditional medicinal feel when using them.  There is something mystical about dropping a few drops of a magical herbal extract that happens to change everything, into a drink.  The drops are slow and deliberate as is how many drops are used.  I wanted the user to have the feeling of having a hand in creating a delicious potion. It only seems fitting that the dropper be used to match that experience.

BH – How do you determine the best bottle sizes to use – 1oz., 2oz., 3oz., 4oz.?

PA – I chose 2oz for retail, it is plenty to last a decent amount of time but not too long and it also makes for a reasonable price point.  I offer 4oz for on-premise accounts, bars tend to need more volume.  I offer 1oz bottles in a 4-flavor sampler set.

BH – You were listed at #6 of the top Sonoma County businesses by Press Democrat recently. That recognition must feel pretty good. Was it tough to get noticed initially?

PA – Seeing that blew my mind, I was stunned not only to be listed in the first place but to be listed as #6 and next to some large, well known and respected companies.  It felt amazing and surreal.  The gratitude I feel for recognition of my craft brings me to tears, literally.  It is quite something to create a product out of thin air and have it become loved, shared and acknowledged publicly.

My business has only been public less than 2 years.  About 1 year in a local magazine published an article which was amazing.  I had been in business just a year and a half when I received the national nomination and award I mentioned.  I feel that a lot has happened in a short amount of time and I was noticed pretty early on.  I am so appreciative of the response and media exposure I have received.

monarch 5

BH – Your bitters classes also started up this year. How’s that going so far?

PA – The response has been amazing!  Classes are selling out and I get messages from folks wanting to know when the next one is.  I couldn’t have imagined a better response.  People are eager to learn about home bartending and bitters.  I get people asking me all the time about how to use bitters.  People are intrigued by them, want to use them but don’t understand them and are intimidated by them.  In addition, many people want to make delicious cocktails at home and craft them with bitters but just don’t trust in their abilities.  The class I have started teaches a little history, basic cocktail composition, the experience of crafting personal cocktails, bitters history use and making custom bitters.  It’s a lot of fun!  I would also love to explore offering a class to teach how to use bitters in cooking and baking, sky is the limit with bitters and my syrups!

BH – I love all of the flavors you’ve come out with. When I saw Bacon Tobacco, it made me wonder how that tastes. Can you elaborate on the process and how this idea came about?

PA – Bacon Tobacco…always the conversation piece.  The idea came about when wanting to create a gentlemen’s bitter; what would gentlemen like to use in their whiskey drinks in their smoke rooms while conversing with gentlemen friends.  Bacon tobacco came to mind and never left.  I use rendered bacon grease which is filtered before bottling.  There is residual oil after filtering, more in the summer and less in the winter due to kitchen temps.  It has a subtle oiliness on the palate, unlike my other bitters. Initially I used true tobacco, with very careful attention to quantity after much research on extracting tobacco.   However, even with my lengthy and well-articulated responses to the concern over extracted tobacco I decided to eliminate the tobacco and replace it with Lapsang tea instead to ease the concern.  Lapsing Souchong tea is a black, smoked Chinese tea and imparts a dark, bitter and smoky quality to the bitter.  I kept the name because of the novelty of it, people really enjoy it.  I find the flavor of the bitter to be rather “pretty” despite its name.  And boy what it does to dark spirits!  I feel comfortable saying that is definitely gives a depth and complexity to cocktails.

BH – What are the most samples and least samples of trial and error testing you had to go through to get the flavor profile you wanted with a couple of your bitters releases ?

PA – Of the bitters on the market I would say they have, on average, been through 2-4 recipe revisions.  However, my rose petal bitter and cherry vanilla bitter, 2 of my best sellers, I nailed on the first try.  As I mentioned, I have a long history of creating flavor and feel I have done a pretty good job with creating good recipes from the beginning, recipes that have needed little changes.

BH – Syrups. That Pistachio Cherry you produce sounds pretty awesome, and you may be the first to put together that flavor combination for a syrup. What inspired you for this idea?

PA – A few months back I was contacted by Napa Valley Distillery, an account of mine.  I was told that they love my products and found that my bitters were at the top of their flavor categories.  They asked if I would be willing to make new bitter and syrup flavors that did not exist on the market and would fill flavor holes they saw that existed across the board.  This was a wonderful surprise to hear about my products and what they were asking of me was a tremendous honor.  I went over for a meeting and many flavors were discussed from smoked variations, fruits and florals, tea variations, honey, nut flavors, etc. etc.  I made many bitters and syrups in response.  When I took my samples back to them they selected 6 new products; 2 bitters, 3 syrups and a smoked olive brine.  The Pistachio Cherry was one of the syrups they chose.  I had also made a spumoni bitter and syrup, both were amazing and as I was making them I decided to make a variation by removing the chocolate and just go with pistachio and cherry… it is damn delicious and has proved a great idea.  My new products were released just before the holidays and the Pistachio Cherry was very popular.  The other syrups they selected are the Smoked Maple Pecan and Cardamom Clove.  My new bitters that have just been released from this collaboration are the Honey Aromatic and Smoked Salt and Pepper.

monarch 10

BH – Why did you decide to create a couple new Honey versions of the Aromatic and the Lavender?

PA –  Again, the honey variations came from the discussion with Napa Valley Distillery.  I tried some recipes with different florals to create a honey tone but I wasn’t crazy about them, I felt they were lacking.  So I took some local honey and blended it with my aromatic bitters and I thought the flavor combination was lovely and different.  In discussing this flavor, and my other flavors, with a customer he said his wife would love a honey lavender so I made him one to give to his wife.  The flavor combination is beautiful!  After sharing them with NVD I started sharing them with some bartenders and the response was amazing, they are keepers!  There are many aromatic and lavender bitters on the market however there aren’t honey variations of bitters on the market.  My hope is by creating honey variations of 2 common flavors I am setting mine apart and allowing a delicious differentiation.

Shortly after making the honey aromatic I was told it would be used in a cocktail that was going to be on the cover of Edible Marin and Wine County magazine’s winter issue.  That flavor was released to market a week before the publication.  Sharing my new flavors has been wonderful!

BH – What were your debut flavor(s), and what year did you get it all going, was it 2015 or 2017?

PA – I have had a dozen bitter flavors since I went public but I felt that was too many to lineup for accounts to taste.  So I listed 6 on my sell sheet; Orange, Rose Petal, Cayenne Ginger, Cherry Vanilla, Citrus Basil and Wormwood (have recently removed with the addition of the new flavors).  I always started with these but let folks know that I had others if they wished to try them, most did.  After several months I added all to my sell sheet and I line them all up for tastings.  Taste is so subjective and I have found that on-premise flavor interest often differs from off-premise.  I have a broad spectrum of flavors with varying degrees of bitterness and I introduce them all.

I first started making bitters in 2015. That was when the seed was planted so I use 2015 as my established date.  I publicly launched Monarch in spring of 2017.

41817494_1397599350397534_537069025956462592_o

BH – I love your logo/label design on your various products. May I ask what the inspiration was?  And that looks like you on the label, is that true?

PA –  I wanted a classic art nouveau style, Mucha-esque.  Mucha’s art was inspired by the natural environment as are my bitters and syrups.  His art was popular during the birth of bitters, I wanted to capture that time in my design.

Yes, that is me on my label.  I first though of using my daughter’s face but realized that wouldn’t be appropriate for a product predominately used in the alcohol industry.  I considered my grandmother next but after lengthy discussions with family and friends I was convinced that if I was going to have a woman’s face on my product it should be my own.

BH – Why the brand name of Monarch?

PA – Coming up with a name is hard!  It was a family endeavor, many ideas flew around for many weeks.  I shared the feelings and thoughts I had around what I wanted my brand to portray. I wanted the symbolism of transformation as well as the power and beauty of nature.  I also wanted to emphasize my personal hand in plant alchemy.  My partner suggested Monarch one evening and I felt it immediately. That was it!  The woman is wearing a flower crown, a monarch of nature, with a purposeful expression.  The monarch butterfly, which I deeply admire, symbolizes metamorphosis, what I felt I experienced in launching my business.

BH – Phaedra, thank you so much for taking the time with this insightful interview into your bitters world. I’m sure the visitors here on Bitters Hub will appreciate you sharing your knowledge on how things go in creating Monarch and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task master of your own brand. Cheers!

PA –  Thank you so much for including me in your interviews.  I love Bitter Hub and think it’s a wonderful place for bitter lovers to learn more about bitters brands, where to purchase and producers from all over.  It is an honor to be included!  Cheers to sharing stories and our beautiful craft!

Website – http://www.monarchbitters.com

monarch 9

48428326_1467976790026456_7138588821112750080_o

Interview – with Michael Gatlin and Sam Babcock of Owl & Whale – Portland, ME

Owl 5

Flavors Produced to Date

Lemongrass ~ Persimmon ~ Cranberry ~ Cherry ~ Sea Smoke ~ Hot Pepper

New Bitters Flavors coming in 2019 – Orange ~ Blueberry

They also have an interesting selection of Phosphates and Shrubs

Owl 2

11987183_10155927039965231_2280895119004332625_n

Bitters Hub – What was it that motivated you to get started in the world of bitters production?  Is it a natural extension of all the years you’ve been a bartender?

Michael Gatlin – It was for us; Sam Babcock and I had been running bar programs for years. When we first worked together in 2014 and were writing cocktails every day, we wanted to experiment in every facet of the industry, so bitters were a natural extension of what we were doing with infusions and washes.

BH – What experience do you have in the culinary field, or another field, that gave inspiration to delve into the now-popular bitters and other products in your line?

MG – I owned a restaurant lounge on The Lower East Side of Manhattan for a dozen plus years. I spent lots of time in the kitchen there and behind the bar. There is a relationship between front of the house and back of the house, especially when and how to use the kitchen. Both Sam and I have dealt with a lot of talented chefs and accumulated a lot of techniques along the way.

BH – Are you and Sam originally from Maine?  If not, how did you end up there?

MG – Sam is from Cape Elizabeth. He spent time in D.C. working for Brian Voltagio and Mike Isabella among others. He moved back here to start a family. I am originally from Tennessee. I spent twenty years in New York City, where my son was born, and within a year I recognized the need for change. So my wife and I moved here five years ago.

46366297_2275991372435738_1178939261139812352_o

BH – How is the supply and demand going so far with your bitters, and what could be improved, if anything, knowing that bitters is for the most part, a small-batch artisanal endeavor?

MG – We make everything by hand, which is time consuming. For the first three years we delivered everything by hand as well. Now we have distribution in several states and are constantly looking to expand our brand and our volume.

BH – Managers of restaurants, owners of bars, and hotel F & B directors. How do we open them up to our amazing world of bitters and their usage behind the bar so bartenders eager to experiment (for the betterment of the establishment) don’t have to face such an uphill battle with gaining easier access bringing them in?

It seems like we have to sit them down with an epic presentation of dozens of bitters brands and flavors so they GET IT, otherwise it’s a thousand miles away from their noses and they just don’t understand the complexity they’re missing.

MG – The first step is to convince them not to make their own bitters. The trial and error put into a bitter flavor can take months if not years. I believe in supporting your local bitter maker, and the more esoteric bitter makers. Why should you worry about typhoons in Madagascar affecting the price of vanilla, or an orange blight in Florida causing your bitter orange peel to skyrocket? One of the most famous of all cocktails is the Old Fashioned, which is simply: spirit, sugar, and bitters. With the plethora of flavors available now, you can literally have an old fashioned every day of the year and it always be different.

BH – How do you and Sam go about divvying up the various tasks of the job description when it comes to getting things done so it all comes together?

MG – We flip a lot of coins.

Owl 1

BH – What is it like and what do you see from your perspective hanging out in your city/community in regards to support with your various products? And do you have pretty good reach so far with sales from your online presence?

MG – We prefer to be more personable and sell directly to the consumer. We let local retailers handle our on-line business. Steve at Vena’s House of Fizz, Lonnie at Boston Shaker, we prefer to deliver cases to them and let them sell on line.

BH – What is the longest maceration process for any of the bitters flavors you’ve produced to date?

MG – We usually have our cherry bitters macerate for six months. We produce a Barrel Aged Cherry bitter that continues in oak whisky barrels for another six months – so in total one year.

BH – What is the facility like in which you create your various bitters?

MG – Cluttered.

BH – How and where do you go about sourcing the ingredients you use for your bitters?

MG – We use local and organic when we can, however lots of bittering agents we use are esoteric and from warmer climates so we order on line as well.

16300282_1463708036997413_1470657098950085572_o

BH – What are your storage and temperature necessities that you feel equate to the best results for your bitters?

MG – Room temp works fine.

BH – Is all of your bottling and labeling done in-house?

MG – Yes.

BH – How do you decide on which bottles and tops to use when it comes to eyedroppers, atomizers, dasher tops, woozy, Boston round, flask-style etc?

MG – We went with a classic dasher – and use a green glass bottle, as no other bitter company had done that yet and we wanted to stand out.

BH – How do you determine the best bottle sizes to use – 1oz., 2oz., 4oz?

MG – We considered hand feel, cost, and amount the average bartender uses in a month. We do 100ml (3.3oz) bottles.

BH – Are the legal requirements and approvals strict and/or lengthy for producing bitters in the state of Maine, or in Portland more specifically? Do you need some special license and/or certification, how does that all go where you’re at?

MG – Yes. It is a pain in the ass.

Owl 7

BH – Are their major costs/fees/expenses involved, and are there regular facility inspections?

MG – Like any business, there are regulations, inspections, and fees. If you are serious about starting out in this business the road is long and arduous and be prepared for lots of bureaucratic red tape.

BH – I love all of the flavors you’ve come out with so far. When I read Sea Smoke, it made me wonder how that tastes. Can you elaborate on the process and how this idea come about?

MG – When people ask us about Bitters Sam likes say they are like the salt and pepper of the culinary world. So it occurred to me to have a salt and pepper bitter. At the time we were running a now defunct tiki bar and using various saline solutions to counterbalance the sweetness of the tiki drinks. Our favorite was the smoked sea salt, so we turned it into a bitter – as for the pepper, we went with Hot Pepper to give just enough spice to a cocktail without blowing out your palate.

BH – What are the most samples and least samples of trial and error testing you had to go through to get the flavor profile you wanted with a couple of your bitters releases ?

MG – Our first flavor was Persimmon. We bought a bunch of persimmons and tried to infuse them in scotch, rye, tequila, and they just weren’t working for us – so we made a bitter. That is really the origin of Owl & Whale. The recipe we still use is the one Sam invented on the spot four years ago. Next year we will release an orange bitter and a blueberry bitter – both of those have gone through a dozen iterations to get them where we want them to be.

BH – Shrubs. That Pineapple Rosemary you produce sounds pretty rockin’, and you may be the first to put together that flavor combination for a shrub. What inspired you for this idea?

MG – My son was three at the time and I had him with me at a local coffee shop. He grabbed a scone without asking, so I felt I had to buy it. It was pineapple Rosemary. I thought it must be fate and made it into a shrub and it’s been with us since.

BH – Do you have any new bitters flavors coming up in the near future that you can tell us about, or is it still a secret at this point?

MG – I guess I should have read this whole thing before answering questions – yes we have a blueberry bitter, and an orange bitter releasing next year – another one I’m not ready to discuss.

We also are increasing our lines of Acid Phosphates. These phosphates are fun, and the perfect way to acidify a cocktail without using citrus. Currently we are the only company I’m aware of making a blueberry phosphate. We are working on a Ginger and a Cherry as well.

47268198_2294725173895691_6463922881377075200_n

BH – I love your brand name and logo/label design on your various products? May I ask what the inspiration was? I noticed the logo was created by a person named Bonnie Durham. What is it exactly? The skull of an owl? The overall label design, I like it in the way that it’s both simple and not busy.

MG – We spent more time on the name of our company than our first four products. We had hundreds and hundreds of names. Our name comes from eighteenth century drinking terms. The Owl was the late night drinker, the wise one who people asked questions of, usually the one to close the bars. The Whale was the heavy drinker, the big spender – you always wanted to see the whale come in and buy everyone drinks. And you always wanted to ask The Owl a question if no one else knew the answer.

Bonnie Durham is my wife. She is a talented photographer and illustrator as well as muralist. (She did the interior for Banded Brewing in Biddeford, a local beer company we have collaborated with in the past – bitter infused beer). I told her the name and three drawings later she had the Owl skull with the harpoon through the eyes. She wanted a riff on the old skull and crossbones on poison bottles. It is a very successful logo. We couldn’t be happier with it.

BH – Your logo also looks cool on your hoodie, onesie and T-shirt merch line.

MG –   We always joke that if the bitters and phosphates don’t work out we could just turn Owl and Whale into a clothing line.

BH – Michael and Sam, thank you so much for taking the time with this insightful interview into your bitters world. I’m sure the visitors here on Bitters Hub will appreciate you sharing your knowledge on how things go in creating Owl & Whale and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task masters of your own brand. Cheers!

MG – Thank you. It was a fun experience.

Website – http://www.owlandwhale.com

Owl 8

Owl 3

Owl 6