Interview – with Missy Koefod of 18.21 Bitters – Atlanta, GA

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Flavors of Bitters and Tinctures Produced to Date

Barrel-Aged Havana and Hide – Chamomile – Grapefruit Lavender – Baltimore – Tart Cherry and Saffron – Spicy Creole – Hibiscus – Earl Grey – Japanese Chili and Lime – Prohibition Aromatic – Ginger Lemon

Flavors no longer produced – Black Currant & Cacao, Java, Coconut Lemongrass

They also offer five different 3-pack bitters gift sets in 1oz. bottle sizes – Rum Lovers – Bourbon+Whiskey Lovers – Gin Lovers – Tequila+Mezcal Lovers – Vodka Lovers

Also produced are creative selections of Shrubs, Cocktail Mixes, and Rich Cocktail Syrups

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

Missy Koefod  – We love entertaining with real quality spirits but were having a hard time finding the mixers that we wanted to use with really clean ingredients and interesting flavor profiles. One day during an Atlanta ‘snowpocalypse”, we started experimenting while stuck in the house and 18.21 was born!

BH –  What experience do you have in the culinary field, or another field, that gave you inspiration to enter into this product ?

MK – I was a cook, waitress, barista and then bartender during high school, and then after law school I opened my first bar. I love the hospitality industry and am so happy to be able to make a career out of doing what I love in the industry that I love.

BH – I have to ask, where does the name 18.21 come from ?

MK – Haha!  Well, I am a huge law nerd as a former attorney so it comes from the amendments that bookend prohibition. The 18th Amendment enacted prohibition and the 21st repealed it.

BH –  How is the supply and demand going so far with your bitters, and what could be improved, if anything ?

MK – We would love if everyone understood that bitters are used for more than just the Old Fashioned and Manhattans!  You can do so much with them and they really are the spice rack for your cocktails!  We also do so much more than bitters.

BH –  Knowing that bitters is for the most part, a small-batch artisanal endeavor, is there a possibility or interest for larger productions on a regular basis, or is there not quite a need for that at this point, or are you already there ?

MK – We produce a pretty high volume of product, but are definitely committed to continuing to produce a delicious and high-quality product no matter how great demand gets.

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BH –  What kind of feedback do you get from professional bartenders, and do you wish that more bartenders would get involved in regards to upping their game with a wider range of bitters usage ?

MK – We are so lucky to have some great bartenders surrounding us!  We get to learn from them and experiment with new cocktails. We have recently started working with some chefs as well which has been super fun and has really expanded our horizons!  I am so impressed by the creativity coming out of Atlanta.

BH –  Have you ever thought about a way to reach bar/restaurant/hotel owners, bar managers, GM’s, F & B Directors in regards to getting them involved with more understanding of the immense value of bitters for their establishments, since they’re mainly the buyers and decision-makers ?

MK – We have a great sales team that has been wonderful about spreading the bitters and mixers love for us!  Huge props to our sales lead, Nic, who is working it every day to spread craft cocktail joy!

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

MK – Oh man . . . 9 months . . . we do some crazy barrel-aging as well which tastes awesome in a drink!

BH –  What is the facility like in which you create your various bitters and flavors, and where is Ponce De Leon Ave NE exactly – downtown, on the outskirts a little, off the beaten path ?

MK – We do everything in Atlanta. We have a spot on the Westside of the city and we have a shop at Ponce City Market. It is right in the heart of the city in a neighborhood we call Old 4th Ward.  Super awesome neighborhood where we live and also have our bar. You should come visit sometime!

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

MK –  Our creative half, Kristen, does all of our sourcing. She is committed to using top quality ingredients. Sometimes we are lucky and can source locally and sometimes we source as far away as France, for our lavender, and Peru, for our ginger!

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

MK – Basically, what you and I are comfortable in, the product is comfortable in so, AC for everyone !

BH –  Is all your bottling and labeling done in-house ? And speaking of labels by the way, who came up with that very cool design of yours ?

MK – It sure is!  We do everything!  Our team is always busy writing out our awesome labels!  We have a great designer, Mike, who designs everything for us! He owns TBI Designs.

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

MK – We love the look of the Boston Round and amber protects the product from sunlight. We use droppers on our bitters to ensure accuracy.

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

MK – 4oz. seems like a legit size for a bar since bitters go a long way and our 16oz fit a speed pour and drop right in the well. Anything under 3.4oz for airplane carry on because have you ever had an airline cocktail?  Man could they use some help!  We love traveling with some bitters to make some good in flight libations!

BH – You know, a lot of bartenders out there love to initially engage in some of the bitters sample, travel, and mini packs available out there with smaller bottles that some brands offer to check them out first before ordering larger bottles. I think what you have done with your five different 3-pack gift sets in 1oz. bottles is a brilliant move in how you categorized them in a pairing direction with spirits. How did the decision-making go and what was the thinking behind all of that ?

MK – That was all Kristen. She is super creative and out F & B Director for our hospitality group, and thought of a cool way to introduce people to some killer bitters.

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BH –  Are the legal requirements and approvals strict and/or lengthy for producing bitters in Georgia, or Atlanta more specifically, and do you need some special license and/or certification, how does that all go in your state ?

MK – We are the 1st bitters producer in GA so that took a while, but the state is super cool and worked with us to help make 18.21 Bitters happen!  Props to Georgia!

BH –  What are the costs/fees/expenses involved, and are there facility inspections ?

MK – Yeah, we have to stay super clean and are inspected regularly, and I am happy to say that we always pass with flying colors and we are neat and clean freaks!  We are regulated like any facility that manufactures goods for public consumption so everything is regularly tested to make sure that it is A OK!

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

MK – We are releasing a special flavor end of March where all proceeds will go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I am a blood cancer survivor so we are really dedicated to cancer charities and thought this would be a cool way to help out.

BH –  Overall, what’s the feedback been like since the launch of your many flavored line of bitters some years ago ? . . and what was your debut flavor and when was it released?

MK – We released all of our flavors at once but my favorite is our Barrel-Aged Havana & Hide. People have been really stoked about it so that has been cool!  We love sharing our love of craft cocktails with everyone we can!

BH –  Personally, I love all of the flavors you’ve come out with so far. When I saw the flavor name of Havana and Hide, I was curious about what type of flavor profile that would be, and now that I have it and use it mainly in my custom Old Fashions, can you talk with us a little about how the essence and spirit of that idea came about ?

MK – Kristen loves Bourbon and this is her baby. It is really a leather and tobacco flavor but there is no leather or tobacco used. It took almost two years to create and is great in an Old Fashioned, but I love it in Rum, Mezcal, Scotch, and Barrel-Aged Gin cocktails.

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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 releases ?

MK –  We drank a few too many and tried to make a juniper bitter. We ended up making a 190 proof gin! Lol!  It was pretty funny.

BH –  Your cocktail classes, how often do you hold them, and where ?

MK –  Typically a few times a month. We hold them all over the place. Our last one was at a local distillery, and our next one will be at our bar.

BH –  I like on your website how you have recommended pairings with spirits and liqueurs on each of your individual bitters pages. I think it’s a smart move that helps bartenders tremendously and thank you for taking the time to actually be thoughtful enough to do that. Not everyone does out there in the bitters world. I’m an extra-mile personality, so I really appreciate that. But you also have Shrubs, cocktail mixes and cocktail syrups. Are you seeing more and more interest in those products from not only bartenders, but the general public as well ?

MK –  We are!  People are really stoked on cocktails and even use the products for cooking. One of our customers makes boozy cupcakes with the products and is kind enough to share!

BH – Missy, thank you so much for taking the time with this insightful interview into your bitters world. I’m sure the visitors/readers here on Bitters Hub will appreciate you sharing your knowledge on how things go in creating 18.21 and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task master of your own brand. Cheers !

MK – Thanks Kyle!!!

http://www.1821bitters.com

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