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



Flavors Produced to Date

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

Retired – CBD-Infused Cardamom ~ CBD-Infused Coco

Founded – 2015


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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