Interview – with Seth Benhaim of Infuse Spirits – Santa Monica, CA

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Flavors Produced to Date

Aromatic Bourbon ~ Cassia Bark ~ Cardamom ~ Clove ~ Ginger ~ Lemon Pepper ~ Sassafras ~ Szechuan Spice ~ Tres Amigos

They also have a Master Set and the Artisan Collection 

Founded – 2016

Seth-Headshot Update

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

Seth BenhaimAfter joining the craft spirits industry with Infuse Spirits (vodka) in 2013, I began spending a considerable amount of time in bars and liquor stores, and saw first hand the increase in bitters brands showing up. I felt that the Infuse Spirits process would lend itself beautifully to bitters, so it was a natural next step for us.

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?   

SBMy first and only foray into alcohol/spirits was with Infuse Spirits at the age of 24. I had just moved back home from Tucson, Arizona after moving there for college. I spend 2012-2016 building our national vodka brand with Infuse Spirits, so when the opportunity to diversify with Infuse Bitters came up, I was already 4+ years into spirits production and had spent countless hours working with spices and herbs to develop flavors. 

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BH – Are you a California native?

SBYes, born and raised.

BH – Can you tell us about your process of using the roots and spices that are actually left in every bottle, maybe as far as measuring is concerned?

SB –  We aim to fill approximately 15-20% of the volume of each 4oz bottle with real ingredients for the various recipes. Some more, some less. This makes for a powerful and flavorful punch with each bitter

BH – What is the average infusion time for each bottle before they’re ready for sale?

SBWhile the time varies due to heat, light, and a few other factors (such as which bitter/recipe we’re talking about), an average of 14 days. Once they’ve hit a certain color, smell, and taste, we know the bitters are ready for use.

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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? 

SBOur bitters business is much stronger than we anticipated. We didn’t have wild expectations when we set out to launch bitters, but now our bitters sell to over 35+ states across the country. 

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?

SBYes, we hired Jez Nguyen, our resident Bitters Specialist. Since Fall 2018, she’s taken over the entire bitters program for the company. She has helped perfect our process, increase our capacity, develop the brand, run its social media, and connect us with the broader cocktail and bitters world. She is the heart and soul of our bitters program and an expert on craft cocktails. 

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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 good reach so far with sales from your online presence?  

SBOur online sales (www.infusebitters.com) are growing and serve as a great tool for those who cannot purchase our bitters in their local shops. We also sell on Amazon.com. We sell to local Los Angeles based shops as well, such as BarKeeper in Silverlake and Fireside Cellars in Santa Monica. 

BH – From what I’ve gathered, you also produce Vodka and Whiskey. When you entered into the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, what product did you compete with to win your Best-in-Show and Double-Gold?

SB – We are best known for our vodka, and our Cinnamon Apple vodka did win the Double-Gold / Best in Show when the company was only 3-months in business. We have also recently won a Double Gold for our upcoming “Isle of Peat” American Whiskey – a part of the upcoming fall release Single Oak Series. 

BH – Do they have a Bitters category in the competition yet?

SBI just checked, and yes, they do. We will be entering our most popular flavors: Ginger, Cardamom, Tres Amigos, Sassafras, and all new Bourbon Aromatic.

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BH – Your lab and office is called The Infusery. Is it a multi-purpose/use facility with event space given the fact that it’s 3,000 sqft.? 

SBThe event space / tasting room is 3,000 sqft. The distillery portion in the rear of the building is another 650 sqft. Between the two are the Infuse Spirits offices, and our HQ, which is 3,000 sqft. We will be distilling spirits, producing bitters, aging whiskey, and holding private events by Q4 of 2019.

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

SBYes, you do need a lot of various licenses, insurances, and other credentials to produce bitters. Los Angeles county is not the cheapest place to make liquor products, but the juice is worth the squeeze!

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

SB We have not tested cold storage, knowing that heat is a catalyst for a chemical reaction. It’s best to either store room temperature (which is what we do) or in a warmer environment. For all of our products, we rely on room temperatures to gauge our lead times to know when infusions are complete.

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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.? 

For my bitters kit for example, I use droppers and the atomizer spray caps that you also have available, of which I love because it helps with drink prep pace during busy hours, not to mention that guests love it because it looks cool!

SBI am a massive fan of the atomizer spray tops. I know that droppers are very precise ways to control the addition of bitters to exact a recipe. My personal preference will always be for spray top. As for the Boston rounds, we like having access to an ample supply, and it’s a bottle that we can find anywhere should we find a supplier runs out. We don’t like to keep customers waiting, and we also like to keep our costs reasonable. Unlike most bitters companies, we sell mostly wholesale, so we have to account for distributor margins as well. 

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

SBWe went with the industry standard 4oz bottle size so that customers can make an easier comparison of price/value between our bitters and other brands.

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BH – I like your clear bottle usage and labels. Who designed them?

SB –  My wife, Rachel Many (www.inkandosprey.com) is an incredibly talented designer and has her own studio in Los Angeles. She does all of our brand packaging. 

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

SBWe looked first at flavors that went with a wide array of classic and traditional cocktails – Ginger, Tres Amigos, Cardamom. Then we got creative and found recipes such as Lemon Pepper, Szechuan, and Aromatic Bourbon because we thought that these niche flavors would be fan favorites among more advanced bartenders looking for edgier and savory flavor profiles. 

BH – I love all of the flavors you’ve come out with so far. Looking forward to getting some soon. Any other flavors you’re thinking about creating/producing down the road?

SBWe are developing two more bitters this year – an Orange Bitters as well as a Hops Bitters. Both will offer two very distinct profiles. We are excited to have these out before the holidays.

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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 bitters releases ? 

SBA great example for us right now would be the development of our orange bitters. We’ve made over 40 different samples, and Jez has been experimenting with a variety of different oranges, from whole dried to candied to just peels. We test and taste for months to see the effects of time on the various ingredients to make sure the profiles hold up. 

BH – I’ve atomized/sprayed certain bitters flavors over the top of an apple pie before in my food experimentation, mainly toasted oak, Bourbon barrel-aged orange, and holiday spice. Have you worked a bitters with a pie flavor?  

SBWe have not made any pies here at our office (yet) but we imagine our Cassia Bark (cinnamon) bitters would be a welcomed addition to most baked treats!

BH – Seth, 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 Infuse and to get a glimpse into what it takes to be the multi-task master of your own brand. Cheers!  

SBThank you for your time as well!

Website – http://www.infusebitters.com

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