• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Chris Amirault

All About Bitters (Part 2)

355 posts in this topic

It's no surprise to me that they helped you when you were trying to figure out the US laws. They -- and frankly all of the bitters people I've met or corresponded with -- seem like a remarkably unbitter group of people given the absurdities you face.

Thank your lucky stars you haven't met me yet. ;)

But in all seriousness, the ridiculousness and absurdities of the various obstacles we've all had to overcome are offset by the good things we get from producing bitters. Knowing that your product is being used around the World is a pretty good feeling...

Most producers are either bartenders, or enthusiasts, with a shared passion for the industry. The great thing from a consumer's point of view is that the profit motivation (of those that I've come in contact with) is often secondary to the desire to put great bottlings on the market. Don't get me wrong, we'd all appreciate some extra coin in our pouch but so long as people enjoy using our bitters we'll keep banging them out!


Edited by evo-lution (log)

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris,

I don't want to say anything negative about the folks at The Bitter Truth at all, but we're extremely happy to have taken our recipes back. Finding a production partner last year was a necessity, predominantly brought about by the fact that I had accepted a position overseas that made producing the bitters ourselves impossible. So, we accepted some changes - we modified the formulas to work with the ingredients, equipment and processes that they had access to - and we accepted that the bitters would be coming into the US as a potable product and being sold through liquor stores. However, thanks to the crappy economy, followed by a layoff and repatriation, we were lucky enough to be in a position where we could take control back and start producing ourselves. It feels great to be hands-on with the production again, though filling and labeling over a thousand bottles over a weekend really takes its toll.

We restored everything back to the way it originally was - from the formulas to the cobalt blue bottles and even to the non-potable status. The biggest change was getting the commercial kitchen space from the fine folks at Taza Chocolate (and switching to their nibs which just work so well in the Xocolatl Mole) so that we could be legal to produce and sell. We've also been able to introduce the 'Elemakule Tiki Bitters and the Boston Bittahs, two flavors that we had regretted never being able to get to market.

In the next few weeks, our first non-bitter product should be getting ready to hit the shelves: the Chocolate Mexicano Extract, which we're making for Taza Chocolate. It's designed for chefs and bakers, but it does a fine job replacing or supplementing Creme de Cacao in Alexanders and 20th Centuries. There's even a new product that we've submitted to the TTB for non-potable formulation review, but you'll have to wait a little bit before we can talk about it!

The great thing is that because we're non-potable, our products can ship to any state and to most countries. We also have East Coast and West Coast distribution and are even trying to make headway into getting our products available in Europe and Asia. It's a full time job on top of our full time jobs - but as Adam said, all small batch bitters producers do it because we love the cocktail world - and if our bitters help bartenders make a drink that they could have never made before, then that means we're successful.


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having dealt with the TTB previously, as well as at this exact moment in time as I seek non-potable approval for my Spanish Bitters, I totally understand the frustration (and anger) that Avery and Janet have been through. They were also a great help to me when looking for clarity on the laws in the US (which as they mention on their website are unlike anywhere else in the World) so that sales of my bitters in the US were legal and above board. Something which other bitters producers should really pay heed to...

First off, aww shucks. You're going to make us blush.

Producing alcohol-containing product for sale without having the proper approvals is very dangerous. Not only can the producer be fined and prosecuted by the federal government, the bars that use unapproved products and the stores that sell them can be fined and prosecuted. We spent over two years giving products to bars under an evaluation-and-sample program without ever collecting a dime, but most of those delays were because we were doing some trailblazing on the processes for evaluation of bitters. Why? Because we didn't want to get any bar, bartender, shop or store owner in trouble because they chose to use our products.

The biggest challenge is that there are potentially three different federal agencies that one needs to be in compliance with: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The TTB controls the registration and approval of all potable and non-potable formulations that contain alcohol as well as facilities that use alcohol. Cough syrup, perfume, vanilla extract, bitters and commercial ethanol for biodiesel all need TTB designations as non-beverage alcohol products. The FDA controls the Generally Recognized as Safe list and food production facility registration for interstate sales. Finally, the USDA gets involved with certain ingredients as well as any organic designations. There is no single authoritative source that can be contacted to provide a list of "which bitters are legal to sell and/or use?" Even worse, there is no public registry of approved formulas within the TTB, which means that there's no way to validate if products are legal or not.

A few months ago, Bittermens reached out to all of the other domestic small batch bitters producers that we could find to see if there was any interest in forming a craft bitters organization with the goals of promoting bitters that have gone through the necessary TTB and FDA procedures and helping new producers get their needed government approvals so they can be sold legally. The plan was to set up a website that would basically walk people through the process - because though it is difficult to find out what you have to do to be fully legal and compliant, once you find out what needs to be done, the process is relatively painless and it's free. The website would also include a peer-certified list of products whose formulations held TTB approval and producers that were using an FDA licensed kitchen. Adam jumped at the opportunity to help put together the site and to help provide some information for US producers looking to sell in Europe. Most important, we wanted this organization to be free to join.

We put up www.craftbittersalliance.com as a landing page that listed the only small producer bitters that we knew of that held the necessary approvals - Adam's bitters (the Bokers and Dandelion & Burdock, but not the Spanish ones yet, unless he finally got his forms back) and Bittermens - as well as all of the basic information about how to get all of the necessary approvals. We're hoping that more producers join on - even if they aren't fully legal yet - so we can help them as they through the process and let people out there know who is in the process!

I'll get off of my soapbox now :)


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We put up www.craftbittersalliance.com as a landing page that listed the only small producer bitters that we knew of that held the necessary approvals - Adam's bitters (the Bokers and Dandelion & Burdock, but not the Spanish ones yet, unless he finally got his forms back) and Bittermens - as well as all of the basic information about how to get all of the necessary approvals. We're hoping that more producers join on - even if they aren't fully legal yet - so we can help them as they through the process and let people out there know who is in the process!

So Scrappy's bitters aren't, um, "fully legal"? Says the guy with bottles both at home and at work....


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So Scrappy's bitters aren't, um, "fully legal"? Says the guy with bottles both at home and at work....

I don't think so. I hope I'm wrong, or at least that they're working on becoming legal - but to the best of my knowledge, they haven't received an executed form 5154.1

The thing is that many producers have received information that they want to hear from people who haven't read the appropriate sections of the civil code that refer to the TTB and alcohol use. Here's the most basic summary:

1) If you create alcohol or increase the proof of an existing alcohol product, you need to petition for a brewing/vintner/rectification/distilling license.

2) If you create a product containing alcohol, it is by default potable and requires approval from the TTB. Potable products need to be sold through the three-tier alcohol sales network, requires permits and bonding. You cannot sell a potable product without a TTB approval.

3) If the product containing alcohol is not for beverage purposes (spirits, beer, wine), you can petition the TTB to get the formulation to be evaluated and classified as a non beverage alcohol product. As a non beverage product, you can claim back some excise taxes and sell as a food item, though your labels, production facilities and GRAS status fall under FDA/USDA jurisdiction. This approval/classification is provided via TTB form 5154.1

There are lots of people under the misassumption that if you take, for example, Everclear that you have paid tax on when purchased retail - mix up a bitter using that alcohol, that then you can re-sell it because it used an existing alcohol product. That's just not true. In fact, in many states, it may be considered an "adulterated spirit" and considered to be forbidden.

Bars and restaurants who make an intermediate product (e.g.: infusion or bitter) using commercial alcohol for use in a cocktail fall into a grey area. California, for example, says that technically infusing an alcohol and putting it back in the same bottle is expressly forbidden. I'm not a lawyer, but it looks like the law was written to protect consumers who see a bottle, for example, of Beefeater - expecting Beefeater to be in it, but instead, it's Gibley's. I bet that if it goes to court, simply putting the infusion in a generic bottle with a clear label/menu notation that says "house made infusion of XXX into XXX" should be legal. Essentially, it's the same thing as making a compound butter by mixing herbs into a commercial butter for use by the restaurant when making a meal.

So, to get back to what you initially asked: I'm not sure if they are legal or not - but my suspicion based on what I have heard is that as of right now, they are not TTB legal and their labels don't seem to be FDA compliant.

By the way - they make some absolutely great products. I really hope that they do become fully legal - and here's an open invitation for them to contact us. If we can be of any assistance so they can legally get to market, we'd be glad to help.


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regans' Orange bitters are off the Buffalo Trace web site.

They're back.


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thumbs up for Bittermens Grapefruit, BTW. I made a quickie gin-and-Campari and doused it with 10 drops or so of Bittermens Grapefruit. Dee - eee - licious.


Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Recently got my hands on another bottle of Abbott's Bitters;

http://yfrog.com/76wpgj

...and have began the process of reformulation with samples being sent away for analysis. I'll post info as and when I have it but hope to have (sample) batch one finished in a couple of weeks and (sample) batch two a few weeks after.

In the meantime I'm going to be researching the history of the company in much the same way I did with my Boker's reformulation.


Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll also be taking delivery of a full unopened bottle of Khoosh Bitters in the next couple of days and I'm interested to know if anyone out there has ever come across them (specifically having tried them) as the only person I know that has them is Ted Haigh, although I'm led to believe there's also a bottle at the Museum of the American Cocktail (unsure if this is the same bottle). These are extremely interesting to me due to the fact they were a British Bitters and seem to be extremely rare (to the point where I only know of this one other bottle).

On top of that I've been made aware of a full unopened bottle of Finsbury Distillery Peach Bitters that I hope to get my hands on,. I've never heard of these and no-one I've spoken to has ever come across them so reaching out to see if anyone has? Stephan from TBT has a bottle of their Orange Bitters so I'm hopeful that someone may know something...

There is also another bottling but I'm awaiting confirmation on what they are.


Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How on earth do you find all these rare bottles of bitters? Geez don't you get a lot of people who want you to share, for the good of The Cause.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Getting the bottles to Adam is the best way to get them shared. He has a real passion for dissecting the classic bitters so he can reproduce them (or reproduce them as well as possible without having the original recipes).


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How on earth do you find all these rare bottles of bitters? Geez don't you get a lot of people who want you to share, for the good of The Cause.

A lot of time, patience and money is the short answer.

Abbott's aren't that rare and are turned up every so often, the Khoosh has been a long process that I never thought would come to fruition but now it has, the Finsbury Peach was pure luck as with the other bottle I'm still not 100% sure what it is but judging by the Khoosh and Peach it should be something very interesting.

As for the comment re: sharing, you've lost me there...


Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think he wants a taste. As one of the first, and very happy, owners of Adam's Boker's bitters, I'm happy for him to have the originals so we can all enjoy his remarkable recreations.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think he wants a taste. As one of the first, and very happy, owners of Adam's Boker's bitters, I'm happy for him to have the originals so we can all enjoy his remarkable recreations.

Ah, I understand. I'm more than happy to share (as I'll cover in a little more detail) but I'm not going to start sending samples of bitters to anonymous people on the internet. :wink:

First-off, I have no plans to recreate every vintage/defunct bitters that I get my hands on. I am acquiring these as part of a bigger project and what is essentially an education for myself. The Boker's reformulation came about due to demand, the Spanish are going to be released as a Limited Edition batch due to the quality of them (possibly a one-off yearly batch due to how good they are), and the plan for the Abbott's is a relatively recent thing for the same reasons (demand) coupled with the fact I managed to obtain samples that were in remarkable condition. My Dandelion & Burdock Bitters were created due to the close relations between traditional D&B and bitters.

An immediate plan for me is to embark on a tour of bars in the UK (and hopefully the US) with all the bitters I've managed to procure, my own creations, and a number of modern bitters that fit with the profile that bitters were supposed to have (The Bitter Truth and Bittermens being great examples). Why am I planning on doing this? To give people a chance to try drinks as they were first intended but to also experience the rebirth of bitters as a category. Sharing what I've gotten my hands on is on the agenda, that's for sure.

I must also add that I am not interested in bottlings that are trying to latch onto the bitters rebirth but are not related to bitters in any way, shape or form. For me, there has to be a clear understanding of the difference between bitters, tinctures and flavourings. I don't want to talk negatively about any particular bottling but some are really misunderstanding the point and purpose of bitters.


Edited by evo-lution (log)

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must also add that I am not interested in bottlings that are trying to latch onto the bitters rebirth but are not related to bitters in any way, shape or form. For me, there has to be a clear understanding of the difference between bitters, tinctures and flavourings. I don't want to talk negatively about any particular bottling but some are really misunderstanding the point and purpose of bitters.

Thank you for saying something that really needed to be said.


Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm more than happy to share (as I'll cover in a little more detail) but I'm not going to start sending samples of bitters to anonymous people on the internet.

I'm inocent! I really didn't think you'd share with me, but am rather interested in having others get a better grasp of the formulations of defunct bitters. The more people who try them, the greater understanding we might get of their composition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Got my hands on some Bittercube bitters, the Cherry bark vanilla, Jamaica #1 and #2, the Bolivar, the Blackstrap, and the Orange. I haven't had a chance to play with them much, but I've inspected them a bit (dabbed on my wrist and in soda water) and my preliminary take is that they are really fantastic. These are some complex bitters. They also come in tincture dropper bottles which I think is great. Can't wait to try them out. I'm thinking I might try the Jamaica #1 (the flavor profile of which reads "allspice, ginger, black pepper") with scotch. Or maybe applejack. If you see them, they're worth picking up, though I don't know how wide their distribution is at this point.


nunc est bibendum...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Got my hands on some Bittercube bitters, the Cherry bark vanilla, Jamaica #1 and #2, the Bolivar, the Blackstrap, and the Orange. I haven't had a chance to play with them much, but I've inspected them a bit (dabbed on my wrist and in soda water) and my preliminary take is that they are really fantastic. These are some complex bitters. They also come in tincture dropper bottles which I think is great. Can't wait to try them out. I'm thinking I might try the Jamaica #1 (the flavor profile of which reads "allspice, ginger, black pepper") with scotch. Or maybe applejack. If you see them, they're worth picking up, though I don't know how wide their distribution is at this point.

The Bittercube guys are great, and their products are top notch. In fact, theirs are the best orange bitters I've tried, and the Bolivar are frequently subbed in for Angostura at my house. They've made a few limited editions that knock my socks off...a Lemon Tree variety for spring/summer this year and a Mole-like preparation for Milwaukee's Cafe Corazón that I can't get enough of.

We've no business affiliation, but they are good friends.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm thinking I might try the Jamaica #1 (the flavor profile of which reads "allspice, ginger, black pepper") with scotch.

Do report back. Some time ago I tried to make Jamaican jerk bitters (click for post up-topic) but couldn't find a use for 'em. The main problem there was the scotch bonnets and habañeros, of course!


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm thinking I might try the Jamaica #1 (the flavor profile of which reads "allspice, ginger, black pepper") with scotch.

Do report back. Some time ago I tried to make Jamaican jerk bitters (click for post up-topic) but couldn't find a use for 'em. The main problem there was the scotch bonnets and habañeros, of course!

Drank this in an Old Fashioned with applejack (Laird's bonded). It's profile is that of an aromatic bitters. It's spicy, with the ginger providing a backbone of spicy fruitiness, with allspice and pepper giving it a spice cake kind of feel. It was really very nice with the applejack, but I can see it working with anything brown really. It's powerful too, clocking in at 53 abv.

Its not a jerk bitters, there's no picante kind of spice going on here (no peppers). The other Jamaican #2 has a strong grapefruit component.

They are worth it. A funny thing, every woman I've showed them to (3) by dabbing on the wrists suggested they'd make great perfume. Not that they're perfumy or artificial seeming at all, they're just very aromatic in a pleasing way.


nunc est bibendum...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I may appeal to the forum, I can use a little advice on the subject of bitters.

My blog is focused on educating and exciting the average Joe on the subject of classic cocktails. In order to strip away any perceived mysteries and moans of "it's too complicated", I decided to build a fixed set of key ingredients and to work exclusively around those, plus mixers. The ingredients are "bottles" people would need to buy, not just spirits -- I know a lot of well-educated, well-off people who appreciate cocktails but who have little more than bottles of Belvedere and Cuervo Gold in their home liquor cabinets.

My choice of bitters are Angostura and Peychaud's. For a while now, orange bitters have been gnawing at me -- would they have been a better choice than Peychaud's? For the average Joe, which would provide the simplest, broadest, and most-accessible repertoire? If I switch, what do I lose (like the Sazerac) and what do I gain without disrupting the rest of the bottles?

I'd really appreciate the thoughts of the group.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.