photo courtesy of Jey Moore

We were surprised and honored to by named by Phoenix New Times as one of the 100 Tastemakers for 2016. We are so grateful to all of the bars, restaurants, retail partners, and friends that have supported us so far and especially to Young’s Market Co of Arizona for helping to spread our bitters love throughout the state. In the past few months we have teamed with retail partners in NYC (Amor Y Amargo), Philadelphia (Rowhouse Distillery) and San Diego (Pacific Provisions) to help get our bitters into the hands of bartenders and home enthusiasts throughout the country. Thank you, all!

It’s been an amazing journey so far for us at AZ Bitters Lab! When we started making bitters as a hobby we never thought it would take on us on this path. We just wanted to have some fun, learn new stuff, and enjoy research and development (aka imbibe some cocktails). Instead, making bitters has led us on an incredible adventure that we could not have imagined.

We are well into our second year of business and want to take a moment and give thanks. We have been blessed by meeting so many amazing people, receiving such great and loving support from the local and national community, and having wonderful opportunities come our way. First and foremost, we give thanks to our Father for blessing us in this process and may we do good with what He has provided. Thank you to our family, especially our Moms, and our friends for helping and encouraging us throughout this process. Thanks to our mentors, guides, teachers, business partners, and collaborators for sharing your wisdom, bringing us alongside, and inspiring our creativity and drive to do more. Thank you to our customers who have purchased our product and may your cocktails always be delicious.

Has it all been fun and games? No! It’s taken a lot of time, hard work, blood, sweat, and tears (and cocktails!) to build up our business. That’s a lot of work for our small team of three, which includes Mom, who is nice enough to provide free labor for her kids. We’ve done it all from washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen to packaging up boxes for mailing and sending invoices. We can say that we’ve held every position in our company and do so with love and passion for what we’re doing. So, we’re far from our original hobby, but we love every minute of it.

We are looking forward to new adventures in 2014, which includes growing our business and branching out in new areas. When we started the business we knew one of our goals would be to focus on giving back. Why give back, you ask? Hey, we’re lucky to make a great product that is enjoyed by folks who are eating and imbibing well. Seems like a no-brainer to us; we have been so blessed by the business in so many ways, so let’s give to people that need a blessing. And when we think about people in need, we think about people affected by hunger and food insecurity. We enjoy our great meals and cocktails, yet so many don’t know where their next meal is coming from for themselves or for their children. So, our plan is to help support efforts to address this critical need.

We are excited to announce that we have formally partnered with two amazing organizations that provide food to people: United Food Bank (UFB) and Feed My Starving Children (FMSC).

United Food Bank provides 51,000 meals a day to those in need right here in the East Valley and eastern Arizona. UFB estimates over 1.2 million people in Arizona and one out of every four children in Maricopa County are food insecure. Feed My Starving Children tackles world hunger by sending volunteer-packed, nutritious meals to over 70 countries. Last year, FMSC delivered 133 million meals world-wide. Both organizations are four star rated by Charity Navigator, have low administrative costs, and have great employees and volunteers. Our goal is to support these vital organizations with our time, talents, and treasure. We’re small and may not be able to contribute a lot at this time, but every little bit helps. As a food and drink community, we, collectively, can make a huge difference.

 

We ask that you check out these two great organizations and keep an eye out for future updates on our efforts to help combat food insecurity. There is something all of us can do and no effort is too small. We hope this is just the beginning of great things to come and look forward to seeing where this path takes us.

Again, thank you. It’s because of YOU that we’re able to continue on this journey and may we do good things with your support. Cheers!

We are happy to introduce the latest flavor of AZBL bitters. Orange Sunshine is a seductively aromatic, beautifully glowing combination of fresh and dried orange peel, fennel, and saffron. These flavor-forward bitters are extremely gin-friendly and will provide a complex bitter punch to your Negroni or Martini, add depth to your Manhattan, or make a party out of your champagne cocktail.

We were invited by Troy and Krista from Wedge and Bottle to give a little demonstration and tasting to introduce our bitters to their customers. Their shop is the best around for artisan cheeses (oh my!), excellent beer and wine selection, wonderful crackers, salts, jams, and other goodies. They also serve up some killer grilled sandwiches, soups, and charcuterie plates. As they focus on wine and beer, we were challenged to come up with some wine and beer (no liquor!) cocktails that would showcase our bitters. After a few hours of happy experimenting we came up with three (recipes below).

During the couple hours of our demonstration we were thrilled to meet a few of you that we had only chatted to through social media, we saw some good friends, and we got to introduce our bitters to some people that only knew bitters from that old Angostura bottle in their parents cabinet. We are so thankful to Troy, Krista, and Liz at Wedge and Bottle for giving us this opportunity!

Recipes Pils-orita

This is a beery take on our favorite Margarita recipe replacing the tequila with a wonderful pils and adjusting the sweet/sour a bit. This cocktail is very low in alcohol and perfect for a sunset party on the patio with your friends.

1oz agave syrup (half agave nectar, half water) 0.75oz lime 4 dashes AZBL Más Mole bitters 4-5oz of Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils

Combine the agave, lime, and bitters in a shaker. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with the Pils, give a gentle stir, and add a extra dash of the bitters on top.

Champagne Cocktail 0.25oz of simple syrup or 1 sugar cube a few dashes of AZBL Figgy Pudding bitters Brut bubbly (in this case we used Campos de Estrellas cava)

Add the syrup or sugar cube the bottom of a flute, add 2-3 dashes of bitters, and top with the brut bubbly. How easy is this?

Figgy Nitro

This drink is even easier than the bubbly cocktail above, taking a really delicious stout and making it even better.

Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout AZBL Figgy Pudding bitters

Pour the stout into a beer glass, add a few dashes of bitters to the top. Enjoy! The fig flavor is a perfect compliment to the chocolaty creamy goodness of this stout. We experimented with quite a few stouts and porters and found that the sweetness of the Nitro was just the right combination for the bitters.

Sure you know we love creative cocktails featuring bitters over here at AZBL, but we also really enjoy experimenting in non-alcohol based drinks (heaven forbid!), savory dishes, and sweets. We are even more thrilled when our friends and customers send us a recipe of something they have tried.

This recipe comes courtesy of our friend, The Food Hunter, at Food Hunter’s Guide. Let us know what you come up with for other uses for bitters! And please go over to Food Hunter’s Guide for some great discussion of food and experiences that are special, local, and unique.

Figgy Pudding Blondies By: The Food Hunter, January 2013

2 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar 1/2 cup sugar 2 large eggs 1 ½  tablespoons AZ Bitters Lab Figgy Pudding bitters 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add both sugars and beat for another 3 minutes, or until well incorporated. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla and figgy pudding bitters.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear into the batter. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chips and nuts. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and use the spatula to even the top as best you can.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the blondies comes out clean. The blondies should pull away from the sides of the pan a little and the top should be a nice honey brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for about 15 minutes before turning the blondies out onto another rack. Invert onto a rack and cool the blondies to room temperature right side up.

Cut into 32 bars, each roughly 2-1/4 x 1-1/2 inches.

 

The Old Fashioned is such a simple but fulfilling cocktail. A sugar cube muddled with bitters, plenty of your favorite bourbon or rye (or both), slowly adding bourbon and ice to your mixing vessel while stirring was the drink of choice for many a cocktailian in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. The drink fell out of favor as the Nobel Experiment hit then saw a bit of resurgence in the 1950’s, most notably by those slick dressed ad guys at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. By the 1970’s, the drink had become a caricature of itself all gussied up with a muddled fruit salad orange, cherry and pineapple with a splash of soda. Thankfully, all things go full circle and the wondrous Old Fashioned is back in form. Whiskey, sugar, bitters, and maybe, just maybe, a hint of something else so long as the essence of the drink remains intact.

Here is a bit of a different play on the Old Fashioned that combines the spiciness of the rye and herbal quality of the Bénédictine with Dale DeGroff’s lovely pimento bitters, Sumptuous Syrups of Vermont’s delightful Blackberry syrup, and our AZBL Figgy Pudding bitters. The add-ons just providing a hint of depth and complexity while letting the rye and the bitters shine.

2.5oz Templeton rye 0.25oz Bénédictine 1 barspoon of rich syrup (2:1 sugar to water) 1 barspoon of blackberry syrup 1 dash of Dale’s pimento bitters 2 dashes of AZBL Figgy Pudding bitters

Combine, add ice, stir, strain into rocks glass with a couple of ice cubes

Thank you, Phoenix Magazine, for including AZBL in your January 2013 edition.

(This went to print before we had our new labels so you will see our Laboratory Series label in the article.)

 

We’re often asked about uses for bitters other than in cocktails. Bitters are a form of flavoring extract so it’s a natural for recipes that call for vanilla extract or the like. When substituting with bitters, always start with about half of what the recipe calls for using a conventional flavor extract. Then taste and add more if desired. Also remember that the bitterness can be offset by a bit more sugar.

Bittered Whipped Cream 1 1/2 cup whipping cream 1/3 cup confectionery sugar 1 tsp AZBL Figgy Pudding or Más Mole bitters

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and whip until soft peaks are formed.

Bitters are typically specified by the dash. Add a dash of bitters. Add two dashes. But what is a “dash” and how does one measure it? For the measuring type, 1 dash = 1/8th of a teaspoon (or 1/6th, in some references). Even with this imprecisely precise information, it’s hard to accurately measure 1/8th teaspoon even if you have a 1/8th teaspoon measuring cup (which I do) as surface tension effects will give you varied measures.

For bitters with a shaker top (like ours at AZBL), some say a quick, hard shake over the mixing glass puts out a “dash”. Others like to tip the bottle slowly and let gravity coax the liquid, drop by drop, out of the bottle. In this case, something like 6-8 drops are comparable to a “dash”. What we do know is that the hole in the top of various bitters shaker tops varies from company to company and even within the product lines of a single company so counting drops isn’t a foolproof measuring approach for accuracy either. Still others go the eyedropper route with more precise control over counting droplets but the hole in the tip of glass droppers varies with bottle supplier or dropper size. Assuming using the same bitters bottle, the drop counting approach will at least give you consistency from drink to drink, yet not accuracy.

So how much bitters should be used and how should it be measured? This is really akin to asking how much salt or pepper should I use. Ingredients in bulk tend to have a measurement assigned to them. Add ¼ cup of raisins. Add 1 cup of chopped tomato. This type of ingredient is pretty easy to measure and in most cases don’t have to be measured precisely. In baking, measurements can be particularly important which is why people turn to very accurate weight-based measurement instead of volume-based. But seasonings, like salt, pepper, or even bitters, are often specified as “to taste”. You add some, you try, you add some more. Guidance like “a dash” or “two dashes” are a good starting point.

It’s far easier to add more salt than it is to take some out. We treat bitters the same way. First combine all of your other cocktail ingredients in your mixing glass. Taste. Add some bitters – maybe a single shake, maybe counting out 3-4 drops, taste again, adjust, taste, repeat. After a while, you’ll get the feel for it based on the flavor of your drink or recipe prior to adding the bitters.

So how do you add your bitters to a cocktail? Do you do the shake? Do you precisely measure by the drop? Do you like your cocktails gently bittered or aggressively so?

Let us know…and happy cocktails!

Thank you Gwen Ashley Walters, for including AZBL in the Edible Phoenix Winter 2012 edition 12 Days of Local Food-Lover Gifts list (page 6-7). This list includes some of our favorite local products!