In the early days of cocktail culture, it literally wasn’t possible to produce a “cocktail” without bitters. Now the word has come to encompass a variety of categories, but bitters still remain an integral cocktail component. It’s an increasingly competitive market, but one of the leading producers is The Bitter Truth, a brand that German mixologists Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck founded in 2006 and recently started distributing Stateside. So far, the duo has produced Celery Bitters, Old Time Aromatic Bitters, Orange Bitters, Lemon Bitters, Bittermens Xocolatl Mole and Grapefruit Bitters. I recently caught up with Stephan Berg, who discussed The Bitter Truth and how to use it. He also shared a number of cocktail recipes.
Why did you decide to start The Bitter Truth?
We were actually making our income as bartenders and had a deep interest in classic drink, but were unable to find anything besides Angostura Bitters on the German market. So we simply thought we should do something ourselves and gave it try.
Why the name The Bitter Truth?
It is such a common and nice expression, which suited our needs and products best. It also supports our message to be premier.
What distinguishes The Bitter Truth from other bitters?
Our bitters are composed of 100% natural ingredients. We do not use glycerin to stabilize the product in our bitters. Others try to avoid paying duty on alcohol and replace alcohol with glycerin. Others also use artificial ingredients-we don’t!
The Bitter Truth offers the broadest, most individual, and of the highest quality made bitters to the bartender. Our packaging is contemporary and vintage at the same time. One can wash of the labels anytime, to keep the bottles clean and shiny. Others use cheap paper, and after a while the bottle looks nasty and unclean.
Why are bitters such an important ingredient in cocktails?
With a strong focus on drinks made the classic way, the modern bartender needs bitters to bring balance and complexity to his creations. Bitters are like salt and pepper together with a wide range of herbs and spices in the kitchen.
How did you decide which flavors to produce?
When we started in 2006 we focused on the classic flavors such as aromatic (Angostura like) and orange bitters. Then we thought, oh if we have orange , why we don’t have lemon bitters. Then we created the worlds first lemon bitters. Afterwards we wanted to bring a lost ingredient to the market again. Celery Bitters! The first commercially available celery bitters since 100 years!. Grapefruit bitters, Xocolatl mole bitters followed and our newest creation are Creole bitters, which is our impression of Creole cuisine combined in a spicy liquid.
Generally speaking we search the niche, and with our bartending background we are able to see the bartenders needs.
What other bitters flavors are you currently developing?
Creole Bitters are the newest creation and will become available shortly. We also work on a retail pack of our flavors, which can be carried in airplanes in hand luggage, because the total capacity is 100ml. It gives the average consumer and the bartender to try out several different flavors before buying a full bottle.
Are you currently working behind the bar anywhere?
I`m actually part of a group of bartenders called The Traveling Mixologists and we make special events from time to time in different cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin and Munich. Other members of this small group are Angus Winchester, Michael Menegos, Xavier Padovani, Stanislav Vardna…and a few more…12 in total!
What’s a great simple cocktail for people to make at home using your bitters? What’s the recipe?
Take a simple gin and tonic and add a dash or two of orange, lemon, grapefruit or celery bitters to it. You will be impressed how well it works!
Gin & Tonic
The Bitter Truth bitters of your choice
Lemon or cucumber slice
What’s a good use for your celery bitters?
As mentioned above the Gin and Tonic is a great, but use them in a classic martini cocktail and get a fully new view on the king of drinks. But the most advantage will be seen in a Bloody Mary!
Vodka or Gin
splash lemon juice
salt & pepper
Dashes of The Bitter Truth Celery bitters
What’s a good use for your aromatic bitters?
We suggest a Manhattan Cocktail, a Horses Neck or an Old Fashioned Cocktail.
2 parts Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
1 part sweet vermouth
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
What’s a good use for your orange bitters?
The King of Drinks, the Dry Martini Cocktail originally contained in his recipe a couple of dashes orange Bitters. This habit was lost after prohibition. Orange bitters will bring more complexity and balance to the worlds biggest cocktail seller.
Dry Martini Cocktail
5 parts Gin (or vodka if you are out of gin)
1 parts dry vermouth
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
The Bitter Truth bitters are available online and in Los Angeles at Bar Keeper (Silver Lake), Hi-Time Wine Cellars (Costa Mesa), Silverlake Wine and Wally’s (Westwood).
May 2, 2010 at 9:46 PM
My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!
February 24, 2010 at 11:42 AM
wonderful Q&A with the bitter truth folks! Can’t wait to try the chocolate-mole bitters if I ever encounter it.
February 24, 2010 at 3:09 PM
H.C., Thanks for the pat on the back. As you know, Bar Keeper has a bitters bar where you can try drops of all the products. That’s probably a good place to sample The Bitter Truth.
German Mixologists Deliver The Bitter Truth to U.S. | The Bitter Truth
February 23, 2010 at 1:04 PM
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