Bitters are a bartender's spice rack. And while the folks at Angostura once enjoyed a near monopoly, today's bar tops are crowded with tiny bottles lined up like some kind of aromatic barrier between you and the barkeep.
Now, New York has its own hometown bitters, courtesy of Brooklyn-based A.B. Smeby Bittering Co.
The brand is the brainchild of Louis Smeby, a former professional cook and botany buff. He says the secret to his elixirs is how they're made: Cold distillation preserves the delicate flavors, which can be lost in the steeping method that larger manufacturers use.
Some of this summer's seasonal additions include lemon verbena, licorice-nectarine, hibiscus-rose and celery-lovage--all based on local ingredients. Other flavors are built on savory spices like galangal or inspired by aromatic Oaxacan mole. All are sold in 2-ounce bottles to ensure they don't lose their freshness.
You can sample the new bitters at Buttermilk Channel, The Vanderbilt, Blue Hill and The Modern, where Smeby also works as a captain, and where the custom citrus-and-spice flavor has become the official bitter of the restaurant.
Buy a few bottles--orders are accepted by phone (646-554-6318) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)--and they'll quickly become your house bitters, too.
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