If you've been a fan of Aged & Ore since the beginning, or consider yourself an expert mixologist, the name Bittercube will ring a bell. When we launched Aged & Ore on Kickstarter in January of 2018 with the debut of our Duo Glass, we were lucky enough to get the folks over at Bittercube on board to collaborate on some pledge levels that included some of their hand-crafted bitters. After being able to tour and witness the magic that is their production facility, we've only become bigger fans. They recently also just opened a bar at their new facility, and have a ton of other cool stuff in the works. We sat down with their co-founder Ira Koplowitz for a Q&A to shed some light on what they're all about.
A&O: Bitters... for anyone who doesn't know what bitters are or why they should care about them, give us the quick run down.
Ira: All bitters makers have a different take - we look at bitters as a frankenstein cornucopia of flavors derived from barks, roots, flowers, fruits, spices and herbs dissolved into alcohol and finished in various ways with sugars, juices, molasses, water and teas. Basically, they are the spice rack for the home bar!
One of the many tasty drinks crafted in the Bittercube Bar
A&O: A lot of our customers are big whiskey fans, what's your favorite way to integrate bitters in a spirit forward way?
Ira: A classic Old Fashioned is a great way to showcase both a solid whiskey and complex bitters. The Old Fashioned is actually the original cocktail, dating to the early 1800s. Four simple ingredients, spirit, sugar, water and bitters!
A&O: We've heard of people using your bitters outside of cocktails, what other uses are your favorite?
Ira: Jamaican #2 in a PBR is known as a poor man’s IPA and is delicious. I use CBV in seltzer to create a dry soda. And just about all the products are great to bake with, they can be used to replace spices or vanilla extract.
A&O: Having your new bar in your facility seems like a great way to test out new recipes and have some fun. What's the craziest thing you've had on the menu?
Ira: We did a Banana Daiquiri that used a banana 4 ways and took 3-4 days to prepare!
We start by peeling bananas and vacuum sealing the peels with demerara to infuse the sugar with the oils in the peel. Then we puree the fruit and vacuum seal it with amylase, a natural enzyme used by brewers to break starches down into fermentable sugars. We sous vide the fruit for four hours to expedite this process.
After that we add pectic enzymes to break the natural fruit gelatin down, freeing the clarified juice from the solids. After 24 hours, we use the clarified juice to finish the banana peel syrup to a perfect 1:1 sugar:water ratio.
The leftover banana mush is then dehydrated for 24 hrs. Once dried, the banana powder is infused into Rum for 24 hours. We dehydrate the mush again for another 24 hrs to use as a sprinklable garnish for the finished cocktail.
Traditionally a banana daiquiri would be blended, so we decided to do a shaken banana daiquiri with the full flavor of banana but without the blending! It was a delicious cocktail...
Bittercube Orange BItters, as featured in our original Duo Glass campaign
A&O: With both of us being located in the midwest, are Old Fashion's as midwestern as people around here think they are?
Ira: The Wisconsin Old Fashioned is certainly one of a kind! There really are two schools of thought in regards to the Old Fashioned. The Classic and the Wisco. The classic, as I said earlier, is the original cocktail with four simple ingredients. The Wisco uses those four ingredients alongside muddled cherry and orange, and oftentimes some type of soda. They’re both delicious but pretty damn different at the same time!
A&O: You're obviously a cocktail expert.. whats a red flag when you walk into a new place and check out their cocktail menu?
Ira: Bartenders free pouring and garnish caddies with days old fruit are tells of a place I’m most likely going to order a beer at. As far as cocktail menus go, I think simplicity is generally a good sign. If all the cocktails list 10 ingredients, I’m probably ordering a beer.
A&O: If you got stranded on an island and a liquor genie appeared to grant you any 3 bottles, what would you wish for?
Ira: It would be easy to say Pappy 15 year, but I’ll skip those hard to find bottles for this scenario! I’d have to go with a bonded Bourbon, Old Grand-Dad fits the bill as a no frills, solid bourbon that is good in cocktails and on its own. Beyond the bourbon, I’m going with sweet vermouth (I’ll need my Manhattan’s on that island!) - probably Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and Heirloom Pineapple Amaro to round things out...