This summer, the hottest drink in the Napa Valley is not wine, but cocktails made with bitters. Yes, the onetime medicinal plant-based digestive is enjoying a renaissance, even in wine country. Arthur and Lusine Hartunian, the team behind Napa Valley Distillery (makers of premium small-batch vodka and whiskey), recently opened the Vintage Bar Shop in Napa's Oxbow Market, where they sell more than 300 artisanal bitters.
Since they opened the shop, the number of small artisan bitters makers keeps growing. As Arthur Hartunian tells us, "I am really excited to see this lost art form coming back. People are really into cocktails and craft spirits and bitters add depth and character to a drink. It's the salt and pepper of the bar—in fact, it's not really a cocktail without bitters."
With almost 300 bitters to choose from, what's my favorite? Bittered Sling, a line from a culinary duo in Vancouver, Canada (she's a mixologist, he's a chef), whose offerings include Grapefruit Hops, Orange and Juniper, and Shanghai Rhubarb. For now, you'll need to visit the Oxbow Vintage Bar Shop in person, although they plan to come online soon.
Above: Bittered Sling's Cascade Celery is "a complex, forested, and herbaceous blend of ingredients, offering sweet and savory tonality, all the while profiling one of nature’s most beautiful ingredients, wild celery." Highly recommended with vermouth.
Above: A selection of offerings from Bittered Sling, distilled essences made from natural herbs, spices, fruits, barks, and roots. Traditionally used in cocktails, bitters can also be added to recipes to add an extra kick. As Hartunian notes, "Bitters have become a real foodie ingredient."
Above: "A great way to enjoy Bittered Sling extracts is simply with sparkling water," they say. For a selection of zero-proof cocktails, go to Bittered Sling.
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz lavender flower syrup
4 oz freshly brewed (cold) Earl Grey tea
2 dashes Bittered Sling Orange and Juniper Bitters
Layer the ingredients in a Collins glass (we like these large Straight Glasses from Heath Ceramics) filled with ice. Add the cold tea, stir gently, and garnish with a lemon slice.
Check out a recent favorite drink: our Raspberry Sparkler.