"What's in those little bottles?" That's a question frequently posed to bartenders by bemused guests. The answer is bitters. Originally created as medicinal tonics, aromatic cocktail seasonings have become a common sight behind T.O. bars. Think of them as a barkeep's version of Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper. There's a cornucopia of flavours to choose from (thanks in large part to Queen West's BYOB), but I've been reaching for a few favourite bottles of homegrown bitters this winter.
Bittered Sling Suius Cherry Bitters
Crafted by Vancouver chef and mixologist duo Jonathan Chovancek and Lauren Mote, the Suius Cherry bitters have seasoned a crop of my drinks this winter, their boldness and complexity mingling perfectly with burly brown spirits like bourbon, rum and Scotch.
Coster's Prescription Coffee & A Smoke Bitters
I've been dousing mezcal and whisky with these deep, cigar tobacco-smoked bitters, the brainchild of Profile Wine Group's Mark Coster. He had Scotch in mind when crafting this particular flavour, described as "making out with Tom Waits at six in the morning."
Availibility $13 at thecraftybartender.com, $19 at BYOB
Dillon's Bitter Pear
Dillon's, purveyors of the fine local gin and white dog splashed all over Toronto drinks lists, also have a line of bitters barkeeps keep in heavy rotation. One of my seasonal go-tos is their Bitter Pear, with clean fruit backed by rich vanilla. A few dashes mixes a killer cognac Manhattan, and it's equally delish with gin or tequila.
Available at $14.95 at dillons.ca.