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Interview of the month Rating:3

Imagen A bitter bet

A bitter bet

Coctelería Creativa

Interview to The Bitter Truth's creators, Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck (the answers were provided by Stephan and this is the original version, in English).


Before starting, we would like to know briefly the story of how Stephan and Alexander have met.
As we both tended bar for many years, we were naturally involved in cocktail competition and our submissions for a Metaxa Cocktail Competition were chosen to be part of the 12 best, which were then invited on a AIDA cruise through the Mediterranean sea to compete against the other participants. That’s we’re I first met Alex. We shared ideas on bartending and I explained my love to bitters and the classic cocktail literature. Alex was fascinated and we met after the cruise (he actually won the competition) and he introduced his former work as a graphic design student and we decided to combine skills.

What was the bitters' world like before Stephan and Alexander got together to create The Bitter Truth company?
In those dark times, speaking of central Europe, the only available bitters on the market was Angostura (which is naturally not a bad thing, but limited possibilities to some extend) and even on an international level there was only Fee Brothers and Peychaud. So we traveled to get those exotic bitters from the UK or from the U.S. It sprang to mind that the market obviously has a gap for these products, even when demand was in its initial stage.

How was the beginning for creating the first Bitter Truth products and how long did it take to launch to the market your first product?
As I already had some experience with bitters making we already had the recipes for orange and aromatic bitters ready to go. Alex designed a label and we found a fancy bottle and we were ready to roll. First showings not seldom resulted in comments like "How the f..k needs bitters?". As we are not those who give up easily we went on and build it up step by step.

You have a great range of products between bitters and refined liqueurs; do you prefer any of these products? What makes it special?
As bitters were a starting point, we soon picked up the idea to think beyond bitters and strengthen the brand with other non-bitters products. We didn’t want to extend the bitters line to more than 10. We have no preference on our own products. If released to the market it already passed our approval.
We always try to add value to the market, by doing something others do not or do in a poor way. We think there is plenty to do.

We know that Stephan collects bitters, how many products this private collection has? Which one is the most wanted one and why?
The collection is not too big in numbers, but it has some rare stuff. My original bottle of Bokers Bitters stands out of it for sure, but old bottles of Peychaud, Abbotts along with some scarce South American brands also have their room.

Can you tell us about a product is about to be released to the market or is just been released?
Our latest edition to our portfolio is Golden Falernum, a spiced rum liqueur essential to tropical and tiki drinks. It’s a powerful, spicy liquid that works in those type of drinks, just as bitters work in classic cocktails. It adds an extra layer of complexity and rounds the edges. Yum.

What is the craziest bitter idea you have had? Which ingredients were in it? And please, share with us why you didn't carry out with it.
Oh we actually carried out with our craziest bitters idea. Celery bitters take this title away. Even if it was something nobody could see the value of it at the beginning (as there wasn’t any for almost 100 years) it was the chance to start with something, modern bartenders needed to find use for. Luckily enough they proofed their skills and now it is one of our most successful products and other producers try to copy its success.
As the recipe is a corporate secret, we can’t share the ingredients, but what we can say is it has celery, alcohol, water, love, passion and experience.

Do you have any fetish ingredient that is reiterative in your products?
No we have no fetish ingredient. We keep our fetish out of production.


In a product category where the handicraft is extremely important, how have you contributed to the alcoholic beverages industry?
With more and more bitters brands coming to market, we can proudly say that we contributed something to the industry at least when it comes to classic cocktails. Maybe one or the other small producer or bartender got encouraged to start their own brand following our success.

Any product or mixture you have created it is unique in the market?
Pimento Dram, Golden Falernum, Celery Bitters, Creole Bitters.

Which is in your opinion, the importance of the bitters in the mixology world? What are they for?
Bitters are the spice rack of the bartender. They offer endless possibilities to tweak drinks and most often they turn an average drink into something great.

For the alcoholic base of your bitters, what raw material do you use?
It generally depends on the product. We already worked with neutral grain spirit, rum, whisky and gin as a base.

What did it mean for The Bitter Truth as a company, to win the recognition of festivals as Tales of the Cocktail, among others?
Oh that was awesome; we were speechless (almost!). This win made us extremely happy as this is something no small producer had ever achieved. At the same time it drew recognition from the entire spirits business on our brand. It really helped a lot.


If we need a bitter and we cannot find the product in the market, what would be you natural bitter recommendation?
Meanwhile I think anything is available somewhere or you can find it online. It is not easy to replace a key ingredient such as bitters as the flavor profile is so unique. You can of course play around with other brands, but there is no guaranty that the result will satisfy your taste buds.

What is your best Manhattan cocktail? What bitter, whisky type and vermouth would you use?
We're quite easy on that. We like a good bourbon or rye whiskey as a base, blended with some good sweet vermouth (Carpano is always very welcome) and we use a mix of Jerry Thomas and Orange bitters and finish with a lemon peel.

In what countries you are not present and you would like to be?
Russia is a market, but very difficult to find the right partner. South America is also still a white dot on our distribution map.

Would you share with us two necessary recipes for classic mixology lovers in which the Bitter Truth products have place?

6cl good gin
2cl fresh lemon juice
1cl The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
1cl Luxardo Maraschino
Shake, strain, stemmed cocktail glass

Bloody Mary:
5cl Vodka or Gin
3-4 dashes The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
salt, pepper, worchester sauce, tabasco
10-12 cl Tomato juice

Any recommendation to our audience if they cannot find a bitter and want to create a bitter to use is in their bars o home?
Learn about ingredients first, as they interact to each other. One can find online recipes for some old style bitters which is also a good starting point. The rest might be trial and error.

Finally, would you share some sweet words for a bitter world?
During those days when the entire world shows their bitter side, mix up a drink for you and your friends and soon afterwards things will change to the better. Stay positive. Thank you all!

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