GSN Review: Pink House Alchemy’s Bee’s Knees Cocktail Kit

Photo by Kat Wilson

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Pink House Alchemy is back with their iconic Bee’s Knees Cocktail Kit, inspired by the florals of spring. Perfect for the mom who loves to host or relax with a delicious beverage.

The kit includes a 16 oz bottle of Lavender syrup, 4 oz bottle of Honeysuckle bitters, 4 dehydrated lemon slices for garnish, bee pollen lavender rimming sugar, a pH Botanicals greeting card, and a recipe card for a unique version of a Bee’s Knees cocktail. Just add vodka or gin at home, or leave as-is for a delicious mocktail.

GSN’s Remarks: This really is a great little kit, with several bespoke ingredients that you’d be hard pressed to make yourself. We especially like the lavendar syrup which is becoming quite trendy in the cocktail world this year. Also of particular note is the bee pollen lavendar rimming sugar. It really ties the whole drink together with a floral and bee-centric focus. We prefer to use gin in our Bee’s Knees, but vodka will also work as well. We also highly recommend the other products that Pink House Alchemy crafts. Great stuff! GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Pink House Alchemy

#PinkHouseAlchemy #BeesKnees

GSN Spirited News: November 30th 2021 Edition

Boca Raton, Florida-based tonic and bitters maker Dugan & Dame are releasing chocolate bitters for the holiday season. The limited edition bottles are made in partnership with Dewar’s 15 Year Old Blended Scotch and the chocolate was supplied by Delray Beach, Florida-based 5150 Chocolate, which sourced and roasted Ghanese cocoa for the product. Dugan & Dame’s Cocoa D’amour Chocolate Bitters are available now from its website for $16 a 100-ml. bottle. Dugan & Dame was founded by husband and wife team Vaughan and Angela Dugan.

Tel Aviv, Israel’s M&H Distillery has announced the U.S. launch of Apex Dead Sea, the eighth release from the single malt producer. The 56.2% abv whisky is blended from 20 casks—ex-Bourbon, red wine, and STR (shaved, toasted, recharred) barrels—all matured on the roof of a hotel over 1,000 feet below sea level in the Dead Sea region. The first batch of Apex Dead Sea is limited to 4,892 bottles available in select countries including France, the U.K., the United States, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and Germany.

Utah-based High West is launching new entry High Country Single Malt nationwide early next month. Retailing at $80 a 750-ml., the newcomer is at 44% abv and is the first of the brand’s High Country bottlings to be finished in part in Oloroso sherry barrels, with no peated malt in the blend. Made from 100% High West distillate in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, the whiskey is unfiltered and distilled on the grain.

Código 1530 has partnered with Playboy on a new special edition Tequila, Rare Hare Double Barrel Añejo. Aged in French oak Napa Valley Cabernet wine barrels and finished in Spanish Sherry-Fino casks, the new entry comes in a wooden presentation box and retails at $899 a bottle, with 1,530 individually numbered bottles rolling out. Rare Hare is available on the websites of both Código 1530 and Playboy, as well as in select retail outlets.

Information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

The 2018 GSN Holiday Gift Guide Day 9: Tiki Kit

Tiki is hot right now. For the beginning tiki-phile, or hell even the advanced tiki-phile you can’t do much better than this kit which includes Martin Cate’s excellent book on Smuggler’s Cove along with dozens of recipes and mouthwatering photos. Here’s everything you get:

  • Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki by Martin Cate
  • Bikini Girl Tiki Mug, 12 oz.
  • Easter Island Tiki Mug, 12 oz.
  • Small Hand Foods Orgeat Syrup, 8.5oz
  • Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Cocktail Bitters

Order here

GSN Review: RAFT Botanicals Cocktail Syrups & Bitters

As the use of craft cocktail ingredients increases in popularity, there’s a movement underway to make them more approachable. One person leading that charge is Genevieve Brazelton, Founder of Portland, Oregon’s RAFT syrups and bitters.

Genevieve heads one of the few female-led cocktail ingredient companies and she’s on a mission to remove the intimidation factor from using artisan bitters and syrups. She hopes to utilize RAFT as a way to empower everyone “from professional bartenders to general consumers alike“ to create delicious cocktails with the best possible ingredients.

Genevieve’s love for an Old Fashioned inspired the brand’s creation in 2012 when she and her husband, Dan Brazelton, started The Bitter Housewife bitters. They later expanded their line with the RAFT brand of diverse syrups, bitters and cocktail kits, which together operate under the overarching artisan brand Improper Goods. Since the brand’s inception, the Brazeltons have believed creating cocktails should be fun “not precious or intimidating.”

  • RAFT and its sister brand, The Bitter Housewife craft syrups and bitters in small batches using all natural, sustainable and fair trade sourced ingredients, including 100% organic cane sugar.
  • Genevieve educates through unique flavors, cocktail kits, simple recipes and tips, knowing a great cocktail is a balance between strong, sweet, sour, and bitter flavors.
  • Genevieve encourages people to add them to non-alcoholic drinks, as well as using them in homemade dressings, marinades and even dessert recipes.

GSN was sent a sampling of some of their more unique products for review:

Hibiscus Lavender Syrup: A deep purple syrup that has an herbal and floral character with just a hint of spice. The lavender is a bit reticent, but the hibiscus flavor is nicely forward on the palate. This is a great syrup for white spirit cocktails that call for silver rum, blanco tequila and gin. Light and summery. GSN Rating: A-

Smoked Tea Vanilla Syrup: Dark brown syrup with an immediate smokey nose. The flavor comes from Lapsang Souchong tea and it is unique amongst all of the syrups I’ve tried over the years. The flavor is not overpowering, and the smoke is balanced with a touch of vanilla giving it a sweet and round character. Perfect for brown spirit cocktails that use American whiskey or gold or spiced rums as their base, this will also add an interesting edge to tiki drinks. GSN Rating A+

Cardamom Bitters: This is like tasting a mild Indian curry. Even though these are “bitters” these are milder and less intrusive in a cocktail than the usual aromatic bitters called for in most cocktails. At the same time, they elevate any cocktail that might call for the ubiquitous bitters by adding a spice blend not found elsewhere. There is a slight mintiness and citrus tang along with the spiced herb character.  Try these in place of Angostura, and also give them a try in a pisco sour. For agave based spirits, these will also fit the bill quite nicely. GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Improper Goods

GSN Review: El Guapo Bitters & Tonic Syrup

1373647549My cocktailian home away from home is New Orleans.  So much about the city has to do with cocktail history that it just makes sense that a new company specializing in bitters and syrups has established itself there.  El Guapo started out as a supplier for a local bar in the Vieux Carré, saw the potential to reach a wider audience and grew from there.  Interestingly, the owner Scot Mattox (an ex-Marine) named the company after his military nickname which literally means “handsome”.  He also donates 10% of their revenue to the Semper Fi Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.  Definitely two worthwhile causes, and another reason to support the company.

Chicory-Pecan Bitters – First of all, the scent of these bitters is extremely appetizing.  It encapsulates New Orleans in every way.  Loose, flavorful and vivacious.  The flavor is much milder than I expected, resembling a cup of coffee at Cafe Du Monde.  It definitely pushes a coffee/chicory blend with a warm richness to it.  The main issue I have is that there is NO alcohol in these bitters.  This may seem like a small thing, but virtually all bitters are in a neutral alcohol base which allows the flavors to be intensified.  I’m not sure that these will lend much more than a hint of the intended flavor when they become diluted in a cocktail.  That being said, you can certainly add some grain spirit to these at home and come to a compromise.  These definitely have potential as some of the best smelling and tasting coffee based bitters I’ve tried.  GSN Rating: B-

British Colonial Style Tonic Syrup – An opaque reddish-brown.  Quite tart with a lot of citrus that seems to outshine the typical bitterness of the quinine.  You won’t need to add a squeeze of lime to your drink with this syrup.  The flavor is well-balanced and quite bright.  It works very well with a standard London Dry style gin.  More juniper driven gins will also benefit from this style of tonic syrup, whereas gins with less character will have to take a back seat.  I like this a lot, very easy to drink. I suggest using a ratio of 0.75 oz. syrup/2 oz. gin/4 oz. carbonated water.  GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: El Guapo Bitters

GSN Review: Hella Bitters

l_153276hbbundlepackHella Bitters based in Brooklyn, NY has one goal in mind.  They “want to change the way people think about their beverages.”  Intentionality and craftsmanship are evident in their two bitters.  Started as a hobby on the west coast by three friends, and initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, they are now firmly established in the rapidly growing community of bitters manufacturers in NYCBut, you won’t find a location called Hella anywhere within the five boroughs.  Hella is bay area, California slang for “very”.  Hella clever.

Hella Bitter Citrus – The citrus flavor supports a more dominant herb and spice portfolio.  These are quite tasty and will liven up just about any spirit.  There’s a fresh, almost gastronomical flavor that is somewhat sweeter than many orange bitters.  As a side note, the hole in the dropper bottle is extremely small, so you may have to shake it a few times to equal the amount of bitters you would normally get from other manufacturers.  GSN Rating: A-

Hella Bitter Aromatic – Molasses notes along with cinnamon seem to be the headliners here. After a while, there seems to be an almost root beer overtone. Very well balanced and intense, perfect for dark rum along with bourbon and rye whisky cocktails.  Tasty and quite well done.  GSN Rating: A

For more information about Hella Bitters click here.

GSN Review: Cocktail Kingdom Bitters

imagesIf you still live under a rock somewhere, then you probably haven’t heard of Cocktail Kingdom. Purveyors of ultra high quality barware, replicas of rare cocktail manuals, bitters and syrups; they have now launched their own line of cocktail bitters.  The falernum bitters were crafted in conjunction with Blair “Trader Tiki” Reynolds, while the wormwood bitter recipe was spearheaded by SeanMike Whipkey from the Scofflaw’s Den website.

177995-cocktail-kingdom-falernum-B1Barrel Aged Falernum Bitters – Falernum is one of those flavors that rarely makes an appearance outside of tiki and faux tropical drinks.  However, that doesn’t mean that it’s inappropriate in let’s say, a rum old-fashioned, vodka martini, or even a margarita.  The thing about traditional falernum is that it combines flavors that are sour, nutty and spicy in a highly sweetened base.  The Cocktail Kingdom bitters take away the sugar and leave you with nothing but the basics.  The initial taste is of bitter and sour lime, along with just the slightest hint of almond.  But, the real killer here is the clove.  It just nails it, and adds the perfect touch of intrigue.  These bitters fill a gap in the field.  GSN Rating: A+


177994-cocktail-kingdon-wormwood-B1Wormwood Bitters – At first, the thought of ingesting wormwood seems counter-intuitive.  Yet, there is a historical precedent for these.  When absinthe was illegal, a few drops of wormwood bitters added to an anise flavored liqueur would approximate the flavor of absinthe.  Wormwood is known to be one of the bitterest plants on the earth, so it makes sense that it would tone down the relative sweetness of a liqueur.  These bitters are intensely bitter in conjunction with an amazing load of peppery spice.  Try these in a Sazerac (along with Peychaud’s) and see what happens.  These will also add an interesting twist to lighter style whiskies from Ireland and Canada in cocktails.    GSN Rating: B+

For more information about Cocktail Kingdom go here.

GSN Review: The Bitter Truth Bitters & Flower Waters

PrintGermany’s The Bitter Truth Company began with just two products; an Orange Bitters and an Old Time Aromatic Bitters.  At the time, very few bars carried anything other than Angostura Bitters, and even then there was only an aromatic version (they now also make orange bitters, due in part I believe to the success of entrepreneurs like The Bitter Truth).  But, that’s all in the not so distant past, as The Bitter Truth now carries a full range of bitters.  They may not cure all, but they certainly make a lovely and welcome addition to your bar’s cocktail arsenal.

Here are my reviews of some of their latest bitters, and two flower waters.  A previous GSN review of their other bitters is here.

111245-Bitters-The-Bitter-Truth-Peach-Bitters-20cl-800x1200Peach Bitters – Intensely peach forward with a sour tang that adds just the right amount of acidity and depth.  There seems to be an assortment of baking spices as well that linger in the back of the throat.  These make quite an interesting alternative to orange bitters, and work wonders with bourbon, rye and gin based cocktails.
GSN Rating: A


Grapefruit-Bitters-USAGrapefruit Bitters – Quite bitter with a lot of pith character more than grapefruit juice.  Very dry and intense.  Not much is needed to add a sharp and noticeable edge to a cocktail.  I wish there was more of a fruit flavor in here.  That being said, these work well with vodka, blanco tequila and even light rums to bring out a more intriguing character in each of these spirits when used in cocktails.
GSN Rating: B-


Tonic-BittersThomas Henry Tonic Bitters – The flavor of quinoa bark is pronounced along with several citrus botanicals.  The overall effect is quite intriguing, with a wide spectrum of flavors that percolate over the tongue.  I quite like these as a more apothecarian alternative to other citrus fruit based bitters.  An extra dash or two of these in a G&T will lessen the sweetness of the tonic, and in a martini, they shine.  Get a bottle while you can!
GSN Rating: A+

the-bitter-truth-orange-flower-waterOrange Flower Water – There aren’t too many orange flower waters available in my part of the world, but I have three to compare with.  The Bitter Truth’s version is amazingly floral and flavorful.  Really the best I’ve every had when tasted side by side with the others in my collection.  The gentle orange quality is remarkably floral and right on the mark in terms of intensity.  Well done!
GSN Rating: A

roseRose Water – Rose is one of those flavors that often gets overlooked in cocktails, and yet fits in with many of the aromatic herbal ingredients we don’t give a second thought to.  Gin, dry vermouth, Chartreuse, Benedictine, and so on.  Not only does the flavor of rise work well with these ingredients, but it also adds real interest to vodka, blanco tequila and champagne.  The version by The Bitter Truth is subtle and yet quite natural.  Just a few drops added to the top of a drink will give it a sultry nose.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: The Bitter Truth

GSN Review: Tuthilltown Bitter Frost Basement Bitters

basement-bittersIt makes sense that a distillery would make their own bitters.  After all, the Angostura company has been doing it for almost 200 years, so why not an American craft distiller?  Thus, we finally have bitters crafted by Tuthilltown Distillery located in downstate New York.  Made from unaged rye spirit, sarsaparilla, maple syrup and fourteen other herbs and spices, the bitters also benefit from aging in ex-rye barrels.  Unique and very much in the spirit of Tuthilltown’s other products.

Bitter Frost Basement Bitters (92 proof)
The rye character is a welcome change from most bitters that simply use a neutral flavored spirit.  There is a slightly sweet and spicy essence here that underlies the more herbal and spice driven characteristics.  Notes of cassia bark, allspice, and even sandalwood seem to be here.  Overall, it’s a lighter aromatic bitters than most, but at the same time this allows the individual flavors room to shine in whatever spirit they’re dashed in.  Perfect for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, these will also find a good home in tropical drinks that call for aromatic bitters.

GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Tuthilltown Spirits

GSN Review: AZ Bitters

5a3db7885f20df69dc304d6223364273The world of bitters has exploded in the past few years, with more and more unique flavors coming on to the scene.  What initially intrigued me about AZ Bitters, is that their company is truly a labor of love.  Started by a husband and wife who explored cocktail culture on the east coast, they eventually settled in Chandler, Arizona where they founded the first bitters company in the state.  Using unusual flavor profiles like fig, rare ingredients like saffron, and a process from beginning to end literally done by hand; they are craftsmen in the truest sense of the word.

They currently have three bitters in their portfolio, which I was sent for review.

Figgy Pudding – Slightly sweet with a definite fig overtone.  Notes of baking spices, richly dense Christmas pudding and even hard sauce, Instantly reminded me of the holidays.  The profile is not overly bitter, but is quite balanced with just enough of an edge to it.  Truly unique and mouthwatering, these bitters are perfect for brown spirits like rum, bourbon and anejo tequilas.    GSN Rating: A

Más Mole – Notes of cocoa quickly give way some some serious heat.  There are three different kinds of dried chiles used in the blend, and it shows.  Despite a lot of warmth in the front of the palate, the cocoa aspect acts as a nice counterbalance and supports the whole shebang.  You will only need a drop or two in a cocktail to notice the difference these will make.  The obvious choice of spirit is tequila, but these also work well in drinks calling for creme de cacao, coffee liqueur or cream-based dessert liqueurs. GSN Rating:  B

Orange Sunshine – Juicy orange almost immediately gives way to a more traditional dry and bitter citrus peel taste.  Quite compact and intense, these are the most traditional bitters in AZ’s line up.  What separates them from the competition is a heavier use of atypical spices like fennel and saffron.  The overall effect is of orange spice cake.  Definitely different from what you’re using now and because of the unusual spice notes, these make a great partner for gin, rye and spiced rums.  GSN Rating:  B

For more information go to: AZ Bitters Lab

GSN Review: Scrappy’s Bitters (Part Two)

ScrappysBannerScrappy’s have been a standard of the bitters market for five years now, and they have already carved their niche in the cocktail world. I’ve previously reviewed several of the Scrappy’s Bitters here.  They recently sent me a batch of new flavors, which I’m pleased to review for you.

Grapefruit Bitters – Bright notes of grapefruit flesh turn quickly to citrus peel.  Some slight spices complete the recipe.  Grapefruit is a tough flavor to accurately craft, but these are exceptional.  Use these in tequila, gin and rum cocktails to add an extra sparkle.   GSN Rating: A+

Chocolate Bitters – Milk chocolate with a healthy dose of dry spice.  As with most chocolate bitters, there is a somewhat grainy quality to these, but this will add body and mouthfeel to your cocktail.  Very natural and quite tasty.  Try these with tequila, dark rum and bourbon or rye whiskies.  GSN Rating: A-

Aromatic Bitters – Quite spicy and with a black pepper aire.  Undertones of cinnamon bark play well with the overall spice bill.  Try these with a bacon infused bourbon in a Manhattan or in a Dark & Stormy to give it an extra burst of heat. GSN Rating: A-

Cardamom Bitters – Intense cardamom flavor has an intriguing balance of mint and Indian spice.  Again, a nice balance of flavor as with all of the Scrappy’s line.  These make for an interesting alternative to the flavor found in Peychaud’s Bitters. GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Scrappy’s Bitters

GSN Review: Bittered Sling Bitters

imagesSome of you may already be wondering what a “bittered sling” is.  Actually it’s something that virtually every bartender passes over the bar.  The definition dates back to the early 1800’s and means a drink composed of spirits, sugar, water and bitters; in other words, the cocktail.  So, by definition, the bitters part is pretty important.  In my own bartending experience, I use bitters a lot of the time.  It makes a huge difference in the overall flavor and character of a great cocktail.

Kale & Nori is a Vancouver based company that specializes in the art of food and beverage.  They’ve created their own line of over a dozen bitters, including a few which are only available seasonally.  Not only are their bitters designed for use in cocktails, but also they are created with your health in mind.  The combination of herbs and spices, citrus and vegetables used in each extract is designed to improve everything from circulation and digestion to curing insomnia and poor heart health.  So, next time you toast with a cocktail made with Kale & Nori Bittered Sling Extract, you can truly say, “To your health!”

Moondog Bittered Sling Extract
Visual: Medium Brown
Nose: Dark and earthy with an almost herbal remedy (think Ricola) scent.
Taste: Quite spicy with peppery heat.  There is less of the typical aromatic bitters flavor going on, and more of an intense blast of ginger and woodgrain.
Overall: Very potent, you’ll only need a drop to get the effect.  Works well with dark spirits, especially aged rums and adds spice notes to sweeter bourbons.
GSN Rating: B+

Grapefruit Bittered Sling Extract
Visual: Medium golden-yellow.
Nose: Subtle, with a bright grapefruit highlight.  Makes me think of breakfast.
Taste: Pretty mellow, but with obvious grapefruit oil and pith.  Tasty and balanced with a bit of sweetness.
Overall: The fruit character is carried well here, and in a fresh and balanced way.  Try this instead of orange bitters in your next Martini or Satan’s Whiskers and see what you think.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Kale & Nori

GSN Review: Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters

Dale DeGroff aka King Cocktail now joins the ranks of Gary Regan and Jamie Boudreau in creating his own bitters blend.  And no, it’s not remotely olive flavored.  Pimento is simply the term for the allspice berry, which certainly has an aromatic nose and intense flavor.  What Dale’s done here is to recreate a style of bitters long since gone the way of obscure cocktail ingredients from the golden age of bartending.  Working with absinthe expert Ted Breaux, these bitters define class, from the gold wax seal to the cork dripper spout.  As an added bonus, the first 3,000 bottles are also signed by Dale.

Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters (90 proof)
Nose: Quite spicy with a heavy allspice nose married with a molasses type sweetness.
Taste: Very dry and spiced with allspice pimento.  Less “mentholated” than pimento dram, but with similar notes.  Certainly more intense than Angostura, but also more in the vein of the antique style bitters of the 19th century.
Finish: The flavor lingers long and brilliantly bright with an elegance that belies its production.
Overall: These are perfect for punches calling for bitters.  Tiki drinks will benefit greatly as well.  Try them in pisco sours and rum old-fashioneds for a twist.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to:

GSN Review: Miracle Mile Bitters

The Miracle Mile Bitters Co., based in Los Angeles is a relative newcomer to the bitters scene, but have already staked their claim as a quality small batch manufacturer.  Started as a home project several years ago by Louis Anderman, they’ve quickly gained a following on the west coast.  Rather than designing trendy bizarre flavor combinations, Anderman’s most successful products hearken back to the basic recipes that have been mainstays of cocktail culture over the decades.  That being said, they also make a Bermagot, Castilian, Gingerbread, Yuzu and Peach bitters which I hope to have opportunity to review next time around.

Chocolate-Chili Bitters: Very interesting nose, with equal elements of chocolate and chili present.  Obvious synchronicity with Mexican and South American cooking.  A surprising sweetness on the front of the palate quickly gives way to a nicely warm chili heat.  A lovely balance of cocoa and earthy chilis work well to create a cohesive whole in which all elements are contributing equally to the blend.
GSN Rating: A

Forbidden Bitters: In the style of aromatic bitters.  A lot of gingerbread on the nose.Very bitter with hints of menthol, ginger, and wood tannin.  Quite intensely spicy, but not with too much heat.  Touches of vanilla and angelica round out the structure.  A good bitters for use in tiki and tequila cocktails.
GSN Rating: B

Orange Bitters: More of an overall general bitter flavor than orange comes through.  There’s a lot of cinnamon on the nose, and the orange notes are more akin to bitter Curacao than Valencia.  Certainly not as sweet and light as Fee Brothers orange, nor as darkly vibrant as Regans; this is more of a down to earth and serviceable style of orange bitters.
GSN Rating: B-

Sour Cherry Bitters: Intense hit of cherry, quickly followed by the tang of sour and tannic bark.  There’s a lot going on in these bitters and in a holistic and natural way.  Lovely hints of sweet vanilla, sea salt, grains of paradise, almond and sandalwood add fascinating accents to the overall structure. Really well done and highly recommended!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Miracle Mile Bitters Co.