Travel, Cooking, Doing, Eating and Drinking (that about covers it)

Bitter(s) in Calgary

The Black Cloud Bitters line-up (Photo: Black Cloud Bitters)

In my past posts, you have often heard me go on about my love for  #getbitter with Amaro. Well now I have a new bitter love in my life and that is Bitters. While I may not be able to sip them straight or on ice after dinner, you will be seeing them in my cocktails!

We’ve all seen the cocktail recipes that call for a dash or two (or more) of one type of bitter or another. Bitters seem to be the hottest, must-add ingredient for your cocktail. Want to take your cocktails to a new level? Add bitters!

Black Cloud Saffron Mango Bitters (Photo: Black Cloud Biters)

Why? What are Bitters? Why do we add them to our drinks? Why can you buy them at the grocery store if they contain alcohol?

Bitters are a blend of woods, barks, herbs, flowers, spices, nuts and other flavours that are steeped in a high-level alcohol spirit for a long period of time (several weeks). Add a dash of bitters to your drinks and all of a sudden you add a whole new dimension of flavour.

Bitters have been around since you had to learn a special knock and “know someone” to get into Prohibition speakeasy bars. Since they are considered a “food” item (you can find them at the grocery store!) and not an alcohol product (think vanilla, people), bitters got a pass during Prohibition. The prescribed use of bitters used to be a few drops in water to calm your stomach.

Nowadays, with all the love for craft cocktails these days, bitters are back enjoying their place in the sun.

Garden Party Bitters (Photo: Black Cloud Bitters)

Since we are giving shout-outs to all things Canadian this month of July to celebrate #cheersCanada150, I thought I’d shine the spotlight on a little Calgary company that is hand-producing some very special bitters. As you all know, I spend a bit of time in Calgary seeing Pete. I first came across Black Cloud Bitters when I was drooling over the spice selection spice shopping at the Silk Road Spice Merchant.

Black Cloud Bitters were started by the wife and husband team of Brandy (what a great name for a woman in the cocktail business!) Newman and Rob Kaczanowski. Rob likes to create the flavours and the company is Brandy’s other baby (they have 3 children).

Prairie Rose Bitters (Photo: Black Cloud Bitters)

The company was started on May 29, 2015 (happy 2nd birthday!) with a little product called Charred Cedar Bitters that quickly found its way into the spotlight in the cocktail community and more than one Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

Charred Cedar Bitters are a “unique blend of rich botanicals and Canadian cedar that has been charred to perfection.  This is then added to a premium bourbon spirit base which has vanilla and caramel notes.” No wonder Manhattans and Old Fashioneds are putting up their hands to say “yes please”!

Charred Cedar Bitters (Photo: Black Cloud Bitters)

The Charred Cedar bitters were quickly joined by four siblings, including Black & Blue (next week you can see this in my Violette Skies cocktail).  Black & Blue is a friend to bourbon, rye whiskey, neutral grain spirit and champagne due to its blueberry and blackberry soul. Prairie Rose sends rose petals, rose hips and berries out to play. Mango Saffron sends you down a Spanish/Morocco/Indian spice trail. The last bitter in their collection is Garden Party (or, as I like to call it, the trick to making your Bloody Caesar or Mary off-the-hook) which adds fresh veggie flavours of celery and cucumber to your drink. [Side note: did you know that the Bloody Caesar was created in Calgary in 1969 by restaurateur Walter Chell? Cheers to that, Canada!]

Want to give them a try? Black Cloud Bitters offers a 1 oz (30 ml) sample pack of their five products.

Black Cloud Bitters Sample Pack (Photo: Black Cloud Bitters)

You only need a few drops to send your cocktails soaring through the clouds.

Support a craft Canadian creation and company. Buy local! Give your cocktails some love: add a dash of Black Cloud Bitters and watch your cocktails take flight! Tune in next Thursday for some long weekend cocktails using bitters.


Please note that I was not paid in any way to write this post (but hey, if you want to send me out some bitters, I won’t say no).

Tell me what you think!