Vance Henderson, national ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin in the United States, has taken over Liquor.com’s Instagram for several Live sessions today. Henderson brought on Kristin Koefod, co-founder of 18.21 Bitters, for the 30-minute Monday Marathon Takeover session “Bitter Talk & Bold Sips.”
Kristin and her wife Missy have been in the business of crafting high-quality bitters and other cocktail enhancers for more than six years. In late January of 2014, Snowpocalypse, also known as Snowmageddon 2014, descended upon Atlanta, GA, crippling the interstates, highways and other roadways. Kristin and Missy had been discussing starting their own business and, stuck at home, they started playing with bitters.
The Snowpocalypse experiment stage led to tasting parties. The feedback from friends and family pushed the Koefods to bring 18.21 Bitters to Kickstarter. Four months after they successfully received funding, the duo took the company to Tales of the Cocktail. They’ve been crafting the highest-quality bitters, tinctures, shrubs, syrups, concentrates, tonics and ginger beers ever since. If you’ve yet to try their 18.21 Ginger Beer, get on that ASAP.
Part of what sets 18.21 Bitters apart is their commitment to using fresh, all-natural ingredients. This comes natural to Kristin and Missy, who have been eating clean for years. Their relentless drive to experiment with flavor combinations and constantly improve also gives them a competitive edge.
So, what exactly are bitters? Both Vance and Kristin describe bitters as “the salt and pepper of cocktails.” Before providing a technical explanation of bitters, Kristin drew a culinary comparison. “You can make a beautiful dish at home,” she explained, “and a pinch of salt can make all the ingredients sing.” Bitters do for cocktails what salt and other seasonings do for food. Adding the right amount of the right bitters to a cocktail can transform a good drink into an amazing and unforgettable one.
Bitters, as Kristin explained, are a high-proof liquor infused with a flavoring agent (citrus, herbal etc.), combined with a bittering agent (a bitter bark of wood like burdock root or wormwood), and diluted with water. A tincture is created, the ingredients are left to macerate but agitated once a day for anywhere from one to six weeks, and then the liquid is separated from any solids. Kristin and Missy guard their trade secrets but one that was shared during today’s Liquor.com IG Live is that they like to flavor their water.
To get a better understanding of what bitters—and shrubs, for the matter—can do to elevate a cocktail, Kristin made a drink that you can make at home or at your bar. Kristin combined Hendrick’s Orbium with Italicus, 18.21 Early Grey Bitters, 18.21 Watermelon Mint Shrub, lime juice and brut Champagne. Like all Hendrick’s Gin variants, the new expressions are made with the standard gin’s 11 botanicals, cucumber and rose. Orbium adds wormwood, quinine and blue lotus blossom. Kristin explained that the bergamot and rose notes in Italicus play well with Hendrick’s products.
Kristin didn’t provide any spoilers but mentioned that great new items are in the works over at 18.21 Bitters, so make sure to follow the company online to keep tabs on their announcements. Vance showed off Hendrick’s Amazonia, a global travel retail (duty free) exclusive that features Hendrick’s Gin made with Amazonian flora. Maybe with a little encouragement we can all convince Hendrick’s to offer Amazonia in retail stores and bars throughout the United States.
Vance’s Monday Marathon Takeover of Liquor.com’s IG Live is still going, so try to catch the rest of the sessions!
Make Kristin’s Cocktail: In a shaker with ice, combine 1.5 oz. Hendrick’s Orbium, 0.5 oz. Italicus, .05 oz. 18.21 Watermelon Mint Shrub, 0.5 oz. lime juice, and 8 to 10 drops of 18.21 Earl Grey Bitters. Shake, double strain into a coupe, and top with brut Champagne or other sparkling wine. Garnish with a cucumber ribbon, lime wheel and dill. Cheers!
Shop 18.21 Bitters here.
Follow Vance on IG: @vtwiseguy
Follow 18.21 Bitters on IG: @1821bitters
Follow Liquor.com on IG: @liquor
Follow Hendrick’s Gin on IG: @hendricksgin
Neither the author nor Hospitality Villains received compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Liquor.com, Hendrick’s Gin, 18.21 Bitters, or any other entity in exchange for this post.
I’ve been studying and writing about the hospitality industry since 2006. Like so many people, I started my journey in this business by working as a host, server and bartender. I was introduced to nightlife in Chicago, learning the ins and outs of nightclubs and after-hours hot spots.
After moving to Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, I both co-owned a valet company and helped promote the club it serviced. That led to me taking on the role of editor for a Las Vegas hospitality industry publication.
A few short years later, I continued along my journey of hospitality industry reporting. I went from contributing to a major industry outlet to taking on the role of editor and content curator.