Minnesota Monthly hosts its inaugural Fine Spirits Classic tomorrow night, with distillers and reps from local and national spirits makers—45th Parallel, 2 Gingers, Great Lakes Distillery, Phillips, Diego, and Bacardi among them—pouring samples and answering questions at Mill City Nights. I touched base with Fine Spirits Classic participant Nick Kosevich of Bittercube to find out what the Midwestern bitter-master and his business partner, Ira Koplowitz, have been up to lately and get a few more details about they’ll be pouring at the event.
In addition to launching Eat Street Social’s bar program and producing your bitters line, what else has Bittercube been up to lately?
We consult on other projects throughout the Midwest. We currently are working with the Hamilton in Milwaukee and have some other things in the works there as well. We are in the final stages of a limited batch of Hops Bitters for the holidays. They are made with Chinook and Cascade hops from Door Peninsula Hops and bittered with unique botanicals that have been used in beer making for centuries like Yarrow Herb and Feverfew.
Could you explain how, exactly, your bitters are made?
Bitters are an amalgamation of herbs, barks, fruits, flowers, spices and herbs. We take these botanicals and extract their essential oils through a process called maceration, which is basically an infusion with multiple ingredients and high proof spirits. Once the maceration is complete the bitters are softened with non-alcoholic ingredients to lower the proof. At the heart of a bitter is bitterness. But when these highly concentrated liquids are diluted in a cocktail the real magic happens and layers upon layers of flavor and aroma are exposed.
Why are bitters so important to cocktails?
Bitters are like the spice rack for cocktails. They are the salt and pepper of a well-balanced cocktail. They have been used in cocktails since cocktails were made. The very first cocktail, the Old Fashioned, invented in 1806 calls for nothing more than spirits, sugar, bitters, water (generally in the form of ice).
Any new spirits you’re excited about?
We’ve been working with Mike McCarron of Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit lately [produced by 45th Parallel Spirits and also being poured at the Fine Spirits Classic] and that product is amazing and unique only to the Minnesota market right now. It’s a unique spirit that is more versatile than I could have ever imagined.
What drinks will you be featuring at the event?
We’ll be making cocktails with Great Lakes Distillery at the event tomorrow and their hand-crafted spirits and our bitters go great together. We like to showcase simple and well-balanced cocktails for events like this. The idea for us is that we want people to pick up a box of our bitters and the spirits we’re showcasing and be able to make these cocktails at home.
We’re doing a Fall Gimlet with Rehorst Gin, lime juice, simple syrup and Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters. This is a great example of what our bitters do for cocktails. This simple recipe of 2oz to 3/4 lime juice and 3/4 simple takes on a fall flavor simply by using the Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters. You can make this same cocktail with our Jamaican #2 Bitters and have a summer gimlet. We’re also doing an Old Fashioned with their Kinnickinnic Whiskey and what we call our “Trinity” of Old Fashioned Bitters, Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla, Orange, and Bolivar Bitters.
**If you want to take some Bittercube bitters home—great for gifting!—single bottles and variety packs will be for sale at the event.