The year 2006 saw a name come into the drinks industry that covered not only liqueurs, but also the lesser known bitters category – The Bitter Truth.
Bitters were essentially the ingredient that distinguished cocktails from other beverages and were an essential component of any good cocktail creation. Many classic cocktails use bitters and still stand the test of time today – Manhattan and Sazerac to name a few. Prohibition, as we all know, cut the drinking establishments down to size, but bitters held their ground due to their medicinal properties. Since then, and especially in the modern era, bitters have made a firm comeback and are regularly used within new creations.
Enough about bitters in general, how did The Bitter Truth come about? *
At a bar show in 2006, Munich bartenders Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck gave birth to the idea of producing and distributing cocktail bitters on a large-scale, as they were hard to find in Germany and of inferior quality. Both of them had already gained a considerable amount of experience in producing handmade cocktail bitters for the bars they were working at and in addition, Stephan owned a large collection of current and historical bitters, some of which hadn’t been produced for decades. Thus, he knew how the most well-known bitters of the world tasted and was considered a specialist in this area. They used the criteria of the choice of flavours mainly provided by old cocktail recipes that could no longer be mixed true to the original because one crucial ingredient had been missing i.e the correct bitters.
In August 2006, the first products from The Bitter Truth were released: an Orange Bitters and an Old Time Aromatic Bitters. Shortly after that, a Lemon Bitters was released. Since then, two additional flavours have been added to the range: the Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters, Creole Bitters and a Celery Bitters, which won the award as Best Spirit of the Year 2008 at the Mixology Bar Awards in Germany. In addition, The Bitter Truth has released a SloeBerry BlueGin‚ which is flavoured with fresh sloeberries, and a range of fine liqueurs: an Apricot Brandy, a Crème de Violette and a Pimento Dram. ELIXIER, a digestive liqueur in the grand tradition of the Alps. was added to range to make the bridge between the bitters and the liqueur range.
In 2016, to celebrate their 10th anniversary, The Bitter Truth released four expressions in their ‘Drops and Dashes’ range, showing off the all natural four parts of the tree of life; roots, wood, blossom and nut.
I’ve been lucky enough to sample some of their range, so below, I give to you my tasting notes –
The Bitter Truth Drops and Dashes, Nut – 42%
Soft green walnut on the nose, with subtle almond coming through. Rich tobacco leaf and walnut on the palate, with notes of coffee bean and dry oak.
The Bitter Truth Drops and Dashes, Blossom – 42%
Light, scented floral notes of blossom on the nose with hints of lemon rind. Intense lavender and rose, with flavours of earth and prune coming through on the finish.
The Bitter Truth Drops and Dashes, Root – 42%
Rich smoked notes of liquorice on the nose, with sweet, fresh flavours of root blended with the bitter quinine note to finish.
The Bitter Truth Drops and Dashes, Wood – 42%
Very light, thin notes of oak and cedar wood on the nose. Softer on the palate, with bold, sweeter notes of the root coming through for a long, smoked finish.
The Bitter Truth Elderflower Liqueur – 22%
Fresh elderflower on the nose with scents of honey coming through. Sweet elderflower flavours come through on the palate, with a soft, velvet texture that creates a hint of spice. Lingers for a short while.
The Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur – 24%
Very light and fresh on the nose with apricots dominating. Refreshing on the palate, with a light almond that lingers with a hint of sweetness. Creates a slightly dry end.
The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur – 22%
Very light with a slight violet aroma on the nose. Thin flavours of the violet carry onto the palate and produces a smooth offering with a slight sweetness.
The Bitter Truth Pimento Dram – 22%
Rich with a dry spice and a little sweetness coming through on the nose. Quite aromatic on the palate, with a dry yet sweet offering on a short finish.
The Bitter Truth Golden Falernum – 18%
Very rich and sweet on the nose with scents of fresh almond and ginger. Rich on the palate too, with plenty of sugar, vanilla and almond blending together. A subtle finish.
The Bitter Truth Elixier – 30%
Rich on the nose with a fresh bitterness of herbs. Sweet on the palate, a slight spice kicking in with caramel following. Plenty of herbal notes on a rich finish.
The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters – 39%
Rich with plenty of herbal notes on the nose, and a dry pepper finish. Spice flavours of cinnamon and cloves dominate the palate, with a short, dry finish.
The Bitter Truth Tonic Bitters – 43%
Plenty of citrus and rich green tea aromas on the nose, albeit it a dry experience. Very dry on the palate, with the citrus rather harsh, although the green tea combats to a bitter finish.
The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters – 39%
Fresh lemon on the nose with a slight sweetness coming through. Rich, dry lemon flavours on the palate, with a bitter and short finish.
The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters – 44%
Fresh grapefruit on the nose, with a rich, bitter finish. A bitter development on the palate, although fresh and produces a long finish.
The Bitter Truth Original Celery Bitters – 44%
Rich, slight spice and a dry aroma on the nose. Soft and subtle once upon the palate, with a slight fresh spice on the finish.
The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters – 39%
A rich hit of fruit on the nose with a bold, fresh aromatic scent. Dry on the palate, with fennel and anise dominating a bold finish.
The Bitter Truth Chocolate Bitters – 44%
Rich with a very dry cocoa aroma on the nose. Sweeter on the palate, with a roasted cocoa flavour which produces a long yet slightly dry ending.
The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Bitters – 30%
Fresh on the nose with a slight herbal and citrus blend. Fresh spice and bark on the palate, producing a short yet dry finish.
The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters – 39%
Ripe orange rind on the nose with hints of orange flesh making an appearance. Sharp beginning on the palate but mellows very quickly with orange dominating. Slight spice develops soon after on a short offering.
The Bitter Truth Peach Bitters – 39%
Bold peach notes at the beginning, with hints of freshness following. Ripe peach on the palate with a spice following that produces a mouth-watering finish.
The Bitter Truth Rose Water – 0%
Very fresh on the nose with plenty of aromatic rose aromas, albeit a little dry. Very light on the palate, producing a long, fresh finish of rose.
The Bitter Truth Orange Flower Water – 0%
Very aromatic on the nose with plenty of fresh orange scented flowers. A lingering soft orange flavour on the palate produces a slightly bitter finish.
As you can imagine, many a cocktail has been created using The Bitter Truth range –
50 ml Bourbon Whiskey
20 ml Sweet Vermouth
20 ml Brut Champagne
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
Stir and serve straight up, add Champagne on top and garnish with a cherry.
It’s always worth having a bottle or two of the bitters in your own drinks cabinet, and you’ll find many uses for the liqueurs too. If you see them in your local bar, challenge your bartender to see if they can come up with something creative! Especially as the range is still winning awards. At the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition 2010 The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters was crowned with a “Gold Medal” and voted “Best in Class”. In addition to that The Bitter Truth`s Original Celery Bitters and Creole Bitters won a “Silver Medal”. At Tales of the Cocktail New Orleans 2010 The Bitter Truths Celery Bitters took away the top price for “Best New Product”.
*History and awards taken straight from The Bitter Truth website. Subtle changes made for narrative purposes.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.