It is often espoused at this website that many of the fine alcoholic beverages available today are so great-tasting due to the quality ingredients used in their creation. Thanks to new trends that involve the use of organic ingredients, “green” processing methods and incorporation of naturally grown herbs and botanicals into many modern spirits, these fine beverages not only taste great, but also promote overall health in many ways.
Recently Jovial King, founder and formulator of the Vermont-based company Urban Moonshine, was kind of enough to send Culture of Spirits a unique sampling of several fine organic bitters his family-owned company offers. Having tasted each of the varieties he sent us, it is my pleasure to give you an idea of what to expect from these masterfully-blended specialties.
Before blending any cocktails, I first tasted the individual bitters by themselves. Although the differences were subtle, the character of this entire line is unique and refreshing (both deliciously and as contrasted with popular brands like the Angostura bitters available in most grocery stores). Fortunately, the package arrived just before lunch time, so I was able to utilize these unique liquids in their recommended capacity: as a digestif (or as an apertif, depending on whether you consume the bitters before dinner as an appetite stimulant, or afterward to aid digestion as I did). As Jovial states at the company website, “Cultures around the world have long believed that bitter flavors are essential to good health because they stimulate the digestive system. Thus began the tradition of steeping bitter-tasting roots, leaves, berries and fruits in alcohol and serving the mixture before or after a meal. Often the formula was accompanied by more pleasant tasting carminative herbs such as ginger, fennel, cardamon, or orange peel.”
Having recently spent time out of town filming a documentary with the National Geographic Channel, I had been suffering for days with a mild (yet uncontrollable) bout with acid reflux. In spite of the quarry (homemade lasagna), I experienced no ill effects after dining, having used about a half teaspoon of Urban Moonshine’s “original” bitters right afterward. Coincidence?
Then, just for fun, I tried the citrus and maple flavors as well. The aroma of the maple bitters is the most pronounced and “sweet”, which was reflected in its flavor as well. The citrus in comparison, though very similar in flavor, was noticeably more bitter, perhaps due to the greater proportion of orange peels used in the recipe. I had initially figured the citrus bitters would be a good choice for an Old Fashioned cocktail (especially since these are traditionally served with lemon or, preferably, orange peels), but blending these with bourbon produced results of equal merit. Still, I can only imagine what the maple bitters might lend to a variety of cocktails like the Manhattan Cocktail, variations of rum punches, or even some which may not call for bitters like hot buttered rum.
With the varieties of organic spirits that are beginning to pop up on the market, it’s great to see a line of classy, creative bitters that offer a similar ethic. “Urban Moonshine uses only organically grown or ethically wildcrafted herbs,” says King. “We source our herbs locally first and then turn to bigger distributors with a great record for quality when we need something out of season or not grown in our region. We proudly source many of our herbs from the following farms: Zack Woods Herb Farm, Bees Dance Herb Farm, and Healing Spirits Herb Farm.” Unlike many companies that boast such ingredients, one thing can certainly be said of Urban Moonshine’s bitters: they taste as authentic and good as the ingredients make them sound.
“Urban Moonshine is reviving a healthy tradition by launching an organic, handcrafted contemporary version of an old world classic to stimulate digestion and mix with cocktails.” Rest assured, “Whether enjoyed as an apertif, digestif, cocktail mixer or as a remedy to settle an upset stomach or calm a hangover, bitters are back!”
Here’s what other people are saying about Urban Moonshine: