Bitters - Sweet Grass Farm Winery and Distillery Bitter Cranberry
Aromatic Cocktail Bitters - Bitter Cranberry
Sweet Grass Winery and Distillery, Union, Maine
PROOF: 70 (35%)
PRICE: $12 5 oz.
Notes: An aromatic cocktail bitter from of bitters from a relatively new company to enter the bitters trade in Maine (although truth be told anyone other than Fee, Angostura, Underberg and Peychauds - all in business for over 100 years - is a relative newcomer).
Sweet Grass Winery also produces a blueberry bitter, a couple of gins, vermouth, and a host of other products all worth exploring.
First Impression: A well integrated bitter bouquet to start (think gin with gentian to bitter it) with a hint of cranberries. A very hopeful start. A lot of bitters are not so well integrated - one smell dominates the others and the complexity can suffer.
Appearance: Dark reddish brown with small (extremely small) bits and slight sediment in it - which lets you know this came from organic ingredients and also not processed to death. Does not seem to have the dyes others use to darken their bitters nor thickening agents, which can dull the taste significantly. Honest, natural appearance, not some fluorescent red.
Taste: A well conceived and executed cranberry bitters. Good natural cranberry taste coupled with touch of other citrus/fruit and a few bitter herbal notes mostly cardamom and coriander, a good dose of gentian root. Think a bitter slow gin in some ways. Excellent bitter base for the basic bitters profile with the use of real cranberries makes this bitter able to impart a nice bright cranberry flavor in a way faithful to the berry and not some fake candied chemical equivalent coupled.
Positively head and shoulders over some previous examples of what some companies would produced when they tried a cranberry bitters - think liquefied cranberry gummi life saver and St Joseph's baby aspirin - this cranberry bitter on the other hand is excellent and faithful to its name and ingredients.
Drinks: Much like it's counterpart the blueberry biiters the cranberry was very nice in a gin martini and also in a vodka and vermouth cocktail (that some people refer to as a Martini for some reason?) reminding us a bit of the Soomskaya (Mountain Ash) berry flavored vodkas.
Was also very interesting in a twist on a Manhattan, Sazerac, Margarita, Sunrise and a Aviation . Also worked well with Sotol and mezcal in a number of drinks. For a non alcoholic use it is a lovely addition to your mineral water also. (You can also sweeten the mineral water with agave honey or Sweet Leaf for a slightly sweeter take.)
Bottle: Clear glass old-style / apothecary bottle, screw cap closure with nylon disk to easily dispense drops or dashes. Amusing artwork (meet Norbert the pig), commentary and good recipes on a cranberry colored background.
Final Thoughts: Very nicely done and a unusual flavor - far too many times a bitter will smell more like a candied baking essence or a cleaning product than something you would want to put in a drink - happily this is not the case with this bitter. It also expands the bitter flavor category in a nice way and adds to a cocktailians flavor cabinet - always a good thing in my mind.
Good solid bitter base and a nice fruit/berry to lighten it up- nice combo. Slightly more expensive than the the really cheap stuff - but take a look at our Bitter Math page to see how meaningless that is.
Quick loading website- with decent amount of information and company history, where to order (always important), events and updates. With all this, somehow still easy-to-navigate.