A delicious, all natural, cherry bitters. Very rare combination !
Notes: Primarily a bakery which produces some lovely cheesecakes and based in Brooklyn, New York, cecil and merl ( they use the lower case in the names) have branched out into a few other product lines such as this bitter and some attractive bags. Created in a collaboration of cecil and merl and noted bartender Justin Lane Briggs using only raw, natural ingredients – which is quite a departure in a positive way from many of the bitters out on the market and especially among cherry bitters in particular – which have some truly awful examples of which this is thankfully not, the cecil and merl bitters is a refreshing addition to the bitters category.
Appearance: A pleasant and appropriate orange reddish brown (not some cherry fire engine red color that some companies insist on using to represent something with cherries in it) the bitters is fairly clear (with just an occasional collar or scrum of sediment in the bottle – something we consider a plus because it shows the bitters was not processed to death). Hard to find a color description to describe it but you can immediately tell it is made with real cherry juice ( from sour cherries ) and not born in a stainless steel tank in New Jersey.
First Impression:Good sour cherry and bitters scent mixed with citrus and vanilla to balance out the base notes of cherry and quassia, with the calamus giving some earthy and slightly acrid backbone for the other scents to hang on.
Taste: Refreshingly natural and realistic taste of sour cherries, with pleasant bittering of quassia bark. Brandy and lemon ( along with the base alcohol) also help reinforce the cherry and bitters flavor, making this cherry bitters stand far apart from some of the more candy or baking extract like bitters out there in a refreshing change. More like Brandied sour cherries with a bitter than the boiled down maraschino syrup and St Josephs Childrens aspirin that their major competitor tastes like.
Drinks: Their Sour Cherry Rickey ( recipe comes with the bottle) is outstanding. Other drinks such as Manhattans, Old Fashioned, and assorted other drinks definitely benefitted from the addition of this bitter. You can also use it instead of Maraschino liqueur such as in an Aviation to make a drier version of the original drink ( we call ours the Ohka – Japanese for Cherry Blossom)
Bottle: Fairly standard clear 5 oz bitters or hot sauce sized bottle with plastic dasher insert and black plastic screw top closure. Coated paper label ( which was a thoughtful touch – keeps the label easily cleaned off and attractive in case of drips) with minimalist design and graphics. Lists all ingredients ( what a refreshing idea – especially for bitters – where a lot of people like to be secretive)
Only complaint/observation is the type at the bottom cannot be read by anyone of 35 years of age without magnification especially in poor light (read most bars)
Other: While a touch pricey compared to some other much more, shall we say, commercial bitters it is a lovely ingredient. See our Bitter Math cost table and you will see it is not a huge cost to use a superior bitters
Final Thoughts: Nicely done, great tasting, all natural and a sadly in that there are not more of this flavor, unusual bitters that nicely add a bouquet of taste and smells to a cocktail to spin up a good cocktail into a great one.
Attractively done if minimalistic website. Very easy to navigate and fast loading.