Seattle’s cocktail culture has for many years been top-notch, with some of the country’s best bartenders (or mixologists, if you insist) floating around the prestigious bars, restaurants and speakeasies. The pursuit of novelty can be a bit outrageous at times, and to some degree the craft cocktail has jumped the shark. Dispensing with the novelties and overly complicated recipes, a truly good cocktail comes down to the right ingredients in the right proportions, and tried-and-true classics will seem fresh and new again when you invest in the right mixers.
Bitters are an essential component of many drinks and date back a long way as a medicinal tincture—like many herbal alcohols. The mass produced stuff wasn’t cutting it for bartender Miles Thomas, though. In 2008, while working at Grey gallery and lounge on Capitol Hill, he started making his own small batch bitters, Scrappy’s. Thomas celebrated his enterprise’s official fifth anniversary with a big party just this year, as the Seattle-based business has blossomed. You can find Scrappy’s in bars worldwide, punching up the flavor of many classic cocktails without syrupy mixes or artificial flavors. Its selection continues to grow, with a variety of aromatic blends, spices and fruits. Personal favorites of mine include the Celery bitters (which gives a luscious vegetable dash to a martini), Lavender (because lavender makes everything better) and Chocolate bitters (ditto).
A little goes a long way, so one of Scrappy’s gift sets is perfect for the cocktail lover in your life—a compact assortment of flavors just right for a home bar. The Scrappy’s Exotic Mini Set includes lavender, chocolate, cardamom, and grapefruit bitters. Those first three do as well in cocoa and coffee as they do in cocktails, so however one chooses to warm one’s belly in the winter, the gift of bitters is sweet, indeed.