Welcome to Episode 219 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!
Thanks for tuning in for another interview episode, where we track down the best and brightest minds in the spirits and cocktail world so that we can share their secrets with you. This time around, we’re joined by Ian Blessing, co-founder of All The Bitter, a brand spanking new line of no-ABV cocktail bitters that are grounded in excellent flavors and functional benefits. We taste and talk our way through their opening lineup of delicious bitters as well as the challenges and major breakthroughs that occur when building a no-ABV line of flavors.
How Ian’s career as a sommelier at restaurants of all kinds (including the legendary French Laundry) led him to ponder and experiment with non-alcoholic spirits and cocktail ingredients.
What happens when you decide to side-step ethanol as an extracting agent and instead harness the solvent powers of vegetable glycerine and vinegar in your bitters recipe.
As we taste, we also cover why Ian and his wife and business partner Carly roll out a platoon of bittering agents and also spotlight a featured functional ingredient in each of their flavors, including Holy Basil, Lemon Balm, and Schisandra Berry.
We also dig into the medicinal history of these kinds of products and the really specific opportunity they hold in the no-ABV cocktail space, which is to replace the somewhat “anesthetic” effect of alcohol with other functional, and felt health benefits that can still impact your mood and homeostatic state.
Along the way, we cover the difference between adaptogens and nervines, our mutual love for shrink-banding thousands of bottles of bitters by hand, what numerical coincidence always makes Ian giggle, and much, much more.
Featured Cocktail : The Trinadad Sour
This episode’s featured cocktail is the Tri-NA-dad Sour. Key syllable being “NA” for non-alcoholic. To make this ambitious no-ABV drink, you’ll need:
1oz American-style No-ABV whiskey
1oz All The Bitter Aromatic Bitters
¾ – 1oz fresh Lemon juice
Combine these ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, give ‘em a good, hard shake, then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and enjoy.
This cocktail is, of course, modeled on the classic, boozy Trinidad sour and was developed by no-ABV bartender and YouTuber Joshua James, who runs the beverage program at the Ocean Beach Cafe in San Francisco. It caught my attention after Ian posted it on the All The Bitter Facebook page because the Trinidad Sour really is a cocktail drinker’s cocktail.
The recipe above is a roughly equal-parts concoction, which isn’t technically classic in most Trinidad Sour recipes you’ll come across. But, as we discuss later on in this interview, you can’t always count on your No-ABV cocktails having the same ratios of ingredients as the boozy originals, so it’s actually not a red flag at all.
The important things in this recipe are the full ounce of no-ABV bitters, the equal (or almost equal) amounts of both lemon and orgeat, and the presence of some kind of zero-proof spirit that plays like a bourbon or a rye whiskey. The classic Trinidad sour usually only plays with a quarter to a half-ounce of whiskey, but remember, in the absence of that ethanol burn, you might need to crank up that volume a bit in order for the spirit to make its presence felt.
In his recipe, Josh uses a bourbon created by a company called Free Spirits, but there are others out there by companies like Spiritless (which, spoiler alert, we’ll be featuring here on the podcast before too long). If you’re missing a bit of “maltiness” or spice that accompanies a traditional rye whiskey, you may even want to go half-and-half with something like the No-ABV American malt made by Lyre’s Spirits Co., or maybe even their no-ABV spiced cane spirit.
At the end of the day, it’s incredibly exciting that the alcohol-free cocktail space has gained enough traction to be able to create more complicated, esoteric cocktails like the Trinidad Sour, but keep in mind that the best no-ABV cocktails don’t simply mimic their erstwhile formulations 1:1 – they modify them to capitalize on the strengths of the new ingredients they employ.
This episode was made possible with editing and sound design by Samantha Reed and bitters and no-ABV cocktail insights courtesy of Ian Blessing of All The Bitter. This has been a Modern Bar Cart production, copyright 2022.
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