Reasons to be bitter
It's great that Craigie is doing so well, and that it was packed to the rafters on a miserable weeknight two days before Christmas when every other place in the area was dead (Salts has closed completely for three weeks over the usually lucrative holiday period), so a little squishing wasn't a problem.
And as former-future-astronaut Tommy set us up with cocktails, there were even fewer problems.
One of my favorite cocktail ingredients is bitters (are bitters?). In the same way a few drops of vanilla can enhance the flavor of pancakes, or a little Worcestershire sauce gives depth to a stew, a splash of bitters adds a layer of complexity to a drink, pulling the other ingredients together gracefully.
Craigie has, from what I could see, more than a half-dozen types of bitters: Angostura, natch, but also Peychaud's, Regan's orange, Fee Brothers' whiskey-barrel-aged, Angostura orange, a small vial labeled only Spiked Ango ('stura, one assumes), and a variety of bottles from Bittermens.
My drink, the Joie Vert, began with the violent smooshing of an apple and ended with a few delicate drops of Bittermens Ginger. It was a beautiful thing: fragrant and fresh and autumnal, with woodsy hints of sage and that final zing of peppery heat.
The next day, lovely co-worker Sarah and I went to lunch at Eastern Standard. As we finished up dessert (beignets with maple-caramel sauce) I noticed familiar bottles behind the bar: Bittermens.
Sorry, first things first:
Aaanyway, the bitters. We inhaled the bottles. The chocolate mole smelled dark and intense; the tiki had sweet spices and citrus notes. I wanted to dab some behind my ears.
I asked the bartender for more info; most importantly, where could I get them? He explained Bittermens are not yet commercially available; they still need to pass through various approvals before they can be sold.
I found more details on the Bittermens site, including their hope that final health-inspector and FDA approval may be cleared by mid-January.
In the meantime, at least I know a couple of places that appreciate a bitter attitude.