Strongwater Spirits & Botanicals, founded in 2015 in Denver, Colorado, crafts and sells organic bitters and shrubs. Bitters are created by soaking barks, berries, roots, and flowers in alcohol. Add the resulting liquid to vodka, gin, whiskey, or other spirits to create tasty cocktails; or to sparkling water to flavor lunchtime refreshment; or take it straight up to aide with digestion. Shrubs date back to colonial times and are made with fruit-infused vinegar and a sweetener—most often sugar, but Strongwater uses raw Colorado honey and organic apple cider vinegar—and were traditionally a way to preserve the fruits of summer.
Strongwater offers Turmeric, Chocolate Vanilla, Spicy Lemon Ginger, Wildflower, and Orange Licorice bitters, while their shrub flavors include: Blueberry & Mint, Cherry & Thyme, Ginger & Pear, Peach & Rose, and Persimmon & Lavender. Yum!
While the original dream was to open a gin distillery, when Nick crunched the numbers he realized that launching a distillery would be way too expensive. So one evening, over gin-and-tonics with added homemade bitters, he and his herbalist friends/community hatched a plan to start a bitters company instead.
Though he wears many hats, Nick’s official title is director of operations and chemist. He didn’t know much about bitters and shrubs before cofounding Strongwater, but as a trained chemist he brings a scientific mind-set and knowledge to the formulation process and he always works closely with an herbalist to craft all the formulas. “I have notebooks and notebooks just full of testing notes,” Nick explains. “We’ve been working on these recipes for close to three years and even now, we’re fine-tuning them because different ingredients require different saturation times and different alcohol percentages.”
Strongwater is attentive to sustainability and transparency. The alcohol, apple cider vinegar, and all the herbs and spices Strongwater uses to craft its products are organic and it sources whatever it can from Colorado, including Rocky Mountain flora. It bottles all of its products in glass because the material is clean and sustainable, and the company prints all its ingredients directly on the labels so their customers know exactly what they’re drinking. Strongwater also uses biodegradable packing peanuts as a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional packing materials.
Nick’s go-to bitter, and Stongwater’s bestseller, is the Golden Aromatic Turmeric. It combines turmeric, cinnamon, sassafras, and cardamom for a warming blend. At night he adds a couple splashes to his bourbon; in the morning, he adds a dash to his soda water. Nick also cooks with it, shaking it into his curries and other dishes. Yes, you can even cook with bitters!
Hatch Lab is excited to offer the Strongwater Herbal Bitters Sample Box, which includes a half-ounce bottle of each of the company’s five bitters flavors. It’s the perfect way to figure out which ones you like best, and it makes a great gift.
photos: Jordan Holloway and Kirsten Boyer Photography
editor: Joy Herbers