Tag Archives: Miracle Mile Bitters Co

A not so bitter talk with Louis Anderman

Name: Louis Anderman

Company: Miracle Mile Bitters Co.

Location: Los Angeles, California

“Making the World a better place, 2-3 dashes at a time”


This week-end I finally got to sit down with the lovely Louis Anderman, the man behind the Miracle Mile Bitters Co.  When I say ‘the man behind the brand’ I am being quite literal when I talk about Louis.  Miracle Mile Bitters aren’t mass produced at all,  they are hand-crafted cocktail bitters made here in Los Angeles (Miracle Mile) by Louis ALONE in his rented studio space.

He is a one man show and therefore produces small batches for local businesses, friends, family and fellow enthusiasts.  As his success has risen in the last year he has had to turn down a few distributing companies already, purely because he is realistic about what he can produce as one person.  He cannot create 400 bottles a week, like the larger competitors (Fee Brothers, Scrappy’s etc). He can however, and does, take a little under a month to create a couple of liters of truly exceptional product. He single handedly proves the point of quality over quantity.

These bitters taste real, they don’t taste like false flavorings. Unlike ‘Fee Brothers’ he never uses glycerine in his product, only organic neutral grain spirit (except in the case of his Toasted Pecan Bitters, where he uses 50/50 the neutral grain and Bourbon).  Demand is greater than production allows right now, and he told me that merely mentioning a flavor concept on his Facebook/website has him receiving countless requests for bottles of a product not yet created!

He is a genuinely nice man to chat with and when speaking about what he’s doing now, (a far cry from the world of Miramax he originated in) you really get a sense of his passion for the products he creates.  He has no formal culinary training, but his keen sense of smell, taste and adventure for playing with new flavors is what sent him on his current path.

He started with the Chocolate/Chili bitters early on which ended up being so successful amongst his friends that Joe Keeper (owner of Barkeeper in Silverlake) said “You really should start selling these at my store”. Soon enough his product was doing so well that he said to himself it’s time to “Go Pro or Go HomeLucky for us, he chose the professional route and Miracle Mile Bitters Co. began it’s journey in to the cocktail community.

A Brief bit about Bitters. (Say that ten times fast!)

Ok, so the bitter truth (pun intended) is that until a few days ago I didn’t even know what they really were. When someone mentioned ‘Bitters’ in a drink, I would usually assume, having such a sweet tooth, i’m not going to like it and therefore not going to order it.  I would have been able to name maybe four flavors I knew of:  Peychauds, Angostura, Chocolate and Orange and although I was aware there were more flavors out there, I had no real desire to discover them. To be honest I had no understanding as to why anyone would even want them in a drink!  The only time i’d tasted them in the past had been when I had an upset tummy and my boyfriend FG would give me bitters in soda which was, quite frankly, disgusting! This always stuck with me and when FG would order a digestiv  of ‘beverage bitters’ like Campari or Cynar, I could never understand it’s appeal. It was like taking medicine.

Technically, that’s exactly what he was doing. Bitters originated as medicines and were used to cure a variety of ailments from headaches to constipation to indigestion.  The recipes for some of theses elixirs date back centuries and were used to help fix a variety of sickness issues.  I could not wrap my head around why bartenders had such a desire to add them to drinks, that is until I tried some of Miracle Miles Bitters co. selection at the Valentines Day Prom at Big Bar and realized how certain bitters can be a background note that enhance a set of new flavors in a drink.

As soon as I tried them and heard about this ‘Cult member of the cocktail community’ (Louis Anderman) I knew I wanted to meet him, but before I did I decided to do a little research.Amongst other books, I found myself reading ‘A SPIRITED HISTORY of a CLASSIC CURE-ALL- BITTERS’ by Brad Thomas Parsons the most.  It is not a hugely complex book, but was perfect to help me understand their origins and uses. So for all of you, like myself, with little/no knowledge of Bitters here’s a few little things to tell you…in layman’s terms!

What exactly are bitters?

Bitters have been described as “Liquid seasoning for drinks and food”, they are to the bartender what salt and pepper is to the Chef.  FG often has a Negroni or bitter tasting aperitif to help prepare his taste buds for dinner, they cleanse the palette and help enhance flavors in the food you eat, and in the cocktail itself.

“Bitters are an aromatic flavoring agent made from infusing roots, barks, fruit peels, seeds, spices, herbs, flowers and botanicals in high proof alcohol.” -Page 9 of Parsons Book.

They are used in the creation of cocktails. Incidentally I should mention that the term “cocktail” should technically always have bitters in it.

Our generation throws the word around with little regard for accuracy. There are thousands of “Cocktail Lists” in this city with not one ‘real’ cocktail on it.   A cocktail (by tradition) is a drink consisting of sugar, alcohol, water and bitters. Thats it! None of these ‘Martinis or Cosmos’ are cocktails at all. We use the term incorrectly and it drives the true drink enthusiasts crazy.

I admit I have no issue with the mis use of the term personally, I actually believe it’s ok for the meaning of words to change and adapt over time, but if you are one of those people who believe in accuracy of names and traditions then check out Andrew “The Alchemist” Willet website by clicking HERE. He is a walking ‘drink encyclopedia’ and runs classes and tasting sessions which will blow your mind. (He also just did an article on the ‘Bitters’ book I mentioned, he wasn’t as in favor of it as I am, but have a look at what he said too.)

Bitters are also, as I mentioned before, a form of Medicine.  Louis told me that some of his first recipes and attempts at bitters came from old 19th Century pharmaceutical books he found on the internet “God bless Google Books” he said, when discussing how access to some of these old recipes really helped him create his own, like his very popular Castilian Bitters.

The Forbidden Bitters (Batch # 001) were some of the best he’s ever created, and not that dissimilar from the, now deceased, Abbott’s 19th Century aromatic bitters.  However, in the same way that the Abbott’s are no longer available you also can’t get your hands on this first batch of Forbidden either.  For the same reason too, they are both now ‘Forbidden’ as the recipe called for Tonka Beans (have bitter almond, cacao and vanilla notes) which are not FDA approved.  This is nothing more than a poorly written law and the minuscule amounts used could never cause you harm, but nevertheless, Louis’ current Forbidden Bitters for sale do not include the aromatic Tonka beans at all. They are still excellent however, and I strongly urge you to buy a bottle.

Always one to try new things, he tells me recently he’s been experimenting with Candicap mushrooms, which have a sweet maple syrup aroma.  I asked why no one has thought to use these in bitters before and he replied “They are expensive and the supply chain is irregular” but that’s the beauty of a small operation company, he can play with flavors with a lot less regard for mass production later on down the line.

The majority of his experimentation isn’t for retail either, but limited to ‘on premise’ clients. An example of this would be the savory “Damn you Matt Wallace” bitters he created for Harvard & Stone in Hollywood.  The name intrigues many who hear it, and I was curious as to it’s back story.

Louis told me;

Matt Wallace (Head Bartender at H&S) suggested I try to create a savory bitters. After I started with a tomato base,  I added (amongst other things) some angelic root, pepper, celery and a little citrus for brightness then my savory bitters were born.  They have spice with not too much heat. The idea and the final product ended up being so good I had to say “Damn you Matt Wallace” so that’s what I put on the label of the first bottle.”

The name stuck! ‘Damn you Matt Wallace bitters’ are still on the drink menu at Harvard and Stone exclusively so be sure to check them out there too.

The new ‘Valentines Bitters’ with notes of Strawberry and Rose that were created for Big Bar’s Prom last week, are outstanding. So delicate and floral, they are delightful and having been able to snag a little bottle for my own use I have already been bothered by ‘bartender friends’ who want me to bug Louis about creating more. “Can you see if he’ll make us like 6 bottles?” Seriously, I can only imagine how many calls Louis must get like this after people try his new creations.

The man is gifted and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. Miracle Mile Bitters Co. is such a great little company and deserves all the recognition it can get. In my opinion it’s always better to look after the “little guy” and stay away from “big commercial” companies when possible and unlike other bitters production companies in America, Miracle Mile Bitters Co. does have that small batch appeal.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some other fantastic bitters companies out there ‘The Bitter Truth’ is a great example of one.  There are also small batch bitters operations popping up all over the place like ‘Bittermens’ bitters created by Avery Glasser in New York.

Louis isn’t here to step on anyones toes though, when I asked if he started his company because he thought other companies were lacking an element he replied;

 “Not at all. I honestly felt there was room for me too. There is always room for new flavor ideas, for example, no one was making a Castilian or Yuzu bitters at the time”

and for the flavors already out there, like Orange or Chocolate, he says he’s not trying to take over;

“As long as the quality is there, I believe theres room for everyone. I target a smaller audience anyway and often have people who just want to collect the whole set because I make so few bottle in a batch compared to the big brands”

His work ethic and passion for what he does comes across when he talks and his choice of flavors has inspired bartenders across LA and the country to create new and exciting drinks with his products.  He sparks imagination in people and his ‘Venue specific bitters’ are a smart way to help Mixology bars around LA get on the map, if they weren’t already.  The cocktail community in LA is so welcoming and helpful for promoting each other, he has been quite overwhelmed by how much support has come for his little brand.  Having tasted his products and met Louis now in person, I honestly believe his product won’t stay “boutique” for long.  I’m pretty sure Miracle Mile Bitters Co. is about to become a big name brand and will one day be available and sold all over the World.  It deserves every success.

If you have an interest in buying any of his current ‘retail’ creations please check out his website, or purchase direct from any of the following locations:

The current bitters he creates in a larger capacity for retail are: Chocolate/Chili Bitters, Gingerbread Bitters, Sour Cherry Bitters, Castilian Bitters, Yuzu Bitters, Forbidden Bitters, Orange Bitters.

I am going to end with a copy of the questionnaire I give all the people I interview. I find this is a fun informal way to learn more about a person and I love to see the different answers .
Here are Louis answers…Enjoy!
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1. What is your full name?
Louis Z Anderman
2. What city/state were you born in?
Los Angeles, CA
3. What is your official job title? 
Barpothecary.  OK, so I made up that word, but it appears that someone beat me to Bitterati.
4. Are you a fussy eater or picky drinker? If so, what WON’T you try?
Absolutely not.  And, I should add, I see no food hierarchy.  I think that a $1 taco truck taco can be as noble as anything served at any of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, and many of my most memorable meals have been in parking lots, or strip mall dives with a health dept. B in the window.
 5. What is your favorite “Classic” Drink?
Can’t pick one.  Best I can do is my top 5, in no particular order:  Martini, Manhattan, Sazerac, Last Word, Old Fashioned.
6. What is your ‘go-to’ liquor of choice? 
Gin.  Beefeater is usually my house staple, though there are many others I love, depending upon mood and/or finances.
7. What is the most unusual dish or food item you’ve ever tasted?
I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but perhaps shark fin soup with crab roe, in Hong Kong.
8. What is the name of your favorite (current) Mixology bar in LA? and Why?
Can’t do it.  Can’t pick a favorite.
9. Where can you usually be found on a Saturday night?
For the most part, I’m a boring homebody.
10. What is the best thing about what you do?  
Many things.  For one, truly loving what I do.  For the first time in my life, I actually find myself excited about going to work.  The creative satisfaction I get from developing new flavors, and the further satisfaction at a positive reception, and then seeing bartenders creating new drinks with them that I never would have imagined.  All of the lovely, incredibly creative and passionate people I’ve met.  Oh, and the comped drinks don’t hurt, either.
11. What is the Worst thing about what you do?
Dealing with supply shortages (I went through about a two month dry spell on Yuzu peel, until I found a new, more reliable supplier), and the stress of building a new business from the ground up, learning as I go along (and hoping I don’t screw anything up too much!).
12. If you could live anywhere in the World where would it be? and why?
I’m gonna cheat and imagine that I had access to a time machine, and say LA in the 1930′s.  I’m obsessed with looking at pictures of old LA, and I can’t imagine how beautiful this city must have been pre-traffic, with lots of gorgeous Art Deco architecture.
13. If you couldn’t do what you do now, what would you do instead?
Cry. 
14. If you won the $100,000,000 on the lottery what would be the first thing you’d buy?
A fully restored (and with the notoriously dodgy electrics upgraded) series 1.5 Jaguar XKE roadster – silver, with red or black interior – or the Plymouth Gin distillery, just so I’d have ready access to the Navy Strength which, sadly, isn’t imported to the US.
 
Thanks for reading!
(If you would like to be considered for interview or represent a bar/brand you want to bring exposure to on my site, please feel free to contact me direct: pickydrinker@gmail.com)

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Big Bar Prom = Big Success!

Event: “Midnight in Paris” Prom 2012

Big Bar and Alcove Cafe  

1929 Hillhurst Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 644-0100

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For the second year in a row the Valentines Day Prom at Big Bar was a huge success.  Hosted by Eugene Lee and Dan Long, they also had Aidan Demarest of Neat returning as MC. This year the party theme was “Midnight in Paris”, and they went all out transforming their great space in to a Parisian paradise.

I should mention in advance I enjoyed the night even more when I was voted to be a member of the Royal Court, and later in the night was fortunate enough to go on and win (with my boyfriend FG) the title of PROM KING AND QUEEN!! It wasn’t fixed I swear, I just made sure to include the words “World Peace” in my speech, and tell the crowd Aidan would be buying everyone a drink if we won! Worked a charm.

I want to start with a big thanks to Eugene and Dan for making the evening such a success as well as the judges Jessica Borges (City Sip) and Whitney Olschwanger for picking us as Prom King and Queen. We really appreciated our prize of the beautifully romantic horse drawn carriage ride! I always enjoy meeting new and fun people in the cocktail community and the carriage ride was just an additional treat to an already great Valentines Day.

I had such a fun night (even before I won a crown!) and was impressed with the overall set up of the place.  They had a number of interesting drink concoctions, activities and foods. There really was something for everyone. There was a Punch Garden, a make-your-own-cocktail setup (partnering with Miracle Mile Bitters), and a French inspired specialty cocktail list created by Daniel Long.

There were Mimes, an Accordion player, French singers, Characuture Artists and a Prom picture station set up. Everything you could want to feel whisked away to France!

The courtyard was beautiful with fairy lights adorning the trees and the 17ft Eiffel Tower in the middle really added to the overall atmosphere of the night.  I can imagine that even without the tower the courtyard is a beautiful space to sit and enjoy cocktails. I hear they have a wonderful Sunday brunch with Mimosas and I can totally see this place being great in the day time too.  It was a chilly night, but they have a lot of heat lamps so we survived outside.

If you’ve never been to Big Bar or Alcove Cafe & Bakery (which I hadn’t until this event) let me paint a quick picture of the venue.  After passing through the  beautifully lit courtyard you enter a building which divides in to two spaces, Alcove Bakery on the right and Big Bar on the left. I couldn’t help but think “What an interesting mix of two genres…pastries and cocktails!”

            

It does feel like two distinct spaces but they complement each other in their diversity. Also, I can’t imagine anything better than stumbling out of a bar in to a bakery at 1 o’clock in the morning… It brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘Bartenders Breakfast!’

I do plan to review this place again on a ‘normal’ night, because it had such a great feel to it and i’m told the food is very good. I would imagine this to be true as the ‘French themed’ Hors d’oeuvres I had at the event were truly delicious.  We ordered a selection of food items which included the Croque Monsieur (little cheese and ham baguettes-Delicious!), Angus Beef Sliders with avocado and crispy bacon (I believe they have these on the regular menu and I highly recommend. We ended up ordering 3 servings!), Crab cakes (a little spicy, but lots of flavor) and Goat Cheese stuffed Medjool Dates wrapped in Bacon (need I say more! Yum!).

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COCKTAILS

As I mentioned above, Dan Long (Originally of First & Hope) put together a cocktail list inspired by the French theme of the night.  I started with the “Le Vie En Rose’.

First off, it was an attractive looking drink with lots of color, a large ice cube (I always love) and a  beautiful rose petal garnish.  It had a distinct floral taste throughout, was light but flavorful.  It was a pleasent drink overall, but just a little sour for my liking. I’m not sure what their ratio is at Big Bar but I found the majority of drinks to be a little on the sour side for me.  Having said that, ‘Le Vie En Rose’ definitely grew on me the more I sipped it and I found myself finishing the whole thing with no concern for a lack of sweetness!

Le Vie En Rose: Hudson white Whiskey, Rhuby Liqueur, Lime, Honey, Rose Essence

FG had ‘Le Cercle Rouge’. I enjoyed certain aspects of this drink. Hendricks Gin is one of my favorites, and like the ‘Le Vie En Rose’ drink this too had subtle floral flavorings in it, although was slightly more citric from the lemon.  It was a well balanced and interesting mix of flavors, sadly I just cannot get myself to like the taste of absinthe no matter how hard I try! FG certainly liked it though and devoured it quickly.

Le Cercle Rouge: Hendricks Gin, Solerno, Lillet rouge, Lemon, Absinthe

The champagne cocktail section was the most interesting to me and one of my favorite ‘areas’ of the event.  You had to pick your sugar cube (brown or white), then your bitters (from a large selection of Miracle Mile Bitters. that included Chocolate/Chili, Castilian, Gingerbread, Peach, Forbidden, Valentine and Orange)  and then decide between Rosé or Sparkling wine.  FG created a drink for me and decided to go for the ‘Valentine Bitters’.

The flavors were strawberry and rose, they smelt romantic and girlie to me, like strawberry blossom. These particular bitters were created especially for Big Bar by Louis Anderman (founder or Miracle Mile Bitters Co.) and were a “first attempt” he says, created just weeks earlier specifically for Prom.  In my opinion they turned out pretty darn good for a first shot! The strawberry notes and floral elements complimented the bubbles perfectly. It ended up being the simplest, but possibly the best drink I had all evening. I will be doing an interview with Louis in the next few days, so be sure to check back to the site for that!

After my deliciously simple champagne cocktail I used my drink ticket (which was a bargain at just $8) to try the punch bowl in the back courtyard.  The punch was refreshing and had a splash of prosseco on top. It was also a little sweeter (from the Disaronno) than all the other drinks of the night, which is always a plus for me and my sweet tooth!

Le Punch Drunk Love: Disaronno, Bourbon, Lemon, Cinnamon, Fig Tea, Bubbles

In conclusion, even if I hadn’t won a crown, I would have thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the Big Bar Prom and I know all the friends and colleagues that came with me had a great time too. We all got charactures done, (which were hilarious because they looked nothing like us) and had ‘prom style’ photos taken. I will be at Prom 2013 handing my crown over to the next King and Queen!

For those of you who came to the event and had Prom style photos taken, be sure to collect them HERE. Coming soon!

I’m giving Big Bar Valentines Prom (and this is a rating JUST for the event):

 

3.5 out of 5 Clover clubs for Drinks.

I liked the cocktails a lot and the variety was good, but they were all a little too sour for my palette and I preferred the champagne cocktail bar and punch to the cocktails I had. The service was super slow (although to be fair it WAS an event so it’s to be expected) but overall the drinks were balanced and well thought out selections, Dan Long always does a good job with that, and FG enjoyed everything he tried. I’m sure the regular bar on a ‘non-event’ night is excellent and I will be sure to comment on that in my next review.

 

4 out of 5 Platters for Food.

The food rating is one of the highest because the bar bites we got to try were all excellent, especially the sliders. I am excited to return to order food off the regular menu and also get my hands on some of those pastry, cakes and chocolates!

I will be returning again to see this location in the day time soon. If this event was anything to go by, the place is worthy of a second visit and I recommend you to give it a try!

Here are some photos that I borrowed from the Big Bar website…check out more on their facebook page.

Above photo Left to Right: Dan Long, Eugene Lee, Aidan Demarest

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