Mixing It Up with AZ Bitters Lab

Categories: Chow Bella

Katie Johnson
Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys working on a new concoction in the AZ Bitters Lab.
Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys aren't bitter people. They're bitters people, ardent food lovers whose interests have broadened from food-and-wine pairings to food-and-cocktail pairings to the distinctive components, such as bitters, that go into both classic and craft cocktails.

Although the Buitenhuys hold down 9-to-5 managerial jobs, they spend most of their free time playing mad scientist in their kitchen, dubbed AZ Bitters Lab.

Katie Johnson
Bitters infusing with fruit.
There, they have become the first in the Valley to actually make their own bitters -- a potent flavoring agent containing a neutral spirit and some combination of roots, herbs, fruits and spices. (If you've ever drunk a Manhattan, an Old-Fashioned or a Sazerac, you've tasted bitters.)

Just like the local bartenders who mentor them do.

Take a visual tour through the AZ Bitters Lab.

Did I say "bartenders"? Excuse me, "mixologists," which is to say rock stars, which is to say chef-like people who consider flavor principles, incorporate farm-fresh ingredients, and buy or make their own artisanal (i.e., small batch) cocktail ingredients.

Commercial Angostura (the bitters label behind every bar for the last zillion years) has become a bit passé in the Brave New Cocktail World. Artisanal bitters, created in culinary-inspired flavors, are way better.

That's what the Buitenhuys learned from mixology mentors Travis Nass (Lon's at the Hermosa), Richie Moe (Citizen Public House), and Jason Asher (mixologist for spirits distributor Young's Market Company).

And it's that philosophy that surely inspired them to go out on an entrepreneurial limb. Get this . . .

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Bill Buitenhuys
Bill Buitenhuys

Thanks for spending time with us and telling this story, Nikki, and thanks to Katie for all the pix. Lillian and I also want to thank all the professionals behind the bar in AZ that inspire us through making their own tinctures, bitters, syrups, and, most importantly, yummy cocktails.

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