Embitterment | Making Bitters In Washington DC

A friend told me about Ethan Hall’s venture into the world of bitters.

To my knowledge, he would be the only regional producer of bitters in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area.

I was intrigued about the processes, and so, I met up with Ethan at Circa in Foggy Bottom.

Late, as usual, I try to make up for my tardiness by buying a round. Are you having another one? What is it? No wait! Let me guess. Port city wit? No! Allagash White. Yup!

Nailed it! Damn I’m good!


I’m a beer and wine guy, but every once in a while, here in DC, I’ll go to The Passenger, Roofers Union or PX in Old Town and treat myself to a well made cocktail.

The bartenders include bitters to bring that extra bit of flavor and complexity to the drink.

Looking around at these bars, they seem to always use the same three major brands.

Angostura: The most common bottle found in every bar. Although it lacks in spices found in other aromatic bitters, It’s a go to for the Manhattan enthusiasts.

Peychaud’s Bitter: This is the bitter created by the man who mixed the first Sazerac cocktail. Bright red and lighter than Angostura, they share a base in gentian root.

Fee Brothers: They have become widely known as the company creating a wide range of different flavors. Black walnut, Barrel aged, Mint, rhubarb…


So perhaps it’s time to try something new. And what if it was local?


Ethan is a 9 to 5er with a huge passion for cocktails and bitters. He is currently working as a consultant in Washington, DC and has created Embitterment which was just an idea 6 months ago.

With a couple of friends and a couple thousand dollars he’s in the last stages of production. His first official sale to the public will be held at the DC VegFest on September 20th.

Having chosen to go with the freshest and most organic products he could find, it’s a great way to enter into the market.

His spices come from Mountain Rose Herbs. A certified organic company based out of Eugene, Oregon.

We spoke about many different options of flavors. Some of which have already been bottled and others I would like to see.

Lavender, barrel aged, Strawberry peppercorn…

[O]nce you get started thinking about different flavors, the options never end

I Started thinking about a strawberry & champagne cocktails with strawberries and pepper flavored bitters,

or adding a few dashes of the barrel aged aromatic to a beer.

Cooking with and creating recipes which includes his bitters, is something Ethan would like to see local chefs do.

Making bitters, he told me, is no secret. Thousands of detailed recipes are out on the internet for everyone to see and make at home.

The patience and time put into making a batch is the only reason I’ll stick to buying it from a store.


I brought Embitterment aromatic bitter to a few of my bartender friends, and ask them what they thought about it.

Without much hesitation, they all compared it to Peychaud’s bitter with more dominant flavor of anise.

Most said very aromatic notes of Orange, Anise, and an overall floral taste.

The cocktail that seemed to come up the most, was the Sazerac. Here is a recipe from Chow.com.

The flavors from the bitters, they said, would really complement the anise in the absinthe.


I really can’t wait to try more of Embitterment’s other line of bitters.


Make sure to go see him at DC VegFest on September 20th and sample his creations.