1. Home
  2. >
  3. recipe
  4. >
  5. Behind the Bitters

Aug 13, 2015

Behind the Bitters

Our friend and collaborator Rob Easter (Workhorse Rye) makes some of the best bitters in the bay. Here, he lets us in on a few of his secrets and how the Salted Cacao bitters came to be. 

I never wanted to make chocolate bitters. I have made drinks with molé and other chocolate bitters for years, and didn’t feel like I needed to contribute much to that world so I ignored chocolate (in a bitters context, not an eating context, please) for quite some time. As I started becoming more familiar with Dandelion Chocolate bars, a totally new flavor profile appeared in my mind: cacao bitters. Not chocolate bitters. That sounds silly but it is a totally different beast—a bright, fruity, yet savory beast.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 11.34.33 AMI pitched the idea to Cynthia and Greg after their chocolate class at Four Barrel, and asked them for some cacao husk and nibs, separately. I knew the husk would contribute something bitter and tannic, but wasn’t sure exactly what. I put rye on husk and rye on nibs, agitated them for a month and then tasted. It is ridiculous how fantastically good cacao and quality alcohol taste when married for a month. It tastes like wine. Alcohol is a fantastic solvent of course, and it easily extracts the fats and proteins of the cacao. To compliment those savory and bright tones that our rye took from the cacao, we selected as counterparts cardamom, cinnamon, and super cool Piran salt by Bitterman Salt Co. We added some extra bitterness via dandelion root too.

After that, it was a simply a matter of dialing it in. After a year and a half, the recipe has evolved, and now we put whole beans (with husk, no separation from nib) through our grain mill the same as we would before making mash for rye whiskey. We use an extra dash of husk too—these are bitters after all, and a pleasant but unique bitterness is what we are after.

08092015_WorkHorseRye_BottleShots1382I like using entire plants as much as possible. Roots, bark, fruit, peel, husk, nib. Not because it sounds wizardlike and “one-with-all” (that’s cool too, I suppose) but because a plant expresses itself in so many ways, and there is core personality in many of those parts. To make a silky chocolate bar, the husk needs to be separated from the nib. It is usually valued as prized compost, aiding in soil aeration, but lately it’s moved to center stage and is more appreciated for what it is: bitter. We rejoice in the name of cacao husk; who would have thought? I don’t yet know what cacao root or leaves tastes like, but I foresee that changing for both us and Cacao Bitters lovers.

You can find Rob’s bitters on the Workhorse Rye website, or in our Valencia Street factory. To start, try a few sleeves with 2 oz mezcal and 1/4 oz Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao. Or, stir up a dry Manhattan with rye, dry vermouth, and 3 sleeves Salted Cacao Bitters. 


  1. Scarlett Lundquist

    I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful chocolate tasting experience. I received a three bar sample for my birthday. The presentation and wrapping was beautiful. Each bar was wrapped in elegant paper and signed by the person that made the batch making opening each one feel special. We tasted each bar as a family and talked about what we smelled and tasted. They were the best chocolate bars we have ever tasted. It was a wonderful chocolate experience and we can’t wait to order more! Thank you for your attention to detail and your passion for chocolate.


  2. Jennifer Roy

    Thank you so much Scarlett! We appreciate the note and always love to hear such great feedback.

  3. Ann Huffcutt

    I recently ordered the sampler package and the problem was this: It was wrapped so prettily I left the box on the counter for two days just to admire it before having the heart to ruin the presentation by unwrapping the bars! I’m glad I did though because it was outstanding. It was fun to compare the nuances in each bar. Will definitely be ordering these as Christmas gifts. So glad I found you!


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: