Dashfire Bitters, a new kind of craft bitters for the home bartender

Bourbon barrel aged bitters
Bourbon barrel aged bitters
photo courtesy Dashfire Bitters

There was a time when bitters meant one bottle, paper packaged, often languishing in the refrigerator door. Not only are bartenders now creating cocktails with the aid of a myriad of tiny vials, home bartenders can also pick and choose from a variety of drink accoutrement. Still, a majority of store-bought bitters are made with a basic over-proof alcohol like like Everclear. Then along comes Dashfire Bitters with a new line of bitters made with, among other things, bourbon.

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Lee Egbert's day job is in project management, but it's evident after just a few moments with him that his energy is boundless. A passionate world traveler, he's now channeling all of his experiences from the bark he smelled as a Boy Scout out camping, to the time he lived in China, and an extensive trip through India. He funneled all of these things through a craft-cocktail filter to create Dashfire Bitters.

The Vintage Orange No. 1 is packaged in beautiful, square glass with letterpress-printed labels, hand-numbered by batch and bottle. These bitters are bourbon-based and infused with orange scents. The aroma is a heady mix of vanilla, oak, and zest with just a bit of cinnamon. They impart an incredible depth of warm flavors cut with a pure orange hit of acidity, without even a trace of that baby-aspirin fake-orange flavor that plagues other orange bitters.

The second variety of bitters he released is the first in what he's calling the vagabond series: Mr. Lee's Ancient Chinese Secret. Egbert said he crafted the flavors based on a Chinese recipe of herbs that supposedly cured cancer. He said, obviously, his bitters likely won't be a revolutionary cure, but a good drink can't hurt. They're an intoxicating mix of  mandarin orange rind, ginger, galanga, star of anise, tamarind, and Sichuan peppercorns.

These two small bottles are just the beginning of the lineup Egbert has planned for Dashfire. There are also tinctures and shrubs in the works. A hibiscus tincture is a beautiful fuchsia color, full of herb flavor with a tartness that begs to be added to something ginny.

Egbert was also kind enough to share a sample of some brandied cherries and cranberries he's been working on. Some good bourbon, Dubonnet, a couple of dashes of the Vintage Orange No. 1, and a garnish of these cranberries made the single best Manhattan I've ever had a hand in making.

Along with all of these handcrafted products, Egbert has also teamed with Bob McManus to renovate space in the former Hamm's Brewery for Mill City Distilling, what will likely be the metro's first craft spirit maker.

Dashfire bitters are currently being used by area bartenders such as Shawn Jones at Cafe Maude on Loring Park and Rob Jones of Saffron. Both bitters are available for purchase at select area liquor stores (like France 44 in Minneapolis and Thomas Liquors in St. Paul) and on Amazon.

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