Bitters + Bottles Subscription Box Review – March 2016
Bitters + Bottles is a monthly subscription box that helps you build your home bar and learn how to use it.
Every month, they send full-sized spirits, mixers, and recipes to help you create classic cocktails at home. Each box builds on previous shipments, adding new bottles to your bar and new recipes to your collection.
Unlike many ongoing subscriptions, Bitters + Bottles consists of 12 shipments. So after a year of subscribing, you’ll have a fully stocked bar and an arsenal of classic cocktail recipes. If you sign up for a subscription, you will begin with Box 1. This is a review of Box 11.
At the start of the subscription, Bitters + Bottles provides the option to add a set of bar tools for $55. To see what’s included in this set check out my first Bitters + Bottles review.
My Subscription Addiction pays for this subscription. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
The Subscription Box: Bitters + Bottles
The Cost: $85 per month + $23 shipping (Note that when I signed up for Bitters + Bottles, the price was $95 per month with shipping included. They have since re-vamped their subscription, and the price listed above is for the new model, which includes more bottles and fancier cards than what I receive.)
The Products: 3-6 bottled ingredients plus the recipes to create classic cocktails at home.
Ships to: The following US states: CA, CO, DC, ID, IL, MO, NJ, NM, NY, and WA.
Every Bitters + Bottles box includes a note about the month’s theme and a selection of recipes.
This shipment’s theme is “U.S. License #1,” and the info card talks about how pre-independence inhabitants of New England used freeze distillation (colloquially known as “jacking”) to turn cider into applejack. People of the time developed a taste for boozy cider, which led New Jersey’s Laird & Company to apply for the first ever US distillation license. To this day, they still produce an apple brandy, which Bitters + Bottles has included in this box.
Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy (750 ml.)- $31.99 (on sale for $25.99)
20 pounds of apples go into every bottle of this brandy! It has flavors of “fresh fruit with a hint of warm vanilla and caramel from oak aging.”
Merlet Creme de Peche Liquor (375 ml)- $14.99
This peach liquor is made with real peaches grown in the area around Cognac in France. The liquor is “fresh and spicy” and can be used to make Bellinis or as a replacement for simple syrup in a whisky sour.
Small Hand Foods Grenadine (8.5 oz.)- $12
Fun fact: real grenadine is made from pomegranate juice! (I always thought it was supposed to be cherry-flavored.) Nowadays, grenadine is often made from high-fructose corn syrup and red food coloring, but Small Hand Foods still crafts theirs using only pomegranates and cane sugar.
Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters (1 oz.)- $10
The last item in this month’s box is one of Bitters + Bottles’ favorite modern bitters: Bittercube’s Cherry Bark Vanilla. It has notes of cherry and vanilla and can be added to an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or pretty much any other whisky, cognac, or rum cocktail.
Bitters + Bottles includes five classic cocktail recipes with each shipment. This box’s cocktails are: Ward 8, Philadelphia Fish House Punch, Jack Rose, Star Daisy, and El Presidente.
The Jack Rose is a cocktail that first appeared in publication in 1948, and no one is quite sure where it got its name. Gangsters? Botany? No one can say. The drink is made with apple brandy, lemon or lime juice, and grenadine, and it’s known for its rose-colored hue (which it gets from the grenadine). Here’s a picture of one made with mainstream grenadine:
(Check out that color! Also, how crazy is that garnish!?) Since I made my Jack Rose with Small Hand Food’s natural grenadine, mine has a far more muted hue.
The apple and pomegranate flavors are great together, and the lime juice adds a nice acidic kick. I’m a fan of this cocktail, and I feel like the apple flavor would make this a great fall cocktail. Thanksgiving is a long way off, but I’m already thinking that this would be wonderfully appropriate for the occasion!
Verdict: Next month’s box will be the end of my year-long journey with Bitters + Bottles, and I’ll be sad to see it end. I’ve greatly enjoyed my cocktail education, and my home bar is fully stocked. The retail value of the items in this box totals approximately $70. While I typically like to see the value of included items meet the cost of the box, I do think it’s important to keep in mind that shipping full-sized bottles of alcohol is expensive. In addition to the actual products sent by Bitters + Bottles, I also think it’s important to acknowledge the intangible aspects of this box. For me, there’s value in the education about spirits and cocktails I receive in every box.
Do you love classic cocktails? Have you tried Bitters + Bottles?