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Shae Whitney of DRAM Apothecary, Childhood Alchemist Turned Bitter-Maker

Shae Whitney [Photo: Tremper Photography]

DRAM Bitters has become a favorite ingredient at Colorado bars, found at Forest Room 5 and the Weathervane Cafe, among others. Shae Whitney, the woman behind the bitters, is a the owner of DRAM Apothecary and its herbal alchemist. Eater asked Whiteney about her start in apothecary work and what's next for the company.

Shae Whitney realized at a young age that she like to make "potions" out of plants and flowers. She went on to study agriculture, botany and food science at the Evergreen State College in Washington State. When she came back to Denver after college, she realized that Denver needed bitters, in a bad way..

"I realized there was a niche for bitters made from all natural ingredients and wild plants, as most of the bitters used behind bars are synthetically dyed, flavored or flavored with oils," says Whitney.

She began selling her craft bitters made with as many local products as possible on Etsy, which yielded a very positive response. When the demand became too great, she decided to launch a website and also work with wholesalers such as Terrain and Heath Ceramics.

"I believe the simple design aesthetic coupled with the superb quality and touch of classic whimsy is what draws people to DRAM," declares Whitney. She uses as many local herbs as possible for her bitters, but some ingredients like ginger and citruses are sourced from small growers on the west coast.

Whitney finds inspiration for her bitters in some less-than-obvious places, such as a MFK Fisher novel that was the inspiration for her Wild Mountain Sage Bitters. Bitters also tap into the historical medicinal plants topic that Whitney loves— each bitters bottle's include the ails the bitters are said to cure.

DRAM Bitters was the first company in Colorado to open a tasting room, and the second in the nation.

"Owning my own business has been a constant challenge," says Shae. It is all about the balance of work and play. When she can let her hair down and have a drink she prefers a simple, non-sweet cocktail. "I'm happy with a simple whiskey or tequila on the rocks with a splash of soda and some bitters."

You can find DRAM bitters at the recently opened Proper Pour. Forest Room 5 features the bitters in two drinks: The Huckleberry Lynx which has Huckleberry vodka, Wild Mountain Sage Bitters, and ginger beer on the rocks and topped with a fresh sage leaf and a blackberry. The Bobcat Manhattan is Bullet bourbon, Madagascar cloves, pear, Dram Hair of the Dog Bitters, topped with sweet vermouth.

The uptown restuarant Stueben's also uses DRAM bitters. The cocktail, The Bitter End, is made of Appleton Estate 12 year, Ramazzotti Amaro, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and DRAM Honey Chamomile Bitters.

Shae Whitney will be releasing a new bitter called BLACK on tonight in the tasting room at 6 p.m. It is a "robust and shadowy blend of all things black including black walnut, black pepper, black tea, black cardamom, black alder bark and black hawthorne berries."

— By Kelsey Colt

· DRAM Bitters
· Eater Special Drinks at Five Bars: Tartan Spritzer From Kyla Ostler of the Kitchen [EDen]
· Seasonal Freeze and Custom Ice Cubes By Michael Cerretani at Session Kitchen [EDen]
· All Cocktail Week 2013 Coverage [EDen]

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