The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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50  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2018 If you are a mixologist or wine professional interested in being featured here or want more information on Chef's Roll and Somm's List, please email We've partnered with Chef's Roll & Somm's List, the global culinary and wine professional networks, to learn more about beverage experts from across the country. KYLE BRANCHE Mixologist and Creator of the Bitters Hub blog in Los Angeles, CA What's the first thing you look for in a bitter? The flavor profile, meaning if there's one main flavor, I need to know how it comes across by scent and taste. If it's a combination of flavors, I check for what balance the owner has created with it and why. Think in terms of earthy, herbal, medicinal, woodsy, fruity, floral, nutty, and spicy—let these terms be your guide in purchasing a varied selection that covers all the bases. I think about these flavor categories in terms of link- ing them to the main spirits, so the goal is to have a range of bitters to go with anything. There's a variety of bitters brands out there from all over the world. Would you say geo- graphic location and culture have anything to do with the flavors and notes of bitters? Oh, yes, many bitters brand owners have a history that's led them to do what they do today. That includes using herbs and spices based in the cuisine and culture they grew up in or have experience in as far as location. That's where research comes in on our part and the reason why I do the brand owner interviews: to delve into the history and get to know them better. CANYON SHAYER Head Bartender at Philadelphia Distilling in Philadelphia, PA Philadelphia Distilling's portfolio features labels such as Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure, The Bay Seasoned Vodka, and Penn 1681 Vodka. What's your strategy for developing cocktails that are creative yet also straightforward in how they showcase the spirit's notes? Because of our team's structure, we are able to have a comprehensive understanding of how each spirit is made and, ultimately, why each spirit tastes the way it does. As a bartender trying to develop cocktails, there really isn't any better inspiration than walking into the botanical room with one of our distillers and having a full sensory overload. With that base, our strategy is simple—we respect the spirit- and cocktail-making process by using the freshest ingredients possible, and we create simple and seasonally-inspired drinks highlighting the foundational characteristics of each spirit. What has been your biggest takeaway working as the Head Bartender alongside a distillery? I was born and raised in center-city Philadelphia, and I started bartending when I was 21 years old. "Growing up" in the hospitality industry using the first legally-distilled spirit in our state made the learning process much more personal, and maintaining this position has afforded me the opportunity to engage with such a large and talented community of people. My biggest takeaway has been learning and experiencing the full process from botanical to spirit to cocktail. PHOTO COURTESY OF BLUECOAT GIN PHOTO: PAUL DE LEON

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