There are literally thousands of bitter companies out there these days and many are doing some pretty great things. One company that sticks out for us is Bittered Sling who is based in Vancouver, Canada. The company is run by the perfect pairing bartender/beverage consultant/World Class Canada ambassador Lauren Mote and renowned chef Jonathan Chovancek. These two are both life and business partners which makes things all that much more fun.
How did Bittered Sling come to be? Jonathan explains that when they first started dating, the two of them would deconstruct tasting notes of wine and food and then rebuild them with spice and botanicals. From there they started to make bitters that represented each other’s personalities. Jonathan’s spice and botanical description of Lauren became Moondog and her description of him became Denman Bitters. Basically these two nerded out in the most awesomely romantic way possible for two people in this industry.
From there they decided to make a go of Bittered Sling and put their all into the business. Anyone who runs a business knows that the product or service is just a small fraction of the whole show. As Lauren said, “Success in business isn’t just having a great product (as most people do), it’s about the ability to develop the idea into a business, create a product that’s delicious, hits all the notes and is consistent. Creating a brand that has loyalty, equity and good will takes years and years. I am addicted to entrepreneurial enterprise, a healthy and super positive ‘workaholic’, and love to make people happy. I was able to see all of these characteristics in Bittered Sling, and the food science understanding helped a great deal as well. Lastly, creating a brand within your own realm of understanding creates trust and credibility with consumers, so being that Jonathan is a 23 year chef and I am 16 year bartender, and the product we developed is used in both departments gave us the spotlight in a way as well.” In other words, these two have the experience and have the work ethic and as a result they have made an awesome go of Bittered Sling.
If you have worked in a restaurant, you may know that front of house and back of house may not always get along. So how do a bartender-and-chef-married-couple work together to make something as specific as bitters? They work together with each of their own strengths. “Chefs always have a different perception and understanding of flavours compared to bartenders and sommeliers, but it’s with all of these perceptions together that our products are so complex, interesting and balanced. Without the combination of understanding and palates from all angles, the beauty and uniqueness of our products would not be possible,” says Lauren.
Since they are both so experienced in food and beverage is it actually a perfect pairing for developing flavours or do they end up in heated discussions as a result? Jonathan says that they argue about everything EXCEPT flavours. These two are very in-sync with their palates and they inspire each other with how to build flavours. “It’s so exciting when we are creating something new. It’s like making a baby!”
When asked what the signature bitter of Bittered Sling is, the answer was “Plum & Rootbeer or Moondog or Kensington… But it’s like picking your favourite children – it’s not possible.” All of their expressions fit in a certain time and place and they love them all.
Bittered Sling is available all across Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand and of course, Vancouver is home court advantage. They have a bunch of “bitter babes” (ambassadors) living there. Vancouverites are very proud of the local product, and on a provincial and national scale, both the BC and Canadian governments are very supportive of Bittered Sling’s initiatives.