DuVal, Meyer, and Ahmed realized that the opposite should be true: Bitters could be an effective way to bring the experience and flavors of cultures around the world back home to New York. They started making them as an educational tool at the Botanical Garden, to show people which plants they’re using and why they matter. Soon, Shoots & Roots Bitters was born.
Even in the spirited world of bitters, the flavors that Shoots & Roots draw from their tinctures stand out. Demon Flower is a mixture of 12 plants from Mexico and the Philippines; Chai Jolokia combines the native North Indian ghost pepper with masala chai; Black Bear’s Bitters uses osha root and juniper cone, two plants that bears eat to aid digestion.
The trio’s forthcoming book, Botany at the Bar, is taking their bitter transparency a step further by providing instructions for people who want to make bitters at home. Most of these plants, however, aren’t easy to find at the grocery store. “One of our missions is to increase awareness for underutilized crops,” DuVal says. “We hope generating more market interest might increase the availability of these plants down the road.”
In the meantime, the public can take after the Shoots & Roots founders and become bitters-hunting botanists, embarking on treasure hunts through their local fields and markets for new plants to extract and enjoy.