In Good Spirits

A Dash of Flavor

By Cheré Coen  |  Photography courtesy of Christa Cotton/El Guapo Bitters

El Guapo Bitters & Syrups of New Orleans can add a unique Southern flavor to cocktails and cooking.

Distilling spirits is in Christa Cotton’s blood. Her parents opened Thirteenth Colony Distilleries in Americus, Ga., one of the state’s first distilleries, and she worked there while attending Auburn University.

​“I absolutely loved it,” enthuses Cotton, a Leesburg, Ga., native.

​So, when Cotton graduated college and headed to New Orleans to work in advertising, she missed what she calls the “hospitality side.” The city’s El Guapo Bitters came up for sale, a company specializing in additives that bring flavors to cocktails, so Cotton considered heading back to the spirited life.

​“I was nervous about acquiring it (the company) but my parents said, ‘If you don’t do it, we will,’” she explains. “So, I did.”

​Cotton bought El Guapo and its line of cocktail bitters in 2017 and immediately began working with food scientists to develop unique flavors. The company sells bitters that include such delectable combinations as Cucumber Lavender, Pecan Chicory utilizing pecans from her uncle’s Georgia pecan farm, and Love Potion No. 9 with floral notes. There are even culinary flavors, such as the spicy Crawfish Boil and Gumbo with hints of Louisiana’s “Holy Trinity” — Creole tomato, celery, and bell pepper. Both culinary bitters work well with Bloody Marys.

Syrups include Ponchatoula strawberry syrup, a seasonal product made from spring Louisiana strawberries, and the holiday Candy Cane Syrup enhanced with fresh mint, a nice addition to coffees and hot chocolate or topped on mint ice cream or waffles. The creamy and spicy sweet potato syrup took a recent Good Food Award and doubles as a replacement for the sugar cube in an old fashioned or a substitute for maple syrup on pancakes and waffles.

​New this year will be vanilla bitters aged in used rum barrels from Roulaison rum of New Orleans and sage syrup “to sage away 2020 from your life,” Cotton describes with a laugh. Both will arrive on the market in time for the holidays.

​El Guapo products can easily do double duty for special events such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cotton recommends whisking together Pecan Chicory bitters, heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar for a tasty topping on pies as well as Irish coffee or eggnog. (Check out the detailed recipe on the El Guapo website).

We leave you with Cotton’s favorite cocktail this time of year, an old fashioned enhanced by her bitters and syrups to warm up a chilly night. Cheers!

El Guapo Black Old Fashioned

1/4 ounce El Guapo Spiced Pecan Syrup

2 ounces rye whiskey

1/2 ounce amaro

4 generous dashes El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters

One large ice cube

Luxardo cherries

Directions: In a rocks glass, pour rye, amaro, syrup, and bitters. Stir to combine. Place one large ice cube in glass and garnish with one skewered Luxardo cherry.

El Guapo Pecan Old Fashioned

3 ounces bourbon

1/2 ounce El Guapo Spiced Pecan Syrup

8 dashes El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters

1 large ice cube

2 Luxardo cherries, yard flowers and leaves, to garnish

Directions: In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine bitters, syrup and bourbon. Stir with a bar spoon to combine and strain into a lowball glass. Place one large ice cube in glass. Garnish with cherries and any other desired accoutrements before serving.

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