By Matthew Kang
Photography by Becky Reams
The recent proliferation of classic cocktail bars around town has encouraged those looking for a great homemade tipple to gather the tools and ingredients at specialty stores like this. But aficionados know where the real magic lies in cocktails: bitters. Bitters are the medicinal-looking bottles tasting of concentrated herbs and spices that add an extra element of complexity and deliciousness to a cocktail.
In years past, the only real selection of bitters available to the public were the ubiquitous Angostura and the New Orleans-based Peychaud’s. Stores like Bar Keeper might have had a few throwback varieties made by artisanal companies such as Fee Brothers that made things like orange bitters, but cocktail lovers wanted more, and kept coming back to Bar Keeper to find the newest products.
Louis Anderman, one of these cocktailians, was rabid for new tastes and fanciful liquids to enjoy in drinks at home. He began tinkering with certain homemade recipes like Nocino, a green walnut liqueur, and crème de violette, which hadn’t been imported to the United States for decades. Anderman then decided to make a small eightounce batch of chocolate chili bitters and delivered it directly to Bar Keeper’s owner, Joe Keeper, to taste.
At the time—a mere four years ago—the cocktail world in Los Angeles had reached a critical mass, when bars like The Varnish were garnering national awards and establishments like Venice’s Tasting Kitchen were doling out market-driven cocktail specialties on Abbot Kinney. Anderman’s bitters quickly and easily found their way into these libations. Anderman’s approach to growing his stable of flavors was to make bitters that were versatile across a range of base spirits, almost like a kitchen spice rack. Bartenders from Pasadena’s 1886 to Ho-l lywood’s Eveleigh to FEED Body & Soul in Venice, began incorporating flavors such as his take on orange bitters and a classic aromatic variant similar to Angostura called Forbidden Bitters, which occasionally incorporated the elusive tonka bean, an aromatic, spiceful bean resembling vanilla.
Recipes expanded to include the likes of highly fragrant bergamot; toasted pecan; sour cherry and, eventually, custom oddballs like candy-cap mushroom bitters. Candy cap mushrooms are intensely sweet, maple-like fungi that pair beautifully with bourbon, though oftentimes bartenders would sprinkle in a few drops with Benedictine, a sweet herbal cordial that takes on a hazelnut-like quality with the bitters.
The company’s batches are hand numbered on each bottle, while the logo inspired by the iconic Art Deco E. Clem Wilson Building lends a familiar, nostalgic look. When Anderman returns to his Miracle Mile neighborhood during the evenings, he’ll often reach for his orange bitters, just a few dashes in a two-to-one blend of Beefeater gin to Dolin dry vermouth, stirred over ice and strained—for a perfect martini.
Miracle Mile Bitters can be found at Silver Lake’s Bar Keeper, West L.A.’s Wine House and Hollywood’s K&L Wine Merchants.