The Bitter Beginning

Steve Wilson

Why merely raise a glass to Texas when you can put Texas directly in your glass? Salud! Bitters lets you do just that with its new line of drink enhancers made from the plants, roots and ever-tasty tree barks of the Lone Star state. Given the earthy nature of these ingredients, it should come as no surprise that the idea sprang from thoughts about a compost heap. “I was looking for something to do with my citrus trash other than composting it when I thought about bitters,” says Salud! co-founder Kate Payne. Tincturing citrus with roots and bark isn’t the kind of thing most people do on a lark, but for the author of “The Hip Girl’s Guide” cooking and homemaking books, it was right up her alley. Payne shared samples of the new bitters at her various preservation and fermentation workshops, where they earned rave reviews. Soon after, she teamed with designer Nora Chovanec to launch Salud!

Using ingredients that are responsibly foraged, locally sourced and organic, Payne and Chovanec have created a palate of flavors celebrating Texas’ unique terrain and abundance. Salud! Bitters comes in five flavors, featuring either Rio Grande Valley Citrus or Hill Country peaches or lavender: Citrus (grapefruit, white peppercorn, dandelion root), Chile Lime (limes, chilis, cacao, milk thistle, prairie verbena), Floral (lavender, Meyer lemons, agarita, bachelor’s button flower), Aromatic (Meyer lemons, juniper, dandelion root) and Hill Country Peach (peaches, wild cherry bark, Rangpur lime, agarita).

Payne and Chovanec plan to expand their line of bitters to include regional Southwestern and Mexican flavors, but first they want to lay down roots in Austin stores. And though they’re thrilled to get their products into places that sell liquor, they’re hopeful that other retail outlets will embrace the fact that bitters aren’t just for boozing. “‘Salud’ means ‘to your health’ in Spanish,” says Payne, noting that she and Chovanec use regional plants that are thought to support liver function, regulate blood sugar and, if nothing else, tone down the sweetness of a ginger beer. “It’s good to have some bitters in your life!”

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