Dashfire Bitters are produced in Minnesota, USA.
I was very kindly sent some samples by their UK importer and distributor, Artisan Spirits.
I chose the following flavours from their single flavour range:
Lee Egbert established Dashfire Bitters with the aim of creating high quality, hand-crafted products suitable for use by bartenders and home enthusiasts alike.
Lee is fascinated by flavour. He lived in China for 18 months and has travelled extensively across the globe. His escapades have taken him from Thailand, India and Sri Lanka to Portugal, Italy, Mexico and everywhere in between. These incredible journeys shaped Lee’s views and involvement with herbs and spice.
Drawing upon this wealth of herbal and culinary inspiration, Lee decided to create Dashfire Bitters.
The name “Dashfire” is an old term akin to “spitfire”. It emblemises the vivacious, energetic and dynamic core of the brand.
Lee’s background extends to the wider drinks industry. He is part-owner of two distilleries: 11 Wells and Dashfire Distillery. The distilleries produce a wide range of spirits, including whiskey, rum and gin.
It is testament to our modern interest and intrigue in spirits, cocktails and flavours that Dashfire Bitters find themselves not only thriving within the bar scene, but collaborating with soda and coffee producers alongside being featured on restaurant menus.
Around eight years ago, an idea set in motion the cogs which would eventually become the Dashfire Bitters brand.
Lee was enjoying a cocktail in the Little Branch speakeasy in Manhattan when he decided that he would like to make a perfect Manhattan cocktail from scratch. He started with the bitters.
Vintage Orange No. 1 bitters was the first product and would inspire the rest of the range.
An interesting point is that Lee felt it didn’t make sense to use bitters which have vodka as their base so he started with a Bourbon base. He went on to produce the first rye whiskey in Minnesota. He created his own vermouth, selected the best fresh citrus and cherries and combined everything to successfully make his own Manhattan cocktail from top to bottom.
The Vintage Orange No. 1 bitters not only use Bourbon as their base spirit, they are also the first, (and only) bitters to be barrel-aged in Minnesota white oak.
The creation of the orange bitters led Lee to experiment with other flavours and he soon realised that there was significant potential for a bitters company. There was a bitters-sized gap in the flourishing cocktail market.
The second product to join the range was Mr Lee’s Ancient Chinese Secret Bitters. I haven’t tried this variant myself, but it draws its concepts and flavour profile from Lee’s time spent living in China. The ability to blend flavours and perfect a balanced, nuanced recipe showcases another creative angle.
Dashfire Bitters now comprise 21 flavours – one of the largest selection of bitters available.
The range is segmented into several categories: The Single Flavour Family, Speciality Bitters, the Vagabond Series and several other unique products.
Focusing on the Single Flavour Family range, (as these really interest me) the custom-designed bottles have been deliberately styled so the flavour stands out first, followed by the brand. The bespoke bottle shape subtly reinforces the branding so you know you’re looking at a Dashfire Bitters product without consciously being told.
Dashfire Bitters are now expanding to offer private label products and the opportunity to create private blends. They are building their flavour library and will increase this by distilling each ingredient into own distillate and essential oil.
As previously mentioned, the Vintage Orange No. 1 uses Bourbon as its base spirit, but the majority of the other Dashfire Bitters uses locally-made organic Minnesota corn for their base. It’s fantastic to see the company drawing on all aspects of the community and involving many different trades including farmers, coopers and local businesses.
Depending on which variant they’re making, obviously the processes change slightly. Dashfire Bitters use a slightly unusual method. The vast majority of spirits producers macerate their ingredients in high strength spirit then dilute to bottling strength. Dashfire Bitters are made by first diluting the spirit to pretty much bottling strength and then macerating. The reason for this is that by macerating at a lower strength, you can add more botanicals leading to a more concentrated flavour. If you dilute after maceration, you are diluting your recipe. There are of course valid arguments for both methods, but Dashfire’s one seem to work!
The botanicals are weighed, anything that needs to be peeled is peeled, the spirit is proofed down and the botanicals macerated. Maceration lasts for 3 – 6 weeks depending on the flavour. The liquid is then filtered and bottled.
Some ingredients are used fresh, some are dried. Without going into each product specifically, it depends on the desired flavour profile. Sometimes a mix of fresh and dried versions of the same ingredient are used as they are chemically different.
There are two ways to taste bitters: put a drop on the back of your hand and lick it, (cue obligatory “sour-face” expression) or you can put a few drops in a glass of sparkling water.
All of the Dashfire Bitters provide an intense purity of flavour, distinctive of each individual botanical. You can tell the ingredients are of the highest quality and that these have been produced with precision. There's nothing artificial or cloying about them. I love the four flavours I chose to try and cannot wait to taste more in the range.
Play around with adding these to all your drinks, (alcoholic, non-alcoholic, coffee etc) and try them in sauces or other recipes, such as casseroles and risottos. These are so versatile!
I love the Dashfire Bitters range. It’s immediately evident that there’s an incredible amount of passion, creativity and technicality behind the brand.