Sweet news: Northern bitters make beautiful drinks

Yukon concocters, experimenters, cocktail lovers and fans of northern botanicals, take cheer! A kindred spirit walks among us. She is Jennifer Tyldesley, and as you will have recently learned in these pages, she makes her own small-batch bitters and sells them under the brand name Free Pour Jenny’s.

Tyldesley’s philosophy is similar to my own: place a northern ingredient at the centre of a recipe and build around it. Each one of her nine (so far) bitters features a Yukon berry or botanical that may not be discernible as itself, but which highlights, enhances or adds depth to other flavours in the mix.

So, the effect of the spruce tips in Free Pour Jenny’s Orange Bitters is “to make the orange more orange,” says Tyldesley. This is indeed alchemy, as she calls her process of mixing and matching aromatics, alcohol and bittering agents.

I recently picked up a bottle of Free Pour Jenny’s Orange Bitters and one of Solstice Bitters from Jeremie Matrishon, proprietor of the recently opened Corked, a boutique liquor store in Horwoods Mall. Matrishon also happened to have bottles of Free Pour Jenny’s Simple Syrup and Ginger Simple Syrup on hand, and I set off home in great excitement to experiment with these engaging new northern pantry items.

Over the next few days I discovered that a few drops of Solstice Bitters turns a glass of sparkling water into a warming winter cooler, if you’ll forgive the apparent contradiction. Orange bitters work beautifully with an ounce of rhubarb juice, an ounce of ginger syrup and a top-up of sparkling or still water for a refreshing, mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

But once the sun set over the clay cliffs at the back of Whitehorse (our local yardarm) the real fun began. The first evening I tried the Dark and Stormy suggested on Tyldesley’s website, but modified in order to bring her ginger syrup into play, adding muddled ginger and lime for a fiery kick. The warmth of the southern spices in the Solstice Bitters was the perfect complement to ginger and dark rum.

Next evening I put orange bitters and rhubarb juice to work again in a Pisco Sour, starting with an excellent pisco brought back from Peru by a friend, and finishing with Orange Bitters instead of the usual Angostura. Alchemy, again. This time, you don’t taste the orange as orange, but it knits together the lime, the rhubarb, and the pisco into a new and delicious variation on the classic.

My next experiment will be in the culinary line. Tylesdley kindly dropped off a sampler of spruce tip bitters, which I’m going to try in a batch of spruce tip shortbread. And I sent her home with some dried Artemisia tilesii, as a possible boreal bittering agent. Let’s see what she makes of that!

Adapted from FreePourJennys.com


1 wedge lime

1 slice fresh ginger

2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal 80 Proof Bermuda Rum

1 oz Free Pour Jenny’s Ginger Syrup

¾ oz lime juice

5 drops Free Pour Jenny’s Solstice Bitters

4 oz soda water

Lime wedge for garnish


Muddle lime wedge and fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add rum, ginger syrup, lime juice and bitters and a few ice cubes. Stir vigorously. Strain into a tall glass over ice cubes. Add soda water. Garnish with the lime wedge.

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