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Making bitters for his roomie Eddie Simeon was initially a hobby for Williamsburg-based freelance filmmaker Ben Harrison, until he wanted to make a “large” batch of fifty bottles of the non-potable liquor, a classification that allows it to be sold on grocery store shelves alongside, say, vanilla extract. He crowdfunded the project through Kickstarter last April and, after receiving an overwhelming response (he asked for $960 and received $2,456), decided to turn his pastime into a business. Joined by Simeon and partners Tobin Ludwig and Jomaree Pinkard, Harrison now markets his products in Brooklyn and at a handful of West Coast outlets. Hot Bread Kitchen recently selected the group for its incubator program in Spanish Harlem, so soon Hella Bitter will have a proper manufacturing space for its product, which pairs naturally with gin. Heavier, stickier, thicker and, yes, more bitter than others of its kind, Hella Bitter gets mad points for straying beyond the relentlessly local focus of other distillers and brewers in its naming process, though, who knows? Once the Brooklyn quartet hot-foots it to Harlem, Hella Harlem Bitter could have a nice ring to it.
Brooklyn Winery, Greenhook Ginsmiths and Hella Bitter
Photos by Samantha Sutcliffe
Van Brunt Stillhouse Photo Courtesy Van Brunt Stillhouse