A good taste for a good cause
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHELLE MAGDALENA
Brian Mazurek started his company The Bitter Ginger in the very wet winter of 2017, when Big Sur was cut off from the rest of the world for eight months due to mudslides to the south and a collapsed bridge to the north.
As the bar manager of Sierra Mar restaurant at the exclusive Post Ranch Inn, he had been experimenting with housemade bitters created from ingredients foraged on the property and from the citrus ranch where he lives in Big Sur. The restaurant closure gave him the time and impetus to start bottling his small-batch shrubs and bitters and launch his own business, selling them on Etsy.
Last fall Mazurek, and his wife Lacey, had been looking forward to making a new type of bitters using nuts from a walnut farm that friends had just purchased and moved to in Paradise, Calif., but the deadly Camp Fire stormed through the friends’ property in November, leveling their home and barns.
“Fortunately our friends made it out safely,” he says. “They brought us a bucket of scorched walnuts, and a fundraiser was born!”
The resulting Camp Fire Walnut Bitters were bottled in February and have a “very dark smoky flavor with notes of sarsaparilla,” he says. All proceeds from sales of the bitters will go to help rebuild some of the agricultural infrastructure on the burned farm.
Cocktails that benefit from a touch of smokiness, like Manhattans, are perfect for these bitters, as is a cocktail Mazurek invented called The Catahoula.
“The king of this farm is their wonderful pup—my dog’s best friend—a Catahoula named Ruger,” he says. “Naming the drink after his breed was a playful way to stretch the traditional ingredients of a greyhound. Incorporating the salt that would normally sit on the rim of your glass into the cocktail perfectly enhances the sweet, acidic and bitter tastes of this drink.”
Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.