Based out of Toronto, Canada Promise Bitters has quickly made a name for itself by creating a Smoke & Ash bitters that like it’s namesake is warm, smoky and intense.
Made with a secret recipe using only organically raised plants, Promise Bitters Smoke & Ash No. 1 creates an aperitif that is both mysterious and fragrant. The intense smokiness complements a wide array of items outside of traditional cocktail menus.
I was recently given a sample to try and found that when added to my coffee and found it to provide a very complimentary to cold espresso, and iced coffee.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Promise Bitters owner Marie Bodine about her product. In our conversation, she discusses the importance of community, the diversity of smoke as a flavor, and her commitment to community.
Ms. Bodine was kind enough to participate in the following interview.
Please describe your business: I make Promise Bitters No. 1 Smoke And Ash. Canada’s best smoky cocktail bitters.
How did you get the concept for your idea or business? I attended a cocktail bitters tutorial in 2016 from a bartender friend of mine.
I love using a smoked plank for cocktails and was looking to create something to make a smoky flavour more portable.
(It’s really impractical going to parties carrying a butane torch and charred piece of wood in my purse).
I went to a local store that sold cocktail bitters, but couldn’t find anything close to that amazing charred flavour I love, so I made it myself.
Once I gave it to local bartenders, they went nuts. Some of them started using it in cocktail competitions. Pretty soon after, the word got around.
What is unique about your business? I make Smoke And Ash cocktail bitters solely for Canadian bartenders. I make it by hand in my studio in Parkdale and sell it through word of mouth, and on Instagram to the cocktail community.
People can purchase it retail only at one place on the planet: Lavish And Squalor at 253 Queen Street West in Toronto. Sometimes I sell it to bartenders in the United States, sometimes I don’t.
I’m kinda loyal to Canada right now.
To what do you attribute your success? The priority isn’t how many bottles I sell. The priority is that the product tastes incredible. Nobody else is currently making a truly interesting smoked bitters. Smoke is surprisingly versatile.
It’s not your typical citrus flavoured bitters like orange or your savoury flavour like clove and nutmeg, but it works with a lot of other flavour profiles.
The bottle is a skull shape which is a nod to living 20 years on Queen Street West, and mostly in Parkdale is still is an artists community, and is one of the most unique neighbourhoods in North America.
What is the single most critical talent you possess in your role as a business owner? I can walk up to anyone, including complete strangers and start a conversation. I’m also not afraid of rejection in business. These two skills have created a lot of opportunity in my life.
What has been your biggest challenge? My biggest challenge has been financing this project on my own. I’m building the brand the way I would prefer to see it develop: keeping it’s very personal connection to the Toronto cocktail community.
The mixologists that use Smoke And Ash understand the product and know how to use it and create with it. Their faces light up when they taste it.
This is incredibly rewarding for me. I’d be in a different place if I had investors and different marketing, but what’s the point of selling a product to someone that won’t use it?
Sometimes being underground is a good thing.
What has been your greatest accomplishment? Eight weeks after I created Smoke and Ash it ended up in some of the highest profile restaurants in Toronto. It remained on drink menus for the season and became an ingredient in top-selling cocktails that year.
How do you define success as a business owner? Being excited about work, balancing work and sleep, and paying all the bills on time. That’s true success to me.
What are your goals and where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years? Making bitters on a larger scale, and teaching people how to make great cocktails at home.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be? Don’t compromise your personal values just to make a buck. Realize this earth is fragile and treat it with the utmost respect. Keep your word; when you say you’re going to do something, do it.