Today he offers cocktail classes teaching the “bitters” art and, at $6 a pop (sometimes free), they fill up fast.
Rudewicz began making bitters and mixers at home to avoid high fructose corn syrup and additives found in commercial products. His experimentation gave him leftovers, which graced his friend’s doorsteps.
Eventually, his at-home production grew to the point that he had three options: find more friends, stop making bitters or open a business.
He was the first bitters manufacturer in North Carolina—only after reading the entire ABC code book, finally finding his product classification at the very end. The question answered: Bitters are considered a food additive, similar to vanilla extract.
Rudewicz has a gift for finding that perfect balance of bold, light and the unexpected in his flavor combinations. Most bitters are historically used in combinations with heavier liquors, such as bourbon or whiskey. His desire to use bitters in lighter liquors, such as tequila or gin, drives both his flavor combinations and his popularity.
What are bitters?
Bitters, which began as digestive aids in the 15th century, are made by steeping a mixture of roots, spices, herbs or fruit in a clear spirit, like vodka. Today, a few drops of bitters are used in cocktails to enhance flavor. Crude Bitters also makes and sells “shrubs,” which starts with fruit covered with sugar and vinegar and allowed to soften. Mix a shrub with soda water and a natural soda pop is born.
Make your own?
Do it! Go to www.crudebitters.com for a list of cocktail classes offered three to four times a month. Crude Bitters and Sodas is a one-man show. Rudewicz does everything—production, packaging and marketing.
1 oz Durham Distillery Navy Strength Gin
1 oz Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz Cappelletti or Campari
1/2 oz Crude Old Fashioned Tonicola
Stir with ice in mixing glass. Pour into coupe glass. Add 4 dashes Crude “Sycophant” bitters. Garnish with lemon twist.
Crude bitters classes
March 4 6:30 p.m. – Manhattans
March 12 4 p.m. – Manhattans
March 19 3 p.m. & 5 p.m. – Barrel Aged Cocktails
March 26 3 p.m. & 5 p.m. – National Cocktail Day #1
Register at crudebitters.eventbrite.com.