Atlanta Bar Scene: Build a better cocktail with 18.21 Bitters

What do you get when you mix an ex-attorney, an interior designer, a surplus of booze and being trapped indoors for 48 hours during 2013’s snowpocalypse? 18.21 Bitters, a Prohibition-era cocktail mixer company. Yes, while the rest of us were binge-watching movies on Netflix and making French toast, Missy and Kristin Koefod were busy in their kitchen concocting syrups and bitters, turning their passion for entertaining into a future business to help all of us build a better cocktail.

Since launching in 2014, the pair have found success selling their small-batch bitters, shrubs, syrups and bottled cocktails to adventurous home bartenders online, to local mix masters from bars like Pinewood Tippling Room and Empire State South. Recently, 18.21 opened a small retail shop at Ponce City Market . The store, which also hosts regular product tastings and cocktail classes, has given the Koefods the ability to personally introduce their products to fellow enthusiasts as well as curious market-goers who wander in to ask, "What exactly is 18.21 Bitters?"

“18.21 represents the bookends of Prohibition,” Missy Koefod explained. “The 18th Amendment enacted it, the 21st Amendment repealed it. During Prohibition, some bars skirted the law and stayed open because they served bitters for ‘medicinal’ purposes. People began using bitters and shrubs to mask the taste of their bathtub gin. They got a little crafty. Our products bring a bit of that speakeasy vibe to today’s cocktails.”

The Koefods employ a mad scientist approach to concocting their wildly creative potions, spending hours in the kitchen throwing ingredients into pots and pans, adding liquor and subjecting their staff of moonlighting bartenders to numerous cocktail tastings. While it is a collaborative effort, Missy, a former bartender and bar owner, credits Kristin with developing most of the winning combinations that end up on their shelves. The most popular products include the Spicy Ginger Beer (perfect for a Moscow Mule,) Rosemary Sage Syrup (for a savory Old Fashioned,) the smoky Barrel-Aged Havana+Hide bitters (a couple of dashes are great in Scotch) and Apple Cardamom Shrub (a taste of Fall in a rum punch.) If you’re feeling saucy, Missy suggested adding of few drops of their Spicy Creole Bitters to a dirty martini for extra zing. It’s also quite tasty as a rub on a pork roast.

The 18.21 formula to building a better cocktail:

Base spirit: 1½ to 2 ounces whiskey, gin, vodka or rum

Syrup: ½ to 1 ounce water-based, sweet mixer

Shrub: ½ to 1 ounce vinegar-based (tart) mixer

Bitters (and tinctures): Add a few drops to taste

18.21 Bitters, Ponce City Market, 675 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta, 404-852-7023,

Want to be a better home bartender? Watch this video to learn how to make 18.21 Bitters’ Rosemary Sage Moscow Mule.

Rosemary Sage Moscow Mule

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • ¾ oz. 18.21 Bitters Spicy Ginger Beer concentrate
  • ½ oz. 18.21 Bitters Rosemary Sage Syrup
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • Soda water
  • Lime wheel, for garnish
  • Rosemary sprig, for garnish

Add all ingredients except soda water to a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously for five to seven seconds and strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Add a splash of soda water. Garnish with a lime wheel. Place the rosemary sprig on the heel of your hand. With the other hand, slap the sprig to release the aromatics and add to the drink.

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