The relaxing and sometimes solitary environment of a faraway vacation takes us from the judgments of the world and allows our minds to wander more freely. Some of our best ideas come to us in these conditions.
Cindy Capparelli, proprietor of Portland Bitters Project, had an experience no different. Capparelli dreamt up the idea for her bitters company nearly 3,000 miles from her home in Portland while visiting Panama. She had already been experimenting with bitter and tincture recipes. All it took was getting away from the daily grind to envision her next venture.
Capparelli always had an interest in tinkering with both plants and in the kitchen, and a background in sculpture and landscape technology. “My talent lies in arranging,” Capparelli says of her passion for approaching plant-life in new ways — ultimately leading to the founding of Portland Bitters Project in 2014. This time cooking, straining and combining extracts of plants and herbs.
The name Portland Bitters Project? Capparelli experienced a similar instance of driving through Southeast Portland with a friend when the name came to her. While the business is more sophisticated than a project, the name fit well with Capparelli’s business ethos that her business and related projects should keep evolving.
Portland Bitters Project grew through the distribution of samples. Michael Robertson, bar manager at Driftwood Room, was one of the first to use Portland Bitters Project bitters in the bar’s cocktail program.
Moving outside of the bar, the contemporary amber glass bottles were designed for smooth transportation — notably airplane travel. The dropper is meant for ease of use. The bitters aren’t overpowering but it does make it less likely you’ll ruin something by adding too much bitter.
Fruit-based bitters have been common with the resurgence of bitters in North America. Think: orange, grapefruit, peach rhubarb or lemon. “Herbal and floral bitters are catching on in a more mainstream sense,” Capparelli says about her chosen category of bitters. Portland Bitters Project takes bitters in another direction with herbal products such as Aromatic, Super Spice, Pitch Dark Cacao Bitters, Lavender — and unanticipated flavor — Woodland. Portland Bitters Project Woodland bitters are made from Douglas Fir, enhanced with peppermint and bitter orange, an unexpected combination perfect for adding depth to cocktails.
Capparelli is adding a new bitter to the Project soon: Rose bitters made with Damask rose, warm spice and a touch of citrus. As the business continues to expand with a footing in the Pacific Northwest, look for the product line in bars and restaurants elsewhere. There’s no wrong way to experiment and mix with bitters. Capparelli says, “I’m always interested to see how others use them.”