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Tales From The Top Shelf: Underberg Bitters

Locked and stocked for a night on the town, meow.
Locked and stocked for a night on the town, meow.
Photo by Kate McLean

Twenty milliliter bullets of Underberg Bitters are the Tic-Tac of the restaurant and bar industry. A one-and-done digestif packaged in a cute little brown bag that helps the body to relax whether it's post-chili dogs or post-omakase.  German made, Underberg is proudly "One serving, a portion of well-being," that uses aromatic herbs from 43 different countries.

Infused herbs, bark, and roots have been used as a digestive cure for thousands of years. In a lineup against other digestifs, bitters are similar in that they're a complicated layering of aromatics, with the exception of having a higher potency. Bitters are typically used by the dash or in the case of Underberg, served in a tall glass or out of a tiny bottle. Made by infusing herbs, bark, roots, and fruit with a neutral alcohol, bitters pack more of a punch than the similarly made vermouth which is only as strong as fortified wine.   Amaro, another digestif, is different in that a grape-based brandy is the alcohol used and it's typically sweetened and aged at the end.

Surprise, surprise the Underberg recipe is a safe-guarded family secret since 1846; a hand-picked mixture of aromatic herb extracts that see a little bit of time in Slovenian oak. Secrets aside, the strongest flavors coming from Underberg are licorice, cinnamon, quinine, and a little bit of mint, and it's tastiest served quickly and ice cold.

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"Underberg is the first bitter I genuinely enjoyed.  I have really loved seeing it go from a fringe specialty after dinner drink to somewhat of a bartenders handshake in the bar and restaurant scene.  I still keep a pack in my glovebox for emergency situations," says Aaron Lamprecht-Morphew, Houston, TX.

Houston Wine Merchant, 2646 S Shepherd, sells Underberg $1.50 a bullet. Or you can pick up a clip of 12 for $16 at Spec's Midtown, 2410 Smith St.

Houston Wine Merchant has Underberg for sale by the bullet.
Houston Wine Merchant has Underberg for sale by the bullet.
Photo by Kate McLean

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