By Jeffrey V. Smith
Inspired by the idea that the inclusion of bitter herbs into our everyday diet is “essential for vibrant health and agreeable digestion,” Shae Whitney created DRAM Apothecary three years ago. Her company, which crafts handmade bitters, teas and syrups using wild Colorado herbs, opened a production facility and retail location in Silver Plume last June.
“The modern diet is essentially void of bitter roots and plants which have been proven to aid the body in digestion and tone essential organs such as the liver and kidneys,” Whitney said. “Bitter flavors are comprised of oils and alkaloids that send a message to the central nervous system to start producing digestive juices and hormones. If you are suffering from distorted or slow digestion we believe they are one of the best remedies to help the body get back on track.”
The “herbal alchemist” believes bitters can lend themselves to the indulgence of classic cocktails and digestive benefits alike, whether enjoyed in a Manhattan or cup of tea. She also believes in the benefits of “leaving a delicate imprint on the earth,” by using wild and organic ingredients and crafting products by hand. “All of our products are 100 percent natural, we never use preservatives, flavor oils or synthetic dyes,” she said. “The bitters are raw—never heated—and sugar free, the way they were made in the beginning. We’re fiercely opposed to the addition of chemicals in consumer goods. You’ll never find any synthetic additives in any of our products or on our menu at the tasting room.” All DRAM goods are in recyclable or biodegradable packaging, too.
Raised in Parker on a few acres of open prairie, Whitney spent a lot of time outdoors as a child, collecting bugs and plants. “Because of this time spent in nature during my formative years I still maintain a strong connection with the Colorado terrain,” she said. After launching the business in 2011 while working as a bartender at City O’ City, Whitney chose to locate the company in Silver Plume because her and her partner Brady Becker were “wary” of Denver and wanted to be closer to their source of herbs. “Silver Plume has so much character and the building we bought is stunning, it all just came together in a magical way.”
Making handcrafted bitters is an involved process. “We spend spring, summer and fall collecting as many wild herbs as we can, then they are dried and stored for use throughout the year,” Whitney said. “In the winter there is still an abundance of pine, juniper and rosehips to be found, which we use to craft our syrups.”
Whitney began selling her products at the Denver Handmade Market but soon had interest from specialty shops in New York, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles. The products were even featured on Martha Stewart’s radio show. DRAM Apothecary now has several retailers across the country. Some of her favorite clients include The Proper Pour, Western Daughters Butcher Shop and Hazel & Dewey in Denver; Formaggio Kitchen in Massachusettes; Napa Valley Distillery and The Mixing Glass in California and Hey Rooster General Store in Tennessee. The list “goes on and on” according to Whitney.
“We find a large range of customers that use our products. Of course, the main use for the bitters are to flavor cocktails, but we have die-hard fans who use the Pine Syrup to ward off coughs and colds and our bitters and teas are used to combat anything from seasonal allergies to sleeplessness,” she said. “We’ve had a few mothers buy the citrus bitters to offer relief to teething babies by rubbing them on their gums. All of our products are designed to offer the healing benefits offered by the plants in the recipe, while still tasting wonderful enough to be enjoyable in cocktails, teas, baked goods, etc.”
When Whitney and Becker opened in Silver Plume, they called the retail and tasting room portion the Bread Bar. The building they occupy was once home to a mining supply shop and then a bakery for nearly 40 years. The building also says “Bread” in large letters. The location allows Whitney to combine her passion for bitters with her educational background in food science, ecological agriculture and botany and her experience as a bartender to create unique, flavorful recipes.
DRAM Apothecary’s Bread Bar and retail shop, located on the corner of Main and Daly streets in Silver Plume, keeps limited hours to allow time to forage for wild herbs and craft their signature bitters and teas.
A seasonally changing cocktail menu with an emphasis on local craft spirits, wild herbal syrups and sodas and Colorado craft beers is offered. The Silver Plume location is not a restaulrant, although light food is sometimes available. Guests old enough to drink legally are encouraged to sample their line of bitters with a complimentary tasting. All of their handcrafted products are available for purchase on site.
Visit http://www.dramapothecary.com to find out more about all of DRAM Apothecary’s one-of-a-kind, Colorado-crafted products.
Published in June 2014 issue of MMAC Monthly