Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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Bitter Elements in Albuquerque

In the land of red and green chiles, of honey-slathered sopaipillas, of carne seca, and Christmas-style enchiladas, I stumbled across the ingredients to make buckets of homemade cocktail bitters.

On a recent trip to Albuquerque, I stumbled across The Herb Store, a small shop in the Nob Hill neighborhood. From the street, I had seen shelf after shelf of apothecary bottles and wanted a better look. Little ones, big ones, brown ones, blue ones, some with caps, some with droppers, some with spray tops, and some with stoppers. It was if Dr. Seuss had penned a siren call for the cocktail geeks of New Mexico.

I snapped up a few blue bottles with droppers—good for homemade bitters and tinctures—but then froze at the smell. A rich, earthy, almost smoky aroma was coming from the back of the store. Although the commingled smell included many elements, the piercing, high, root-beer scent of sassafras stood out even from fifteen feet away.

The walls beyond the register were lined with gallon jars of exactly the kinds of spices, herbs, and oddments used to create those bitters and extracts—gentian, wild cherry bark, marshmallow, aloe, sandalwood, licorice, angelica, quassia, sarsaparilla, elecampane, and that sassafras root I’d smelled from halfway across the store. I scored some of each. Space limitations meant I left dozens more for another day.

Even if I don’t make it back to Duke City anytime soon, I’m glad to put the Herb Store on my list of suppliers. Good news: they’ve got a huge selection and will ship to you. Bad news: there’s no online catalog, so it’s best to have an idea of what you want, then call.

The Herb Store
107 Carlisle Blvd. SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106-1427

1 comment:

Matthew Rowley said...

I'm such a tool. Here I am, looking at the photo I snapped from my phone thinking "Wow. It's as if I can smell the place even now." Naturally, this has nothing to do with the cluster of bags filled with spices and roots six inches away on my desk.