So, How Was Your Day?
Egg and chard scramble. Roasted potatoes. Wild sage tea with sage bitters. Glass of Vitamineral Green.
Chickpea and peanut Salad. Half an avocado. Glass of Vitamineral Green. Kava Kava Tea.
Pizza. Milk Stout. Whiskey. Fernet.
I wake up at 7am to my dogs sitting at the side of the bed staring at me, as usual. Once they see my eyes are open Butler begins his usual slow, low barking that gets louder and louder until it’s a shrill demand to be walked. I didn’t sleep well, so I give them both a bone which buys me another hour or so of sleep. I’m up for real at 8:30am, slightly agitated at my boyfriend Brady because I just dreamt he decided our 1880’s bar should be “India” themed and replaced all the saloon tables with colorful pillows and ottomans. In my dream I rip them from the inside of the bar and throw them into mainstreet. I shake it off, make some tea and pretend it’s coffee (I gave it up this year because it was stressing me out beyond control) and I get to the computer. This morning we’re working on a newsletter announcing our 2 new products to our wholesale and retail customers-Black Bitters and Colorado Pine Syrup. I make breakfast for the two of us and we go over last minute edits to the newsletter and things we need to get done today. We clean up our living space a bit because my little brother is coming to stay the night, he’s baby and wifeless for the weekend and I can tell he’s really excited. Brady heads to the bar/workshop to get the wood fire started. It’s the only heat source in the ancient building so starting it first thing is a must.
We take our daily hike and head up the highway to a pullout where we see cars parked in the trees all the time. We find a new series of trails which is really exciting because we feel like we’ve hiked the whole county already. Hiking is part of my work, and probably my favorite part. In the summer they are forage hikes. It’s important for me to get out there and search out new forage locations so we never over harvest a wild stand of plants. Winter has set in up here, so all I find on the trail are some very tasty juniper berries and shriveled rose hips. I make a note this area is plentiful in these two plants for next season. I’m currently working on a Juniper Rose Syrup so it feels like a good omen. Today is a busy day so we head back to Silver Plume to conquer other tasks. We have a light lunch and then I head over to our bar/workshop. I make 2 batches of Black Bitters, a batch of Honey Chamomile bitters and I strain and bottle some Wild Sage Bitters. The holidays are around the corner and our gift sets are extremely popular this year so I put together a bunch in anticipation of the weekend.
The bar opens at 5pm and we have a few locals drinking whiskey and beer while a new man in town named Jerry plays some tunes on his harmonica. This has become a regular Friday night event as we are the only business in our tiny “living ghost town.” My brother shows up around 6 and wants pizza for dinner since he’s a bachelor for the night. We order some and pick it up in the next town over while Brady mans the bar. We have a few drinks together, gossip about our family and then play 3 rounds of pick up sticks. My brother loves games because he always wins, always. He helps me bottle another batch of bitters before we close up shop for the night around 9. We take the dogs on a brisk walk around town and it’s beginning to snow. Silver Plume is unbelievably gorgeous and ghostly when it snows. We drop the dogs at home and then head downstairs where our landlord has a secret BYOB bar and a substantial collection of strange antiques. We play a few games of pinball and shuffleboard and chat a bit with the locals and then head upstairs to tuck in for the night. I crawl into bed, fall asleep and wake up at 3:30am to the sound of a single chord being struck on Brady’s mandolin….our building was once the headquarters for the Knights of Pythias Secret Society in the 1800’s and needless to say we have frequent visitors from a time now passed. The ghost music doesn’t wake Brady or Derek but the dogs hear it and jump up which makes it even worse. The rest of the night is a long one, spent with the covers pulled up over my head.
Three Last Things…
1. What’s up with the Vitamineral Green stuff? What is it?
Vitamineral Green is basically whole greens, veggies, herbs and pro-biotics in loose powder form. It’s very hippy dippy stuff produced by folks who care intensely about what they put in their bodies. For me it’s great because with such a busy schedule, my diet is usually the first thing to suffer. This stuff keeps me going and feeling like I did at least one thing to care for myself during the day. I just mix a bit in with some grapefruit juice and gulp it down.
2. An herbal alchemist is such an old school yet new school career. What led you to it? And can you explain what bitters exactly are too.
I’m not sure exactly where my career began, that’s just how life works, I believe what you are meant to do will find you eventually. In college I studied Food Science and Ecological Agriculture and I would take crash courses in Herbalism over the summer. I was really interested in plant medicine and folklore but being a clinical herbalist just seemed awful, much like a therapist or nutritionist, I didn’t want to sit in a room all day listening to people’s problems. I was a bartender in the evening all through school, and after I’d made my millionth Manhattan for a customer I decided to read the ingredients on the bitters label. I was shocked to see the popular Angostura bitters were synthetically dyed and flavored and I guess in that moment a little light went on in my head. From there I fused my knowledge of bartending with herbalism and eventually DRAM was born. At DRAM we make bitters the old fashioned way- using wild and organic dried herbs steeped in pure alcohol. Bitters were historically a way to preserve the summer harvest of medicinal plants and worked their way into cocktails during the temperance movement and prohibition. Although the purchase of alcohol was illegal, you could still go to the local Doc or apothecary and procure a bottle of Bitters-pure alcohol with herbs. It’s believed people began mixing these aromatic bitters with the basement hooch folks were cooking up to take the edge off. And poof, the birth of cocktails.
3. Your night sounds terrifying! What if the Knights are just poking around because they’re looking for you to make them a drink? What do you think you’d serve them back in the 1800s?
At our bar we try to keep the focus as historical as possible-so being the 1800’s we have a large selection of whiskey. Right now our Rock and Rye Toddy is very popular. It’s a take on the “cough medicine” you could purchase from a local apothecary at the time which was a blend of rye whiskey with rock candy dissolved in it, with a touch of citrus. We serve it hot with Chai Tea.
Shae splits her time between Denver and Silver Plume, where she owns DRAM Apothecary. DRAM produces craft bitters, syrups, and tea using Colorado plants and opens as a bar/tasting room every weekend for a few hours. dramapothecary.com