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Meet the Maker: Greg Hutcheson of Woodster Bitters

Meet the Maker: Greg Hutcheson of Woodster Bitters

, by Erin Byers Murray

Woodster Bitters logo wiht a black dog patch

Greg Hutcheson of Woodster Bitters can remember being into cocktails (or at least the idea of them) from the time he was a young boy and his father used to let him play “bartender.” Once he officially came of age and started enjoying good drinks, he leaned into the smoky flavors of a good Scotch. After some experimentation, he realized what he really like was a classic old fashioned. He wondered how he could get the smoky notes of Scotch into the traditionally bourbon-based drink.

The answer came from his Big Green Egg smoker. A consultant in financial services by day and a novice competitive smoker on the weekends, Hutcheson came up with the idea of smoking the cocktail’s signature cherries and oranges before muddling them—it gave him just the amount of smoke he was seeking.

Woodster Jalapeno Lime Bitters with limes and jalapenos

Later, he took a cocktail making class at Atlanta’s now-closed Cakes & Ale where he learned that muddling is good but it tends to add liquid, and therefore, dilute a cocktail. Bitters, meanwhile, could add those same flavor notes without the dilution. So, he thought: Why not learn to make bitters? For Christmas, his wife Nicole gifted him a bitters recipe book and soon, he was playing with a smoked version of an orange bitters.

“After dozens of iterations, I had one that was exactly what I was looking for,” he says. But he wasn’t satisfied with just one. “I started experimenting with other flavors and options, sometimes with a specific drink in mind and sometimes trying to get a flavor that would work with a type of liquor or drink,” he explains. That led to jalapeño lime to go with a spicy margarita, hibiscus apple to pair with vodka or gin, and lemon cinnamon to replicate a hot toddy—he experimented and shared, which naturally led to his neighbors clamoring for more, and convincing him to sell them. He named the line after his dog Woody a German Shorthaired Pointer, who also goes by Woodster.

By February 2020, after sourcing packaging and developing a plan, Woodster Bitters was ready to launch—unfortunately it was poor timing thanks to Covid-19. But the Hutchesons pushed onward, and were soon partnering with subscription boxes, which distributed heir bitters into cocktail mix boxes—a wildly popular trend at the time. Momentum kept building and soon those businesses were requesting certain flavors or spins. He grew his list of recipes and offerings and now sells all of his products online.

Woodster Chai turmeric bitters with cinnamon sticks, ginger and turmeric

Like so many small, Southern artisan businesses, Woodster Bitters is a family affair. Greg and his wife Nicole have three teenage sons who have all jumped in to help with packaging and labeling. “It allows all five of us to work together,” Hutcheson says. “And they’re curious—it’s teaching them about how to run a business. They ask a lot of questions,” he adds, including whether they might be able to run the business one day. “That’s been one of the best things of all,” he says.

Still a consultant with a day job, Hutcheson looks forward to turning Woodster into a full-time operation. His wife, Nicole, meanwhile, keeps coming up with new ideas for recipes—inspiration usually strikes when they’re enjoying cocktails at a bar. “She’ll taste something and say, ‘can you make something like this?’ It just grows organically from there.” The latest offerings include turmeric ginger, chocolate mole, and cilantro lime.  

While the bitters are excellent for cocktails, they’re also ideal for those seeking a low-alcohol lifestyle. “Nicole puts a few drops into her Topo Chico or seltzer to add flavoring,” Hutcheson says. (He recommends using four to five droppers, or a few more than you would typically use in a cocktail.)

“The whole point of these is to help people have a good time,” Hutcheson says. “We want you to enjoy what you're drinking, no matter what that may be.”

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