Bitters, you bet: Start-up offers 'essence of the Yukon', in a bottle

Jennifer Tyldesley, a.k.a. 'Free Pour Jenny', started crafting homegrown Yukon bitters as a hobby, after she retired as a pilot. 'I gave myself more time to experiment with gardening, foraging, mixology, cooking, and just alchemy.'

Retired pilot Jennifer Tyldesley, a.k.a. 'Free Pour Jenny', has seen her new business take flight

'Free Pour Jenny's' bitters are flavoured with Yukon ingredients — such as spruce tips, cranberries, fireweed, or rosehips. (Free Pour Jenny's)

Jennifer Tyldesley has a hard time escaping her new vocation. There's a question that seeps into her mind almost wherever she goes — "can I make bitters out of that?"

Tyldesley, a.k.a. "Free Pour Jenny", started crafting homegrown Yukon bitters as a hobby, after she retired as a pilot. It didn't take long for her casual pastime to take flight as a small business — Free Pour Jenny's.

Jennifer Tyldesley says it started by 'really messing around in the kitchen, blending flavours and trying things out.' (Dave White/CBC)

"It was organic for me, just to start making these. And I ended up making so many bottles that it became... it was going to be too much for Christmas gifts for my friends and family," Tyldesley said.

"So I just kept doing it."

Bitters are an alcoholic preparation, but aren't meant to be consumed in buzz-giving volume. Rather, they're used as an additive to give flavour or zest to a cocktail — a few drops go a long way.

They're made by adding aromatic botanicals such as seeds, herbs, roots, or barks to high-proof alcohol (Tyldesley typically uses rum, bourbon or vodka). Left to soak, the bitter flavours infuse the alcohol. Other ingredients such as fruits or vegetables can add sweeter notes. 

Tyldesley says her new business is a similarly blended concoction of a few passions and interests.

"When I retired ... I gave myself more time to experiment with gardening, foraging, mixology, cooking, and just alchemy— really messing around in the kitchen, blending flavours and trying things out."

A bit of Yukon in every bottle

It takes about a month of soaking to make a batch, she said. She has nine regular flavours and regularly tries out new ingredients and mixes.  

She's made an orange bitters with spruce tips, a coffee-pecan bitters, and a cucumber-mint one. Each of her creations has at least something from Yukon in it — such as cranberries, fireweed, rhubarb or rosehips.

The 'Solstice Cocktail' - gin, lemon, ginger syrup, cranberry, and a few drops of Free Pour Jenny's Solstice Bitters. (Free Pour Jenny's)

"That's just something I promised myself, and it's also a bit of a challenge because of course our growing season here is very short."

So far, her products are available in just a few places around Whitehorse — a downtown beer and wine store, and a couple of bars. She's also done good business at some local craft markets.

"I figure I'll just take it one year at a time," she said. "If people keep buying them, I'll just keep making more."

Ideally, she'll be able to tap into the local tourist market as well.

"It's like the essence of the Yukon, in a 100-ml bottle. It's carry-on size."

With files from Dave White

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