Prickly Ash Bitters: A classic American amaro gets back into Dodge

Italy may have some of the world’s most iconic amaro brands, but Dodge City, Kansas-based Boot Hill Distillery is hoping to prove that a bitter liqueur straight out of the American West can more than hold its own against its European counterparts.

Boot Hill has revived Prickly Ash Bitters, a classic brand with roots in the Old West that went out of production a century ago.

“We’re very excited to be bringing Prickly Ash Bitters back to the market,” says Mark A. Vierthaler, director of marketing/distiller at Boot HIll. “It’s one of the most

famous images of Dodge City, and Prickly Ash Bitters has long been tied to our city’s history.”

Prickly Ash Bitters is an amaro with a distinctly American accent, blending a diverse array of botanicals such as prickly ash bark, buchu leaves, senna pods and grains of paradise.

“It’s hard to describe what exactly Prickly Ash Bitters tastes like if you’ve never had it,” says Boot Hill Distillery founder and CEO Hayes Kelman. “There’s a hint of pine from the juniper, a cooling menthol note, and then a slight numbing effect from the prickly ash bark.”

Not to worry though. The numbing is supposed to happen. In folk medicine, prickly ash bark (Xanthoxylum americanum) was often called the “toothache tree,” as the bark’s numbing properties could be used as a localized anesthetic.

The path to bring this historical potable to market began a year ago, after Boot Hill Distillery leadership discovered the original recipe to the classic potable. The next step was finding the proper ingredients, proportions, and ensuring that the final product was something the modern drinker would enjoy.

And seeing as one of the most famous images of Prickly Ash Bitters ties in with Dodge City’s Front Street, it only made sense to pair with Boot Hill Museum, just down the hill from the distillery.

“A dollar of every bottle of Prickly Ash Bitters that is sold in The Tasting Room will go to Boot Hill Museum,” Kelman says. “It’s a great way to support another local institution.”

Prickly Ash Bitters from Boot Hill Distillery is available inside The Tasting Room at 501 W. Spruce St., Dodge City and Kansas liquor stores in early August.

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