Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab Share Their Three Home Bar Essentials

Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab Share Their Three Home Bar EssentialsEXPAND
Courtesy of Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys

From now until we publish the 2016 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times is naming 100 Tastemakers — members of our local culinary community who help shape the way we eat, drink, and think about food in Phoenix. Some you'll know, and for others, it'll be a first introduction, but each person on our list deserves a nod for helping make our city so delicious. Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out our list of 100 Creatives.

49. Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab

Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys aren't bitter — they're bitters lovers. In 2014, the couple became the first to make artisanal cocktail bitters in Arizona, and these days, you'll find their AZ Bitters Lab creations behind just about every credible craft cocktail bar in the state. 

Lillian, an Arizona native from Gilbert, and Bill, who grew up in Boston, spent the first years of their marriage in New England, where they enjoyed the thriving wine and food scene in Boston. The couple started to explore pairing wines with food at home, and when they moved to Arizona in 2007, began to test the waters of cocktail and food pairing, too. The more they learned about the art of craft cocktail making, the more they became interested in the many house-made tinctures, infusions, and bitters that go into quality drinks. 

Eventually they started experimenting — combining herbs, zests, spices, and spirits in little Mason jars in their home kitchen. They shared their creations with family, friends, and local bartenders, whose enthusiasm for what they were doing led them to move their "experiment" into a commercial kitchen. Just like that, AZ Bitters Labs was born. Today, the couple's bitters are used at more than 200 bars in Arizona, available in retail shops in almost a dozen states, and sold online all over the world. 

Our go-to place for Arizona wine, artisanal cheese and charcuterie, and wonderful local products in Phoenix is Arcadia Premium. We love Lara and Joel and what they are doing to showcase local providers while bringing in excellent product from around the country.

The best-kept secret in Phoenix is Atlas Bistro! It’s hidden in a small shopping mall next to AZ Wine in Scottsdale. Chefs Cory Oppold and Juan Zamora create their inventive menus based on seasonal ingredients, and they never fail to amaze us. Sitting at the “big table” in the wine shop is a must, and owners Todd and Natasha Sawyer provide the right space for feeling like you’re at home with your own private chefs and luxury service. It’s also one of the few BYOBs in the Valley, so it’s a perfect opportunity for us to bring a bottle, or two … or 10 to share with good friends.

Our three essential bar staples are fresh fruit, quality spirits and mixers, good ice, and nice glassware. Ya, that’s four, or maybe even five, but they are all key! And store your vermouth in the refrigerator, people.

We’re totally obsessed with rum and tiki drinks right now, and totally over people that flip bourbon like it’s a commodity stock. We have been loving Tiki Tuesday at The Ostrich and can’t wait for Under Tow to open.

Our culinary guilty pleasures are shrimp cocktail, Oysters Rockefeller, and medium-rare steaks at Durant’s with a pair of their huge cocktails, a bottle of Ridge zin, and maybe some bourbon to finish. Oh, and dessert! We have two “Free Desserts for Life” coins, so desserts are a must.

The 2016 Tastemakers so far: 

100. Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market Cafe
99. Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour 
98. Debby Wolvos of DW Photography
97. Anibal and Salem Beyene of Café Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant 
96. Bo Mostow of Uptown Farmers Market
95. Julian Wright of Pedal Haus Brewery
94. Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta
93. Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars
92. Richard Bock of Giuseppe's on 28th
91. Walter Sterling of Ocotillo 
90. Daniel Sevilla of Angry Crab Shack
89. Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe
88. LaDawn Driscoll of Liberty Market
87. Jason Calhoon of The Shop Beer Co. and Side Kick Cold Brew
86. Tim and Kim Cobb of United Lunchadores Street Gourmet
85. Micah Olson of Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse and Cocktails 
84. Paola Embry of Christopher's + Crush and The Wrigley Mansion
83. Jared Porter of The Clever Koi
82. Diane Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group
81. Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm Shares His Go-To Place For Beer That Tastes "Like Arizona"
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company
79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
78. Diana Santospago of The Maine Lobster Lady food truck
77. Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft and Nico Heirloom Kitchen
76. Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects
75. Rodney Hu of Arizona Distilling Company and Yucca Tap Room 
74. Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce
73. Country and Sergio Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
72. Dean Thomas of Cornish Pasty Co.
71. Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus
70. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ
69. Jared Allen of Proof Artisan Breads
68. Steve McFate of McFate Brewing Company  
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
66. Jessa and Dan Koppenhofer of Gilbert Farmers Market
65. Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
64. Ryan Probst of Odelay Bagel Co.
63. Diana Brandt of AZFoodie
62. Benjamin Butler of Hayden Flour Mills
61. Jim and Maureen Elitzak of Zak's Chocolate
60. Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts
59. Nick Ambeliotis of Mediterra Bakehouse
58. Peter Kasperski of Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar
57. Kimber Stonehouse of LGO Hospitality
56. David Tyda of EATERAZ and Arizona Taco Festival
55. Pavle Milic of FnB
54. Pat Christofolo of Santa Barbara Catering Company and The Farm at South Mountain
53. Brandon Casey of The Ostrich
52. Jonathan Buford of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
51. Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots
50. Rob Fullmer of Arizona Craft Brewers Guild


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