Shelley Elkovich is co-founder of For Bitter For Worse, maker of deliciously bitter alcohol-free aperitifs. Based in Portland, Oregon, she and her husband Jeff are inspired by and source many of their ingredients from the Pacific Northwest.
What brought you to non-alcoholic drinking?
I was someone who I would now call a grey area drinker. I loved wine and cocktails, and I used to say that sometimes my “go button” got stuck. Moderation isn’t something that comes easily to me, in any part of my life, tbh.
Ultimately, I developed an obscure neurological issue as a result of a whale-watching trip. It has a fantastic French name: Mal de Debarquement. This health challenge caused me to break up with booze, and when I couldn’t find drinks that both pleased my palate and met my ingredients and sourcing standards, I made my own! The rest is herstory.
Tell us a little bit about how you created For Bitter For Worse and how you source your ingredients.
I’m passionate about botanicals, and I’m also a writer, so inspiration comes in different (sometimes whimsical) forms. I may start with a flavor profile and occasion, such as an aperitif and a traditional amaro ingredient: for example rhubarb root, which is prominent in our Eva’s Spritz. With The Saskatoon, I started with its wonderful name, the way it trips off the tongue, and then built the varietal around that. Smoky No. 56 started with a vibe and the desire for a potent nightcap which challenges you the way brown-spirit cocktails do.
What's your current go-to non-alcoholic drink?
Love Wins is my celebratory go-to. It’s also easy: all you need is a shaker or jar with lid, The Saskatoon, simple syrup, lemon, and egg white or aquafaba. It’s sexy and sophisticated and everyone who tastes it loves it.
What's on the horizon for For Bitter For Worse in 2022?
We’re growing! We’re in the final month of our crowdfund equity campaign on MicroVentures. We have nearly 200 backers. Investment is really inclusive—opportunity starts at $100. The funds are allowing us to buy larger, faster equipment and strengthen our marketing efforts. The platform enables us to share our success with the community, rather than just VC funds and accredited investors. I love this model. We’ll launch drinks in cans this summer and I’m pretty pumped about that.
How do you feel being a woman influences your approach to your business?
We embrace feminist business practices and a FBFW pillar is sustainability for the planet and for people. Intersectional feminism is at the heart of my personal values and also our brand values. I’m excited to help transform business culture, as well as drinking culture. I’m ambitious, and I believe declaring one’s ambition—bravely owning it—is a feminist issue.
Who is another woman in the non-alcoholic space you admire and why?
I admire Lorelei Bandrovschi for her commitment to rowdy, goodass times within the alcohol-free space. It’s a real point of sadness for me that the Listen Bar national tour was canceled by the pandemic (our brand was supposed to tour with them). It would have been a blast.