We started making organic booze-free cocktails in our farmhouse kitchen. The business partnership is inspired by our long and happy marriage, our love of convivial celebration & community, and a desire for complex and delicious drinks. The Pacific Northwest provides ingredients (foraged and farmed) and inspiration.
Maybe it all started with Wholesome as F*@K February…
A few years ago one of our friends (shout out to Tim and the whole WAF crew) proposed we all support each other in healthier lifestyle goals during the shortest month. About 30 of us went all-in together, and for almost every one of us, this meant no booze. We socialized as normal—game nights and potlucks, music at the bar. And it was challenging. Not just the dry part, but the “what to drink instead” part.
We love to host, and our house is a community hub. During Wholesome AF February we rose to the hospitality challenge and made mocktails—they were not yet cocktails. Making complex booze-free cocktails is trickier than mixing ordinary drinks.
Or maybe the roots of this business go back the entire 28 years of our marriage: all the infused booze, DIY vermouth, homemade bitters, hard cider from heritage trees and Jeff’s wine from local cluster-select grapes. We’ve been obsessed with drinks—hardcore libation hobbyists—for years. The fridge is always overflowing with potions and elixirs. Our kids learned that juice was a “mixer” (okay, perhaps that signaled a problem…).
Then, a lost job, an obscure French malady, and the willingness to embrace new beginnings catapulted us into what is now For Bitter For Worse.
FOR RICHER FOR POORER
Our kids graduated from college and Shelley earned her MFA in fiction. Tuition payments were finally over! We were ready for new challenges. And we received a big one: while we were still in New York celebrating the last graduation, we learned the company where Jeff worked was closing. In less than a month. No severance.
We're not gonna lie, this was a stressful period. The good times seemed distant, and we felt vulnerable and scared. We leaned on each other and tried not to freak out.
After five months of job-searching,
we switched to soul-searching.
We rented out our old farmhouse in Ashland, Oregon and set off to the San Juan Islands of Washington state for reflection and business brainstorming. We house-sat for generous friends (shout out to Alli & Jed and Cinda & Mark). We hiked, gazed at the bay, stared into the fire, and foraged food and drink (nettles pesto, salal bourbon!) Whenever we felt nervous about the future, we laughed and raised a glass: “To new beginnings!” We were nervous a lot.
Our hearts beat harder. New beginnings can be exciting too.
We knew we wanted to work together,
and some sort of libation was the obvious choice.
Enthusiastic organic gardeners, we applied our love of plants to infused booze and bitters, mixers and shrubs, DIY vermouth and liqueurs. We were sought-after volunteer bartenders at fundraising events, and our signature drinks were a highlight of parties and potlucks. Even backpacking the beloved Pacific Crest included a streamside bespoke cocktail.
We knew were a good team: Shelley dreamed up flavors and experimented with concoctions. Part mad scientist, part gifted tinkerer, Jeff made machinery (Shelley's all-time favorite Christmas gift is a hydraulic tincture press) and set up systems.
IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH
A couple of months into the brainstorming retreat, we took a whale watching trip with friends. What an epic day at sea (shout out to the naturalists at Maya’s Legacy). It's hard to put into words the experience of observing eight orcas (including two babies), hearing their breath and witnessing the majestic choreography of a pod in synchronized respiration.
Following that adventure, Shelley became ill with mal de debarquement, a rare neurological malady that causes chronic on-land motion sickness. Drinking made it worse.
That health challenge led to a stronger commitment to healthy choices for both of us. We committed to mindful drinking as a permanent lifestyle change.
But where were the delicious, challenging non-alcoholic drinks? Shelley still craved a spritz or old fashioned. A balanced and compelling non-alcoholic cocktail is a more complex endeavor than the boozy sort, and we couldn’t find anything equal to the lovely ritual of the evening tipple.
Photo: Maya's Legacy
Just before our 28th wedding anniversary, we hatched the plan: For Bitter For Worse booze-free cocktails.
Shelley regained her health and equilibrium and while she occasionally imbibes, her drink of choice is one of our cocktails. We're happier than ever—working our butts off, having a blast, and most of the time it doesn't even feel like work. We obsess on flavors, tinker with formulas, and soon we'll share singular booze-free cocktails with the world.
Here's to new beginnings!
Whether you've got a poetic-sounding obscure French malady, you're the designated driver, you're pregnant, or fully committed to an alcohol-free lifestyle—we got you.