Skip to main content

Potion No. 5 — Chico's Five by Five Tonics Company

01/05/2014 10:57AM ● Published by Melissa Mendonca

By Melissa Mendonca
Photo by Michelle Smith

The Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Sazerac have more in common than being popular Prohibition-era cocktails that are making a comeback with the emerging craft-cocktail movement. They all include bitters as a small but significant component of their ingredients.

For people as passionate about the buy-local movement as they are the seriousness of their cocktails, Chico’s Five by Five Tonics Co. is the answer to fresh, local, expertly crafted bitters.

“Making these is essentially how you would make a tincture, a Chinese remedy,” says Jesse Smith, herbalist and owner of Five by Five. His journey to bitters began not in bartending but as an acupuncturist with a master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine from Five Branches University in Santa Cruz.

“It’s a nod to the training that made this all possible,” Smith says of the name Five by Five Tonics Co. In traditional Chinese medicine, there are five traditional flavors and five elements that must be incorporated into a remedy.

In radio communication, “5 by 5” is a way to communicate top clarity and top quality. With a smile, Smith also admits that that the name is also a “funny coincidence” in that it pays homage to a character in his favorite TV show, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

The route from medicinal tincture to cocktail bitters required a lot of u-turns and recalculating. Medicinal tinctures are often incredibly bitter and equally unappetizing. A cocktail bitter must be strong but pleasing. It took months of experimentation for Smith to find the right combination of ingredients like cardamom, orange peel and coriander. “The trick is to find the balance in all that,” he says.

Bitters were first developed for cocktails as a way to mask the harsh taste of poorly distilled spirits, such as bathtub gin and moonshine. “Nowadays you’re looking to enhance the flavor rather than mask it,” he says. A growing number of craft distillers offer top-quality spirits now, so the point is to bring equal attention to each component of a drink, including the bitters, which may be only a short — but important — splash.

Smith has also developed a tonic syrup based in the Chinese herb Gentian root. Mixed with a quality club soda, it creates a tonic water that more closely resembles the experience when gin and tonics were mixed as malaria prophylaxis. “The idea behind this product is to go back to that time,” he says.

He adds, “If you’re going to go so far as to get the right gin, go the extra mile and get the right tonic.”

One thing that Smith really enjoys about mixology is the potential to make something remarkable through the care of adding craft ingredients. His all-time favorite drink is a Manhattan, which brings in the traditional American spirit of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a cherry garnish such as a real maraschino cherry or a brandied cherry. 

“Everything in the drink has the potential to be made perfectly or at least really well,” says Smith. “There’s also potentially so much variation in each of the products that you can wind up with something very different.”

One could say that a car crash brought Smith to where he is today, which is not only the owner of Five by Five Tonics Co., but the acupuncturist at Sierra Nevada Brewery’s on-site medical clinic. 

In seeking healing to injuries sustained in a crash, he found chiropractic care and therapeutic massage incredibly important. When he combined this insight about complementary medicine with his martial arts practice, which mirrors much of the philosophy of Chinese medicine, he found his niche with martial arts friends who were also attending Five Branches. Once he discovered Five Branches, “I signed up within a month,” he says.

Five by Five Tonics is celebrating its first-year accomplishments with a new public tasting room and retail shop. The newest bitter, Grapefruit Oolong, just hit the shelf and is lined up next to an array of rare barware that is for sale. Classic Old Fashioned and highball glasses seen in old movies such as “The Thin Man” can be difficult to find. Smith has been scouring sources to bring them to his Chico shop.

Of the fine craft cocktails he strives to make, he says, “They have to be in the right glassware. It has to be correctly served.”

As Five by Five Tonics Co. grows, Smith looks for inspiration to Chico businesspeople like Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada Brewery and Sarah Adams at Chico Chai, who have made their products important to the region. His business is still a one-person show and it’s important to him that people know, “The business has somebody behind it. It’s a personal story. The product means something.”

Five by Five Tonics Co. • 27 Lost Dutchman Drive, Chico
(530) 828-6466 • www.fivebyfivetonics.com

Recreation, In Print, Community chico cocktails five by five tonics company bitters
  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/23/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/25/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/26/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/26/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day I

    01/26/2018
    04:00PM — 08:30PM

    Redding Cultural Cruise is just around the corner, coming Friday, January 26! Participate in t...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/27/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day II

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Join us SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 for Day II of Redding Cultural Cruise! Visit a number of Redding ven...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    01/27/2018
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/28/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Conductor and saxophonist Scott Seaton welcomes Terrie Baune (violin) and John Chernoff (piano) f...


  • North State Symphony

    01/28/2018
    02:00PM

    In this more intimate concert, Maestro Scott Seaton on his saxophone joins Concertmaster Terrie B...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/29/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/23/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/24/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    01/24/2018
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/25/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/26/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/26/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day I

    01/26/2018
    04:00PM — 08:30PM

    Redding Cultural Cruise is just around the corner, coming Friday, January 26! Participate in t...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/27/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day II

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Join us SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 for Day II of Redding Cultural Cruise! Visit a number of Redding ven...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    01/27/2018
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/28/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Conductor and saxophonist Scott Seaton welcomes Terrie Baune (violin) and John Chernoff (piano) f...


  • North State Symphony

    01/28/2018
    02:00PM

    In this more intimate concert, Maestro Scott Seaton on his saxophone joins Concertmaster Terrie B...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/29/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/30/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/31/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    01/31/2018
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • The Peking Acrobats

    01/31/2018
    07:30PM

    For the last 30 years The Peking Acrobats have inspired fans young and old as they defy gravity w...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    02/01/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • ART SALE at Pawz for a Cause Boutique

    02/01/2018
    10:30AM — 05:00PM

    Pawz for a Cause Boutique/ ResQ Animal Coalition will be having a 15% Off All Framed Art SALE for...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Vinyl Night

    02/01/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Vinyl Night! Join us downtown the first and third Thursday of every month. We are going to ditch ...


  • Sparrow's Landing Open to Public

    02/02/2018
    09:00AM — 04:00PM

    Furniture, plants, yard art and more! Most items made from repurposed, reclaimed materials. The ...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    02/02/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • ART SALE at Pawz for a Cause Boutique

    02/02/2018
    10:30AM — 05:00PM

    Pawz for a Cause Boutique/ ResQ Animal Coalition will be having a 15% Off All Framed Art SALE for...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    02/02/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    02/02/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


Enter to win!

 

Check out our sister publication, Enjoy Magazine: South Valley Living

 

Wedding Style Guide 2017
Enjoy Magazine Facebook
Enjoy Magazine Instagram Instagram
Enjoy Magazine Pinterest Enjoy Magazine

Enjoy Our Sponsors