Ask for a shot of ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters at a bar and you’ll be met with a questioning look. But ask for one at Nelsen’s Hall & Bitter’s Pub on Washington Island and you’ll be poured a shot within seconds.
Nelsen’s Hall & Bitter’s Pub – the oldest legally continuously running tavern in Wisconsin – serves upwards of 10,000 shots of ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters every year. Why? The original owner of the bar was a man by the name of Tom Nelsen – a man who loved ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters.
“Tom Nelsen drank a pint a day – that’s 16 shots,” says Owner Roben Ditello. “He lived until he was 90.”
Nelsen wasn’t about to close when Prohibition struck. He applied for a pharmacist license in order to dispense bitters as a “stomach tonic for medicinal purposes.” At 90 proof, it’s safe to say the bitters did a bit more than cure stomach ailments.
When Nelsen’s nephew Gunnar inherited the bar after his uncle’s passing he began serving up shots of bitters to patrons, which started the now famous club. Owners Robin Ditello and Doug Delaporte have made sure to keep that tradition going since they took over the bar in 1999.
How do you join the Bitters Club? Simple. Just tell a bartender you’d like to join and they’ll pour you a shot of ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters. They’ll also issue you a “Bitters Club” member card which reads: “This certifies that [new member’s name] has taken “the Cure” by consuming the prescribed medication of bitters and as such is a fully initiated member of the BITTERS CLUB. You are now considered a full-fledged islander and are entitled to mingle, dance, etc. with all the other Islanders.” It’s only official when the bartender dips their thumb into the empty shot glass to mark the Bitters Club card with an Angostura thumbprint.
If you ever make it up to Washington Island stop by Nelsen’s Hall & Bitter’s Pub, grab a shot and share your experience! It’s an experience worth talking about.