Amidst the blanket of brands and products woven into the expansive CBD market, few stand alongside UK-based OTO CBD with regard to purity and purpose. Every OTO CBD product draws a line between its premium ingredients and intended functionality—and each is designed to achieve something specific, be that rest and relaxation or an elevated mood. The latter is thoughtfully accessed in a way unlike any competitor: OTO’s CBD Bitters. This zesty, botanical and non-alcoholic creation easily enhances cocktails and Mock (both of which we explore below), and the blend of CBD and botanicals within yields a delightful sense of connection. To correspond with an OTO CBD Bitters promotion (you’ll find details at the bottom of the story) we’re diving deeper into the brand’s origins.
OTO was founded by Gemma Colao, the brand’s creative director, and her husband, James Henry Bagley, their CEO. Their journey began in California, where Bagley went to run Naked Wines in the US. Colao, who was immersed in the intensity of a fashion career, looked for alternative sleep aids and was suggested CBD by a colleague. After substantial research, she gave it a try. “I couldn’t believe that this natural ingredient existed and there was all of this science behind it but I didn’t even know about it,” she explains. “It worked for me. I started sleeping better and I became less anxious.” When Colao and Bagley moved back to London, the former wanted to commit to something meaningful and CBD became the answer.
“OTO was born from a desire to help people discover the power of these plants”
“It was being talked about in the press. People were starting to see it as an interesting ingredient that had wonderful benefits,” she says. “I was excited personally to be able to buy it in London but I found that there was no efficacy at all. All the products had ridiculous levels of CBD and yet they didn’t work. There was also no consideration about the other ingredients and terpenes. Everything was caught in a cannabis trope. We started thinking about the opportunity to create products that were life changing. OTO was born from a desire to help people discover the power of these plants.”
As OTO took shape, they wanted to develop products that naturally fit into people’s lifestyles. “We thought about the moments of the day and the rhythm of people throughout their week. We came up with this idea that all of our products would fit into this natural flow: from your morning moment to arriving to work, to amplify, which is the social moment that requires a connection, and then the nighttime calming moment which is about sleep and regeneration,” Colao says.
“Our CBD is sourced from organic hemp grown by a collective of farmers in Colorado. Pure CBD isolate is extracted using CO2 extraction, like other cannabinoids, but goes through an extra refinement process to isolate the pure CBD molecule. We use pure CBD isolate as it is the only way we can guarantee the strength and consistency of every OTO formula batch after batch,” Colao shares with us about their sustainable source. It’s tested by scientists in the US, and then twice in the UK, one of which is by OTO’s in-house team. It’s rigorous for a reason.
“Pure CBD isolate also ensures there is 0% THC in any of our products, which means we can create formulas with high effective dosage without any risk of getting high. While the world is opening up to CBD and its many powerful benefits, most cannabinoids—such as THC, CBG and CBN—remain prohibited ingestible substances in many markets, including the UK,” she says. “Pure CBD isolate is the only cannabinoid exempt from the Word Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list.” To enhance the benefits of their pure CBD, and increase the effectiveness of their products, OTO blends their CBD with complementary ingredients.
The ingredient list for the complex, alcohol-free, flavorful OTO CBD Bitters, which were meticulously crafted to accompany cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages, incorporates purified water, gentian, licorice, lime, cinnamon, lemongrass, cardamom, cacao husk and other organic active elements. “It will remind you of other bitters you’ve had—and cocktails you may have had, even if you’re having a non-alcoholic drink,” Bagley shares. “There are flavors that enhance the other ingredients. That’s the magic of these bitters.”
The vision behind the bitters, he says, “is all about amplifying shared moments. It is all about being present.” As for his mission behind the brand, he says, “Our view was of the power and potential of CBD and lots of other progressive plant-based ingredients. In the UK, CBD had been held back by a lack of consumer understanding, mistrust and tropes in the propaganda space. There was also the problem with low quality product and players. We knew we needed to create something aspirational and effective.” The bitters epitomize this.
Including OTO CBD Bitters into your routine is easy. Try a Bee’s Knees at home, a simple, cheery cocktail or mocktail reminiscent of spring. We shook up one iteration with a non-alcoholic spirit that references the bouquet of gin, and one with gin. We added three dashes of OTO CBD Bitters to each—a surprisingly small amount that delivers all the flavor and a full dose of CBD. The verdant nature of the bitters bolsters the floral flavors of the beverage and adds a bit of citrus, too. Altogether, the profile of the Bee’s Knees is tart but easy to soften by increasing the amount of homemade honey syrup.
2 ounces gin (or NA gin-like spirit)
3/4 ounce (or to taste) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce (or to taste) honey syrup
Garnish with a lemon twist
OTO CBD Bitters are available online in the USA, UK and Europe. Each bottle includes 1,350mg of CBD and sells for $102 in the US including shipping; £76 in the UK and Europe, currently offered with a discount of 20% at £60.80 through 30 April 2023.
OTO is currently hosting a promotion, available to those in the US and UK. One person will receive a $500/£500 OTO gift card, OTO CBD Cocktail Bitters and designer glassware from Tyler Barry (pictured above). Five runners up will win an OTO CBD Cocktail Bitters.
Images by Josh Rubin for CH Studio