December 11th, 2007



A friend of mine was asking me about bitters the other day.  He pointed out that he really doesn't know anything about them other than the occasional thing we've mentioned on here.

Now, I'm not going to pretend to be a bitters expert.  I do, however, own a bunch of bitters, and I've used them in a number of cocktails.

Bitters provide an interesting counterpoint to the sweetness in many cocktails.  They add another layer of complexity into the taste, either reinforcing currently existing tastes or adding a counterpoint to tastes already in there.  For instance, in the Winter's Touch drink that I came up with, I debated between whiskey barrel aged bitters and mint bitters.  The whiskey barrel aged ones reinforced the taste of the whiskey, which wasn't actually what I wanted to do; the mint, however, gave a nice refreshing counterpoint in taste that reminded me of Christmas and so I went with that.

So, that being said, I grabbed my bitters and decided to taste them, drinking water between each.  The bitters I have:
  • Peychaud's
  • Angostura
  • Stirrings Blood Orange
  • Fee Bros. West Indian Orange
  • Fee Bros. Aromatic
  • Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged
  • Fee Bros. Mint
  • Regan's Orange Bitters #6
So, away we go!

Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters:  In Virginia, you can get these in about any liquor store.  It's got a strong bitter taste that made me almost think of coffee syrup.  I'd lean towards citrus type drinks with this one.

Angostura Aromatic Bitters:  I usually find these in grocery stores around here.  I find it a bit spicier and often would lean towards this more for whiskey drinks.

Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters:  I find these at one ABC store that I go to.  It's non-alcoholic, I think the only one that I have that is.  It's got a tart orange taste to it, but without the edge of some of the other bitters.

Fee Bros. West Indian Orange Bitters: Lighter than the other orange bitters, it doesn't have the blood orange taste - obviously - and so might feel more familiar to a lot of people.

Fee Bros. Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters:  These have a nice, light bitter taste, less distinctive in some ways from Peychaud's or Angostura.  Again, it'd work well with whiskey or other liquor drinks that are trying to concentrate on the taste of the spirit.

Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters:  These are the limited edition ones.  There's a smoky quality to these that accentuates the natural flavors of the aromatic bitters.  I've found that drinks that it's added to seem to taste more, for lack of a better word, higher class.

Fee Bros. Mint Bitters (Peppermint):  Bright green in color, these remind me of a huge mouthful of the peppermint candies that my grandparents had.  They're a special use bitters, obviously, sort of like the peach bitters that Fee Bros. also sells (and that I don't own, but tmfiii does have).

Regans' Orange Bitters #6: This one reminds me of a cross between the blood orange bitters and the West Indian orange bitters.  It's definitely better than the Stirrings, but it's a different enough one from the Fee Bros. that you'll want to determine what's best for the individual drink.

Anyways, that's enough for that - I need something to wash the taste of these bitters out of my mouth.  It's not that they aren't tasty -- errr, they ARE tasty, let's watch those double negatives -- but by themselves they're a bit rough.