The stars have aligned in the past month, and I suddenly have actual _choices_ of bitters to use.
- Angostura (brand) aromatic bitters
The trusty stalwart of Manhattans everywhere. Contains no angostura bark.
- Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters
Available after turning over some rocks and kissing a few frogs. An indispensible component of a Sazerac.
- Regan's Orange Bitters
I ordered this from the Buffalo Trace gift shop. It puts a new and welcome twist into a Manhattan when used 1/2 and 1/2 with Angostura brand bitters.
- Fee Brothers "1864" West Indian Orange Bitters.
From the essential oils of Bitter Orange Terneleless.
- Fee Brothers "1864" Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters.
Contains actual Angostura bark and other spices.
The Fee Brothers I had never even heard of except in passing. I found them at a small liquor store (adjacent to Montery Market on Hopkins for you Berkeley-savvy types). The proprieter told me he had looked for years and finally located them at a restaurant supplier in Washington (that means the state, not district, west of the Rockies).
The Fee Brothers bitters, not surprisingly based on their supplier, seem evocative of pie ingredients (pumpkin, mincemeat) where the Angostura brand and Regan's seem much more murky and complex, like chutneys and worcestershire sauces. The first thought I had when sniffing (sorry, nosing) the Fee Angostura was hot toddy mix.
So, how do they compare in a Manhattan? I think that the 2 Fee Brothers are brighter than Italian vermouth and for me inhabit a part of the palate that normally only spicy rye can go. Angostura brand and Regan's both at least partially work in the range of the vermouth. Sort of like comparing 2 saxophones in unision to a sax and trumpet.
It'll be fun to test what bitter(s) make the best Manhattan.
Roger - Just one more bottle, please - Hodges
PS - Here are a couple of threads of interest:
The only kind I have ever seen is Angostura. I keep a bottle on hand, but I never make Manhattan cocktails. I sometimes make a pink gin. I also like a couple of drops in a Coca Cola or a glass of orange juice. And I occasionally use them in things I am cooking.
I recently purchased bottles of Fee Brothers Peach Bitters and Mint Bitters. I have no idea what I'll use them for as of yet, but they were so obscure that I had to have them.
I use bitters a lot in cocktails and even just thrown in with seltzer for a mid afternoon break from booze.
I find that the Regans' is much spicier than the Fee Orange. I'm dying to try some Japanese bitters that I've recently found out about.
I often throw in orange bitters instead of regular into myh Manhattans. Never used the Fee mint since they are not entirely natural. The articial coloring just didn't do it for me.
I'm a big fan of Underberg bitters from Germany. These are traditionally drank in tall liqueur style glasses, emptying the entire small bottle at once. They are great in cocktails, too. I'll post a picture when I get my camera working.
Here's a cocktail Ben and I created that won first place in a competition held by Gary Regan to make a drink in honor of Hunter S. Thompson. The official Fear and Loathing Cocktail, ladies and gentleman is as follows:
1 slice pink grapefruit, cut about 1/2-inch thick, peel removed
2 barspoons granulated sugar
4 dashes Fee’s Peach Bitters
3 ounces Bellows Bourbon
Muddle the grapefruit with the sugar and the bitters in a large old-fashioned glass. Add ice and the bourbon, stir the drink together, and serve.