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: