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All About Bitters (Part 2)


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#91 Katie Meadow

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 03:20 PM

That sounds yummy, I'm on it. Just have to get some Aperol.

#92 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 01:11 AM

My local Bristol Farms now carries a pretty extensive selection of Fee's bitters, including rhubarb, cherry, plum, chocolate, grapefruit, peach, and a few others.

I already have the old fashioned bitters. Are there any others that are highly recommended?

Edited to correct typo

Edited by FrogPrincesse, 13 March 2011 - 01:12 AM.


#93 evo-lution

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 10:49 AM

Okay, so I'm now the proud owner of a little bottle of Fee's rhubarb bitters. What to do with it?


Adding some form of bittering agent to to classify them being branded as bitters would be a good start... :wink:

Edited by evo-lution, 15 March 2011 - 11:00 AM.

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#94 Chris Amirault

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 11:07 AM

Yeah, I've never understood that product....
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#95 slkinsey

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 01:38 PM


Okay, so I'm now the proud owner of a little bottle of Fee's rhubarb bitters. What to do with it?


Adding some form of bittering agent to to classify them being branded as bitters would be a good start... :wink:

You have it all wrong. These are simply "New Eastern Bitters." It's an emergent conception in the evolution of what we call "bitters" that de-emphasizes the bitter part and focuses on the other elements.

:raz:
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#96 EvergreenDan

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 01:42 PM

Just tasted it solo, and while I agree it is only mildly bitter, it is still noticeably bitter. That said, Angostura, which I find quite mild, is more bitter, particularly on the finish.

Personally, I like this product as a flavoring. I'd like it to be more bitter (and use alcohol), but it is an interesting flavor. It plays nicely with citrus.
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#97 BittermensAG

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 01:48 PM

Hey, Adam - Refresh my memory, is the Rhubarb one of Fee's products that uses artificial flavorings as well?
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#98 haresfur

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 12:50 AM

My local Bristol Farms now carries a pretty extensive selection of Fee's bitters, including rhubarb, cherry, plum, chocolate, grapefruit, peach, and a few others.

I already have the old fashioned bitters. Are there any others that are highly recommended?

Edited to correct typo

I like having Fee's orange bitters on hand to complement Regan's. The Fee's can be a nice way to add orange notes without adding sweet (or much bitter but frankly that doesn't bother me - they are what they are and I don't see any reason they need to conform to anyone's pre-conceived idea of how they area supposed to taste). Try 1/2 and 1/2 with Regan's, too.

I think Dr. Cocktail had a hand in developing their Peach Bitters, but I haven't tried them. I could see how they would be fun to play with.

I like the old fashioned bitters quite a bit and usually use them when Angostura is called for.

Fee's are quite inexpensive compared to other brands so you might consider that either a reason to buy a variety to try or a reason to avoid them and spend the extra on the brands such as those made by others on this forum.

And I think Fee deserves a medal for keeping the US in the bitters business through the long cocktail drought of the late 20th Century.
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#99 evo-lution

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 05:34 AM

they are what they are and I don't see any reason they need to conform to anyone's pre-conceived idea of how they area supposed to taste


Any pre-conception is based on the reality of what should be expected from a bitters. I've mentioned it on this forum before but there is a real double-standard and hypocrisy when it comes to this specific category, however it runs throughout the drinks industry as a whole to be honest.

You have it all wrong. These are simply "New Eastern Bitters." It's an emergent conception in the evolution of what we call "bitters" that de-emphasizes the bitter part and focuses on the other elements.

:raz:


Sounds ridiculous... :wink:

Edited by evo-lution, 16 March 2011 - 05:36 AM.

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#100 Katie Meadow

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 09:53 AM

After a second tasting I had to admit that the Rhubarb bitters tasted a lot like cherry cough syrup. Maybe it can be used in combo with Angostura for a more bitter cherry flavor in a Manhattan? I haven't had a chance to experiment with it since I'm in NY now, but I guess I didn't expect it to be so sweet. My only experience with bitters is pretty limited, and we typically only have Angostura, Peychaud's and Regan's orange in the house.

#101 evo-lution

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 03:12 PM

http://articles.chic...thers-angostura

Edited by evo-lution, 17 March 2011 - 03:14 PM.

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#102 Ritty

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 04:00 PM


Okay, so I'm now the proud owner of a little bottle of Fee's rhubarb bitters. What to do with it?


Adding some form of bittering agent to to classify them being branded as bitters would be a good start... :wink:


I keep tinctures of gentian, calamus, and wormwood handy just for this reason. There are many times when the only thing lacking in a drink is a bit of bitter, which is easily added. Granted in a bottle of "bitters" it would be better blended from the start.

#103 Tri2Cook

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 05:15 PM

I'm going to check out some Canadian-made bitters from House Made. I've exchanged emails with the maker and they are indeed alcohol extractions that are formulated with bittering agents in addition to the flavoring agents, not simple tinctures or an attempt to downplay the bitter aspect (I'm not casting judgement on those types of products, it's just not what I'm looking for at this time). This isn't made readily apparent through the information on the website so I began contacting them and they were quick to reply to all of my questions. They're reasonably priced so I'm going to take a chance. Best case, I've found a Canadian source for some nice bitters. Worst case, I don't love them. Only one way to find out.
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#104 Tri2Cook

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 03:50 PM

Got my bitters from House Made today. I ordered the grapefruit, cherry, coffee and their seasonal roasted pineapple bitters. They also included a bottle of their chai spice bitters as a gift because I apparently helped them pinpoint some troubles with their shopping cart on the website. That wasn't necessary but it is appreciated. All of them are nicely aromatic and in keeping with the bitter aspect of traditional bitters but I haven't actually used them in a drink yet.

I also got my Twisted & Bitter orange bitters from Victoria Spirits in British Columbia and Bittermen's Xocolatl and Elemakule bitters. I'm thinking the Elemakule and roasted pineapple bitters should play nicely together for summer tiki stuff. The Twisted & Bitter has a floral orange blossom note in it that I think will be nice in some drinks.

Now I just need to get better at creating drinks so I can find some fun uses for all these new toys. :biggrin:
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#105 violetfox

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 03:19 PM

There's an intriguing recipe for rhubarb bitters in Imbibe magazine - anybody tried this yet?
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#106 vice

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 07:39 PM

I saw that recipe, and thought it funny that it doesn't actually contain any bittering agent. More of a rhubarb tincture really.
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#107 Chris Amirault

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 05:23 AM

I'm glad you said that, Dave. I was reading it last night wondering what I was missing.
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#108 evo-lution

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 06:43 AM

I saw that recipe, and thought it funny that it doesn't actually contain any bittering agent. More of a rhubarb tincture really.


Well said, it really shouldn't annoy me but these recipes for bitters that don't have a bittering agent really frustrate me. They're not bitters! :laugh:
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#109 Chris Amirault

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 06:46 AM

You'd think that Imbibe in particular would bear that standard. I'll see what I can find out.
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#110 bostonapothecary

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 09:18 AM

You'd think that Imbibe in particular would bear that standard. I'll see what I can find out.


"standard"?

i think you guys are getting hung up on the name bitters. the name bears no responsibility to providing gustatory bitterness. it mainly exists to exploit a tax & licensing loop hole. bitters also function to allow shiesty (or thoughtful) bartenders to abstract affordable & ordinary spirits into the extra ordinary by laying down new aromas with merely a dash. this dash also tries to have minimal impact on gustation.

bitters most typically are an array of aromas that decrease the perception of sweetness and therefore could possibly elicit bitter sensations via olfaction, but they don't have to.

olfactory tension and extraordinary tonality is all that is important (as well as potentcy)

so rhubarb bitters could work in theory, but in practice is a different story all together.
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#111 brinza

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 09:25 AM

Recently acquired three new bitters:
TBT Celery Bitters
TBT Creole Bitters
TBT/Bittermens Grapefruit Bitters

I've only started experimenting with these, but I've had good results so far.

The grapefruit bitters are amazing. I've had Fee's Grapefruit bitters, which have worked well enough in what I've used them in, but now I'm looking forward to going back and revisiting all those drinks using Bittermens' version.

The Creole Bitters are interesting. Distinctly different from Peychaud's yet there are of course similarities. It's exciting to have another bitters that's in the same realm as Peychaud's but with a different approach. I use to think of Peychaud's as being in a class by itself. The Creole Bitters are going to be a lot of fun to play around with.

I found a terrific drink on Kindred Cocktails in which to try the Celery Bitters: The Pimm's Up. (I used Damrak Amsterdam Gin as I don't have Bols Genever, but I think it worked nevertheless). I really liked this--it was such a different cocktail experience. I would recommend this to anyone looking for ways to use their celery bitters.
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#112 BittermensAG

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 09:32 AM

i think you guys are getting hung up on the name bitters. the name bears no responsibility to providing gustatory bitterness. it mainly exists to exploit a tax & licensing loop hole.


Wow - swing and a miss there.

There's no tax or licensing loop-hole that is attached to the term "Bitters". In fact, "bitters" doesn't even exist as a category with the TTB on the nonbeverage alcohol side. Bitters fall under the designation of "Flavorings and Flavoring Extracts" from a tax perspective. If the formulation is either evaluated by the Nonbeverage Lab of the TTB to be not suitable for drinking, or if your formulation passes the self-assessment criteria, then it's considered a food product and taxed as such.

Bitters, as the name states, are there to provide additional bitterness. The cocktail world has just confused the word "bitters" with "tinctures", which can just as easily qualify as nonbeverage alcohol as they can pass the unsuitability tests, even if they do not deliver bitterness.

This just shows what happens when we are sloppy with language - we end up with engineers that don't work with engines and bitters that just aren't bitter. What's next? Apothecaries that can't dispense prescriptions?

(and yes, that was meant as a joke, not a dig... I may be a bitters maker, but I'm not that bitter!)
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#113 BittermensAG

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 09:33 AM

TBT/Bittermens Grapefruit Bitters


Wait until you try the real Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters - it's our original grapefruit formula, now produced in Brooklyn, not produced under license by TBT.
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#114 Tri2Cook

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 02:33 PM

Wait until you try the real Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters - it's our original grapefruit formula, now produced in Brooklyn, not produced under license by TBT.

Those and the Boston Bittahs are on my list to try. I already have the Xocolatl, the Elemakule and the Burlesque. I've really enjoyed all three so I figure I should probably get the other two as well.

Edit: and if those Squirrel Nut Bitters on the website ever make an appearance where a Canadian can get them, those will be on the list as well.

Edited by Tri2Cook, 26 May 2011 - 02:41 PM.

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#115 haresfur

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 04:40 PM

I saw that recipe, and thought it funny that it doesn't actually contain any bittering agent. More of a rhubarb tincture really.


Rhubarb tastes bitter to me.



i think you guys are getting hung up on the name bitters. the name bears no responsibility to providing gustatory bitterness. it mainly exists to exploit a tax & licensing loop hole.

Bitters, as the name states, are there to provide additional bitterness. The cocktail world has just confused the word "bitters" with "tinctures", which can just as easily qualify as nonbeverage alcohol as they can pass the unsuitability tests, even if they do not deliver bitterness.

This just shows what happens when we are sloppy with language - we end up with engineers that don't work with engines and bitters that just aren't bitter. What's next? Apothecaries that can't dispense prescriptions?

(and yes, that was meant as a joke, not a dig... I may be a bitters maker, but I'm not that bitter!)

... and cocktails that are not cocktails. Like it or not, language is dynamic. In my mind, the question is whether the distinction between bitters and tinctures is useful. I would say, probably a little to the purchaser, although there is probably a wide range in bitterness that would tend to put them on a continuum. To the seller or food writer, probably better to grab peoples' interest with the currently trendy "bitters" (and I think bostonapothecary probably has "just what the doctor ordered", not to mention that apothecaries originally didn't need no stinkin' doctors. :cool: )
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#116 Chris Amirault

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 04:44 PM

Just because language changes doesn't mean it's always for the better. I certainly hope that Imbibe doesn't start using bitters for any flavoring -- or "martini" for any drink.
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#117 mkayahara

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 04:54 PM


I saw that recipe, and thought it funny that it doesn't actually contain any bittering agent. More of a rhubarb tincture really.


Rhubarb tastes bitter to me.

This is an interesting point, because rhubarb tastes bitter to me, too. (Admittedly, it tastes more sour than bitter, but there is definitely a bitterness component to its flavour.) Which raises the question of what constitutes a "bittering agent"? Certainly we've seen some unusual bittering agents in this very thread (burnt toast comes to mind). I agree that bitters should taste noticeably bitter - at least on their own - but just how bitter is bitter? Would lime peel or bitter orange peel be an acceptable basis for a "bitters" without further bittering agents? This question is complicated by the fact that different people have different bitterness thresholds and sensitivities, so something that tastes unpalatably bitter to my brother might be perfectly pleasant to me. And, by the same token, I actually do find the Fee Brother's orange bitters to be bitter, which it seems many people don't.

My working definition of the distinction between bitters and tinctures also accounts for complexity: to my mind, a tincture is based on a single aromatic, while bitters tend to be more complex mixtures. I don't have the new issue of Imbibe yet, so I'll be interested to see what other ingredients are in the recipe in question.
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#118 Chris Amirault

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 04:56 PM

Are we sure we're not conflating bitter and astringent?
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#119 mkayahara

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 04:56 PM

Are we sure we're not conflating bitter and astringent?

With respect to rhubarb? Can't it be both?

Edit: To clarify, I don't think rhubarb is likely sufficiently bitter to constitute a bittering agent on its own, so the recipe at hand is probably flawed from that perspective; as I say, I don't have it in front of me. I'm just curious as to where the boundaries of "bitters" lie, and to what extent (if any) they overlap with "tinctures" and other non-potable extracts.

Edited by mkayahara, 26 May 2011 - 04:58 PM.

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#120 EvergreenDan

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 05:05 PM

Wow. Rhubarb is bitter? Raw or cooked?

To me it just seems just very sour, and tasty when balanced with sugar and dumped on vanilla ice cream. Preferably warm.
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