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All About Bitters (Part 1)

594 posts in this topic

:)

Yeah... It was Goody Goody on Inwood where I saw the Fee Brothers. I need to pick up at least some orange bitters and take a stab at a Pegu Club.

I had a properly made Manhattan at Taddich Grill in San Francisco back in January. They put in the bitters. And stirred. Nicely done. :up:


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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But speaking of bitters...  I had a few Manhattans over the past week.  One here in Dallas, and a few at various restaurant bars in Las Vegas.    It seems it's common to omit the bitters in a Manhattan.  What gives??

There are various theories as to why so many bartenders are bitters-averse. My theory is simple ignorance. If they aren't into classic cocktails, they aren't drinking them, and so they have little to no understanding of what Bitters (to say nothing of vermouth) do for the balance of a drink. In a world where we all grow up on sugar, sugar, and more sugar, it's probably also difficult to conceptualize how something whose very name speaks of the antithesis of sweet can do anything good for a cocktail.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Chocolate mass is bitter... and tasty! That really was what convinced me to try a bottle of bitters.

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I just made an old-fashioned with Fee Bros' Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters and Maker's Mark, and though I tossed it together pretty absent-mindedly while waiting for the oven to preheat for dinner, this is probably the best old-fashioned I've had. It's certainly the best-smelling, and somehow reminds me of this scratch-n-sniff Christmas book I had when I was a kid.

I haven't had anything by Fee Brothers before -- but this, the Lemon Bitters, the Peach, and I think the Mint (and maybe others I didn't notice) are available on Amazon, if anyone has had the same trouble I've had finding their products offline.

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I was in the liquor store today to pick up a bottle of rum to make some mojitos.

Last time I was there, I noticed they has started to carry the whole line of Fee Brothers bitters. So, today, I picked up a bottle of their orange bitters.

Now, what to do with it?

:)


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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ok... I made a Pegu Club.

My first! This is a nice drink!

The Fee Bros. Orange Bitters has a fantastic aroma. I can see using this in many things. Could work well in a margarita, as I think a little more orange goes well with it. Also, an Old Fashioned. I usually muddled sugar and bitters with a wedge of orange. So, I think some orange bitters in there would be nice.

And now to think how to use this on the savory side of cooking.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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ok... I made a Pegu Club.

My first!  This is a nice drink!

The Fee Bros. Orange Bitters has a fantastic aroma.  I can see using this in many things.  Could work well in a margarita, as I think a little more orange goes well with it.  Also, an Old Fashioned.  I usually muddled sugar and bitters with a wedge of orange.  So, I think some orange bitters in there would be nice.

And now to think how to use this on the savory side of cooking.

Jeff,

Good call on the Old-Fashioned. I use the Fee Bros. Orange in every other Old-Fashioned I make (the others usually contain Regan's).

As for cooking, I haven't used the orange. I can tell you, though, that the Fee Bros. lemon bitters are great for finishing sauces. For instance, sear some rosemary-seasoned pork chops, deglaze with vermouth, reduce by 1/2 or more, add a couple of dashes of lemon bitters, maybe a tablespoon of butter.

The lemon bitters aren't all that bitter, so they make a nice addition to cake icing or whipped cream for desserts, too. I'd guess the orange and peach, neither of which is particularly bitter (though the orange is more bitter than the peach), might do well in that context.

Perhaps the orange would also enhance a spicy Asian sauce or a good barbecue sauce...hmmm...

Other cocktails that the Fee Bros. orange bitters work in, for me at least, are Manhattans (where Regan's don't seem to work as well, IMO), Sidecars, and Ward Eights.


Tim

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What do you think about the Fee Bros peach? To me it tastes too similar to just a high fructose corn syrup peach flavoring agent, with little nuance, e.g. bitterness or essential oil.

Edit: Also, in what drinks do you use it? I've tried it in a Pegu Club. That was OK.


Edited by Kent Wang (log)

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What do you think about the Fee Bros peach? To me it tastes too similar to just a high fructose corn syrup peach flavoring agent, with little nuance, e.g. bitterness or essential oil.

Edit: Also, in what drinks do you use it? I've tried it in a Pegu Club. That was OK.

the peach might be a cool addition to a champagne cocktail.... rub a sugar cube against the skin of a lemon to suck up alot of oil then blast it with the peach bitters and angostura.... fill it up with prosecco.

my understanding is that the best prosecco's from conegliano valdabiedenne in the veneto have a peachy character to their fruit.... you can have fun putting it there yourself underneath the angostura.... i will taste its best drunk before 10 a.m.

i wonder if the peach bitters are inspired by something classic or are just purely out of someone's head recently.


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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i wonder if the peach bitters are inspired by something classic or are just purely out of someone's head recently.

Peach bitters, while rare, appear in a handful of classic cocktail recipes.

Peach bitters at Cocktaildb

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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The Fee Brothers peach are...okay. I agree that they're a bit sweet and not all that bitter or nuanced. However, they work well with bourbon. In fact, a dash or two in a sweeter bourbon, neat, is a good drink. I also think that the Fee peach are decent in an Old-Fashioned (as long as a dash of Regan's or some Angostura make it into the glass, too).

I like the champagne/prosecco cocktail idea. I also had a long drink of rum, ginger ale, and peach bitters last week that was pretty good, and rum cocktails, especially those employing dark rum, might be a good place to use peach bitters. But, their best application might be in cooking desserts. I'll have to play with that.

All that said, I've been thinking about making some homemade peach bitters that are a bit less on the sweet side. Thing is, given the small number of cocktails I'd use them in (thanks for pointing out the list of peach bitters cocktails on CocktailDB, Andy), I can't justify making a very large batch for home use at this time.


Tim

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Agreed that peach bitters and bourbon are very nice together, maybe the best application for the ones made by Fee's anyway. Unfortunately, like all their products, they have the mouthfeel and aftertaste of HFCS which, esp with something like peach bitters where a relatively large amount is needed, can ruin a drink (to my taste anyway). I really like Fee's: They were a pioneer of sorts in vintage cocktail ingredients, and their customer service is terriffic. I just hope they will perhaps reconsider their use of HFCS in the near future lest their contributions be overshadowed by other products coming onto the market. I think the classic cocktail crowd in general is willing to pay a little bit extra for top quality.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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We use the peach bitters in the Trident --

1 oz Aquavit

1 oz Manzanilla

1/2 oz Cynar

2 dash peach.

It's pretty tasty -- although the drink isn't for everyone.


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

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I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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We use the peach bitters in the Trident --

1 oz Aquavit

1 oz Manzanilla

1/2 oz Cynar

2 dash peach.

It's pretty tasty -- although the drink isn't for everyone.

I've been wanting to try that for quite a while now. Need to get me some Aquavit.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Andy,

Is it HFCS or is it glycerine? They specifically list glycerine, which can tend to yield a corn syrupy mouthfeel, as an ingredient on every type of bitters they make.

At any rate, I like Fee's Old-Fashioned and Whiskey Barrel Bitters, and I think their orange bitters have a fair number of uses (usually in opposite places from Regan's). However, I do think they may need to rethink the bitterness of their other bitters, and dial down the emphasis on the fruit flavor and/or dense mouthfeel and sweetness. I haven't sampled their other products, but I do appreciate their customer service enough to eventually give those a shot.

On the subject of Aquavit, I want to buy some, but I feel like there's probably as much or more variation in the flavors as there is in the world of gin, and I always wonder what the best all-rounder might be for cocktails. I've done some reading of old threads, and maybe I just need to do some more. Either way, it'll be a while before I buy a bottle, given the immense amount of liquor currently here and the several additional bottles I'll be picking up this week.


Edited by TBoner (log)

Tim

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Ah yes, glycerine it is, my mistake. I'm so used to griping about HFCS I wasn't thinking :raz: And yeah, I agree on all points re: Fee's. There was some discussion along those lines some time back on Drinkboy that made clear that Fee's were unlikely to change the OB recipe drastically at any rate, as it is supposedly the same one they've been making since the '50s, but I don't think it would hurt to maybe try an 'advanced' version of each bitter, sort of like they did with the OF bitters by aging them, and see what the response is like. I donno, it couldnt hurt.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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We use the peach bitters in the Trident --

1 oz Aquavit

1 oz Manzanilla

1/2 oz Cynar

2 dash peach.

It's pretty tasty -- although the drink isn't for everyone.

This is a modification/tweak? I thought the Trident was an "equal parts" drink?


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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There is an artical in the Chicago Tribune today. If you can't get a hard copy it's on line at the trib under food.

The 1 tablespoon of essential oil from grapefruit and lemon is a tipo. My guess is it would take over 100 of each fruit to get a table spoon of oil. And would be the only thing you could taste.

Toby


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Thank's Sam, When I get back to NYC I'll buy you a couple a' cocktails for your tek work. I am such a luddite.

Toby


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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I recently picked up some dried gentian with an eye to making up a batch of my own bitters, but now I have a question: when a recipe calls for an amount of gentian by volume (say, 3 teaspoons), is that powdered? The stuff I have is in small pieces, ranging from the size of, say, a peppercorn to the size of a cardamom pod or bigger. Will this work, or should I run it through my coffee grinder?


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I recently picked up some dried gentian with an eye to making up a batch of my own bitters, but now I have a question: when a recipe calls for an amount of gentian by volume (say, 3 teaspoons), is that powdered? The stuff I have is in small pieces, ranging from the size of, say, a peppercorn to the size of a cardamom pod or bigger. Will this work, or should I run it through my coffee grinder?

I've used mine in the same form, tiny pieces of dried root. It's been perfect in both aromatic bitters and - from what I can tell - the orange bitters I have going right now.


Tim

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Interesting!

I don't usually see gentian powdered, and frankly powdered herbs just make filtering a pain. The very fine powder you usually find Cinchona (quinine bark) in, sucks to get out of any solution.

On the other hand, I do usually give most spices a bit of crush in the mortar and pestle, if they are in larger pieces.


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I was at a trade show in london yesterday and heard rumours that Angostura are working on a pomegranate bitters . Anyone know anything of this ?

gethin

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I personally love my version of Abbott's in both the Martinez and Manhattan. 

John I was at D&C last night and had a Martinez that just blew my mind. When I asked the bartender about it he said it had some of your homemade Abbott's in it. They had a very clear and undeniably delicious effect. Excellent work.

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