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Which orange bitters best in a martini?

Alcachofa Dec 3, 2006 09:29 PM

I like to put a dash or two of orange bitters in my martinis. In all humility, this takes a good drink and turns it into a transcendant one. :o)

But, I dropped and broke my bottle of homemade orange bitters! :'(

I'm going to try to sweet talk my way into another bottle from my original source. However, assuming I can't, which are better for this purpose, Fee Bros or Regan? I would have thought they were the same, but I recall seeing people saying one is better for the classic martini. Any opinions out there?

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    pclarke RE: Alcachofa Dec 4, 2006 03:22 AM

    I prefer Regan's, as it's more layered and complex than the Fee's. Though there's a new product being made--I hesitate to say it's "available," as it's made in Germany and you have to special order it--that strikes a middle ground between the two bitters, with the bright citrusy note of Fees and the aromatic complexity of Regan's. It's called The Bitter Truth, and you can find them at www.the-bitter-truth.com. They also make an incredible aromatic bitters.

    1. Alcachofa RE: Alcachofa Dec 5, 2006 11:12 AM

      Thanks. I think the homemade bitters I had were definitely more on the complex aromatic side of the spectrum, than the citrusy side.

      Dammit, I just remembered I use orange bitters in my Pegu cocktail as well!

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        garcon RE: Alcachofa Dec 11, 2006 09:39 PM

        Fee brothers is more readily availiable and is quite passable. For a martini, however, I would definitely use Regan's. Much more pleasing flavor, in my opion. If you are in New York you can but them at Pegu Club and, I think, Flatiron. Othewise buffalotrace.com has them. The shipping is horribly expensive from what I remember.

        There are more and more coming out all the time, so hopefully avaliability will increase.

        1. JMF RE: Alcachofa Feb 8, 2007 06:34 AM

          I agree about Regan's. Although one drop of Angostura and three drops of Fee's Peach makes an great martini. Especially with Vya Vermouth.

          1. Alcachofa RE: Alcachofa Feb 8, 2007 07:28 AM

            I went with the Regan's. I did try Fee's and it is definitely more citrusy. Almost lemony! That could also work well, probably, but I'm glad I went with Regan.

            1. fafner RE: Alcachofa Feb 8, 2007 09:25 AM

              Once Angosutra comes out with their orange bitters it will be the one for your martinis.

              1. eatzalot RE: Alcachofa Feb 11, 2007 01:53 PM

                Amazing: People are talking about orange bitters in Martinis lately. Just a few years ago, no one seemed to've heard of that. Here's some info from experience.

                Common styles of Martinis (in Barnaby Conrad's popular 1995 illustrated history) went through a transition early 20th century when they became "drier," sometimes almost pure gin, and also the pickled vegetables appeared. Earlier classic recipes and also modern ones winning blind taste tests (when Conrad wrote his book) were based on gin and vermouth, seasoned with citrus: lemon zest rubbed, or often twisted and dropped in, and usually a hint of orange in some form. (Pickled vegetables unnecessary.) Everything extremely cold, naturally. Taste tests with friends demonstrated the bracing but refreshing quality of the result, enhanced by the citrus.

                Orange bitters will do this, but in a pinch, you can use a little orange zest (the colored outer peel) or even a drop of orange liqueur (Curaçao or Grand Marnier by preference, they seem to have more bitter orange essence than Cointreau or well "triple sec"). The liqueurs are sweetened of course, but in trace amounts that's not noticeable while the orange flavor is. Everyone I know who has tried this trick agrees.

                (I've heard reports that some people even made Martinis with vodka instead of gin, but I don't know anything about that or other eccentric variations which are many.)

                1. fafner RE: Alcachofa Feb 11, 2007 06:14 PM

                  The catalyst for orange bitters came shortly after Gary Regan came out with his bitters #6 which, although not widely available, was the one of the first commercial bitters that could be purchased easily. Since then people have taken an interest in using them again. As I mentioned earlier, the use of orange bitters will be even more prominent once Angostura saturates supermarket shelves with its orange bitters.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: fafner
                    eatzalot RE: fafner Feb 18, 2007 10:57 AM

                    I see I have Fee Brothers (West Indian) Orange Bitters on hand (complete with three suggested Martini recipes printed on the wrapper), bought 2001 at a reasonably well-stocked wine and spirits shop. I was interested in Martini history at that time (2000-2001), and orange bitters (like the Gary Regan product as reported above) weren't routinely available. But retailers told me (2000-2001) that there was little consumer interest too, otherwise they'd stock more. I'm wondering now if the Gary Regan product stimulated consumer interest in orange bitters, or vice versa? (The chicken or the egg?)

                    It is easy to assume the causality in these kinds of situations, incidentally (and people with an interest find it easier still), but I'm curious of the larger story and would appreciate any pointers.

                  2. n
                    negronilover RE: Alcachofa Feb 12, 2007 04:36 AM

                    Slightly off topic, but since homemade orange bitters were the catalyst for this thread, does anyone have a recipe for homemade peach bitters?

                    1. Sgt Snackers RE: Alcachofa Feb 25, 2007 02:14 PM

                      So, based on this post and some other discussion we managed to track down orange bitters locally (the shop only had Fee's, alas).

                      Other than a gin martini what are good uses for orange bitters? Favorite cocktails that would NOT be the same without them?

                      1. JMF RE: Alcachofa Feb 25, 2007 02:40 PM

                        Try a drop or two in almost any cocktail. I used some in a Manhattan the other night. (as well as Angostura) Tasty.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: JMF
                          cannedmilkandfruitypebbles RE: JMF Jan 6, 2010 09:37 AM

                          I make a hybrid old fashoned- using Old Overholt, sweet vermouth, 3-5 dashes orange bittes, 1 dash angostura bitters, and a few high quality marashinos. Little dryer than a typical old fashoned and a lot less muddeling- no muddeling actually.

                          1. re: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles
                            TroyTempest RE: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles Sep 9, 2010 10:09 AM

                            sounds more like a manhattan, with more bitters

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                          negronilover RE: Alcachofa Feb 25, 2007 05:48 PM

                          I don't think that it is part of the classic recipe, but I prefer a couple of dashes of orange bitters in my negronis. If nothing else, it saves me from burning down my house trying to flame orange peels (with apologies to Dale DeGroff).

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: negronilover
                            BHAppeal RE: negronilover Mar 4, 2007 12:11 PM

                            Good to hear that someone else occasionally puts a few drops of orange bitters in their Negronis. I got a bottle of Fees several months ago and put in a couple of drops as a lark and found that I liked it -- lent an additional nuance of flavor in a great cocktail that already has multiple layers of flavor to enjoy.

                            1. re: BHAppeal
                              babybat RE: BHAppeal Oct 29, 2007 08:30 AM

                              Apologies for bumping such an old thread, but I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions as to what else you can do with orange bitters? I'm off to Munich soon and I plan to bring back some bottles of Bitter Truth orange & aromatic, but I'd like to have plenty of uses for them so they don't end up gathering dust!

                              1. re: babybat
                                Alcachofa RE: babybat Oct 29, 2007 02:43 PM

                                They're worth trying in almost anything, really. Cocktails, punches, highballs.

                                1. re: Alcachofa
                                  chazzerking RE: Alcachofa Oct 29, 2007 09:49 PM

                                  At this point, I still like my 1940's DeKuyper's orange bitters the best for a martini. I also like Ragan's, Fee bros and Stirrings as well in Manhattans and Negronis and a host of other cocktails that I've concocted over the years. I also like to use an orange bitters that is in a green bottle with the lable missing, that I found in my grandfather's bar after he died about 20 years ago( along with the DeKuyper's). I use bitters(any of the 12 different ones wwe have ) to cook with as well as using in mixological pursuits

                                2. re: babybat
                                  kluemaster RE: babybat Jun 23, 2009 05:08 PM

                                  I realize it's been a few years now, but i was looking for orange bitters and ran across my old friend, the chowhound site! I saw your questions and thought I"d post:


                                  some recipe's posted by the creater of regans

                              2. re: negronilover
                                TroyTempest RE: negronilover May 3, 2013 11:31 AM

                                Bumping this old thread once again. But, tell me about this flaming orange peels. How much do you burn them, etc.? I tried it in my Negroni the other day, but i don't think it added anything. Maybe i didn't burn it long enough.

                                1. re: TroyTempest
                                  The Big Crunch RE: TroyTempest May 3, 2013 11:56 AM

                                  You don't burn it. You don't even touch the flame directly to the peel. Here's a good demonstration:


                                  1. re: The Big Crunch
                                    davis_sq_pro RE: The Big Crunch Aug 1, 2013 12:29 PM

                                    Might want to read this discussion too, before diving in too deep:


                                    Edit: Well, not The Big Crunch, since he started the discussion and has presumably already read it.

                                    Edit #2: Apologies for replying to a post from 3 months ago. I should have checked the dates on the various replies.

                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                      JMF RE: davis_sq_pro Aug 1, 2013 07:35 PM

                                      I added some comments to the thread you linked to.

                              3. JMF RE: Alcachofa Jan 5, 2010 09:46 AM

                                The most well balanced orange bitters are the one now produced by Angostura. Absolutely excellent.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JMF
                                  cannedmilkandfruitypebbles RE: JMF Jan 6, 2010 09:38 AM

                                  agree, they're fantastic. I like even enjoy them in nothing more than a glass of water.

                                2. b
                                  blueollie RE: Alcachofa Sep 8, 2010 12:26 PM

                                  Very late to this post but clearly, an interest is there since the original began in 2006. my fiance and I are obsessed with the perfect martini and yet, I missed the addition of orange bitters for that added "kiss". what a terrific idea! I'm always out of lemon and/or orange peel and have such, done without mostly. not anymore, I'm picking up a bottle of the angustora tonight! thanks everyone.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: blueollie
                                    JMF RE: blueollie Sep 8, 2010 01:09 PM

                                    The New Angostura Orange bitters, is my personal favorite of all the orange bitters

                                  2. t
                                    The Big Crunch RE: Alcachofa Mar 29, 2012 06:14 AM

                                    Bit of a bump here to this old thread... Also worth noting is that it has become trendy to combine equal parts Fee and Regans. Brad Parsons suggested this in his book on Bitters and supposedly Jim Meehan and crew at PDT favor this 50/50 combo as well.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: The Big Crunch
                                      BillB656 RE: The Big Crunch Mar 29, 2012 11:52 AM

                                      Joe Fee's latest gin-barrel aged orange bitters is also quite good.

                                      1. re: The Big Crunch
                                        Boston_Otter RE: The Big Crunch Jan 16, 2013 05:21 AM

                                        An employee at a local store specializing in bitters told me --- and take this with a grain of salt -- that the new Angustora orange bitters were specifically blended to mimic the combination of Fee and Regans.

                                      2. c
                                        curseofleisure RE: Alcachofa Jan 16, 2013 07:32 AM

                                        I have Regan's, Fee's and Angostura orange bitters. For me, which I use depends on gin, vermouth and mood. But if I could only have one orange bitters in my house, I'd probably choose Angostura, and that's what I always use first when trying a new gin/vermouth combination.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: curseofleisure
                                          curseofleisure RE: curseofleisure Jul 22, 2013 04:22 PM

                                          After living with three different orange bitters and many different gins for several months, I've come to the conclusion that while I like Angostura Orange bitters best in most drinks, I tend to prefer Regan's in a martini. Angostura is great in an old fashioned or pretty much any other whiskey drink, but it just doesn't work right for me with most gin/vermouth combinations. The dry, bitter, subtle flavor of Regan's seems to play better in a martini, at least to my taste.

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