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Which orange bitters best in a martini?

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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  1. 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. 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!

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

              1. 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. 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

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

                    1. 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. 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

                          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

                            sounds more like a manhattan, with more bitters

                        2. 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

                            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

                              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

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

                                1. re: Alcachofa

                                  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

                                  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:

                                  http://ardentspirits.com/blogs/oddsan...

                                  some recipe's posted by the creater of regans

                              2. re: negronilover

                                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

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

                                  http://www.chow.com/food-news/54324/h...

                                  1. re: The Big Crunch

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

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/890185

                                    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

                                      I added some comments to the thread you linked to.

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

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JMF

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

                                2. 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

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

                                  2. 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

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

                                      1. re: The Big Crunch

                                        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. 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

                                          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.