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Confused with Bitters

I bravely refused any horrible puns. Anyhow, I live in an area where I am lucky to see Angostura Bitters in a liquor store, so I planned to buy some via internet. My first target was Orange bitters. I know next to nothing about bitters and am seeking education. Seems here there are angostura, Regan's no 6, and fee brothers. Usually I hear mention of Regans'. is that my best bet? Anything in particular I should know about bitters in general or a good source for such information? Thank you in advance.

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  1. Why don't you make your own? Here's the CHOW story: http://www.chow.com/stories/11154

    Then you can use which ever you'd like. I whipped this drink up the other day: http://www.chow.com/recipes/12153

    Of course you'll have to order the fancy cherries. Or you could wait for the 'Make your own maraschino cherries' story.

    1 Reply
    1. re: 5 and Dime Eater

      I did see that story and was intrigued, but having no familiarity with bitters, I hoped to have something to compare them to before making my own - unless of course all of these are rather horrible in comparison. Thank you much though.

    2. Gosh, bitters are such a subjective thing. I found out through trial and error that I really didn't enjoy Angostura but love Peychaud bitters. I'm eager to try other types but Peychaud makes a killer Old Fashioned (and I use more than usual). Experiment, and enjoy!

      1. In my opinion the three essentials are Angostura, Peychaud's and Regan's Orange. I prefer the Regan's Orange over Fee Orange. I feel the Fee are a bit too sweet. I haven't had a chance to try the Angostura Orange as yet.

        If you pick up those three you'll have a solid footing for beginning some exploration in to cocktails with bitters.

        Unlike 5 and Dime I wouldn't suggest making your own right from the start. I think in making your own you need to have a feel for what you're looking for in the flavor profile. Starting with store bought bitters will give you a good introduction and let you decide which flavors you'd like highlighted were you to make your own.

        1. One advantage of the Fee's online is that for a pretty reasonable price you can get their set. I find myself using the same two or three the most (the normal and the orange), and I also use whiskey barrel aged bitters a lot too, especially now that cold weather is upon us.

          I've been able to do pretty well without Peychaud's at home (I do have good cocktail bars nearby when I get a hankering for a sazerac and other drinks that call for it though). They are on my list, but Angostura and a bottle of orange bitters (I'm using Fee's, but I smoke enough that the subtlety between that and Regan's is mostly lost on me) would be a great start.

          1. Bitters perplex me too.

            I have a sad and barely used bottle of Campari in my fridge. I guess it's considered a bitter.

            Poor little fella.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Metalee

              Try a Negroni, I think you'll be extremely pleased. My first experiments with Campari, namely a Campari and Soda ended very poorly, putting a bad taste in my mouth, pun fully intended. I shelved my bottle of Campari for a couple of months until I featured the Negroni on my blog. My view of Campari changed radically from that point on.

              Here is the basic recipe:


              1 oz Gin (I like Plymouth)
              1 oz Campari
              1 oz Sweet Vermouth
              3 Dashes Orange Bitters
              Orange Twist for Garnish

              Stir the above with ice to chill and serve on the rocks or strain in to a cocktail glass.

              If you'd like to read all my thoughts check out my blog. The link is in my profile.

              1. re: ShadowedOne

                Not sure you really need the orange bitters in a Negroni, since Campari, as mentioned, is already a bitter.

                What is nice is to flame an orange peel over the drink.

                1. re: ShadowedOne

                  I've always done Negronis as 2 oz. Gin, 1 oz, each Campari and Sweet Vermouth, and twisting a lemon and a lime peel over the glass then stir and serve with the 2 peels. As to what bitters to use, it depends on the drink. I have 4 different orange bitters(Regan's, Stirring"s, De Kuyper{from the 50's } and an unlabeled on from the 40's), Fee Bros' whiskey barrel aged, Fee bros Lemon, Peach, Grapefruit, and Mint; Angostura, Peychaud's and 2 home made ones. I use all of them for differnt drinks.

                  1. re: chazzerking

                    The Negroni is great when you want a real drink and the bartender might not be up to it: It is traditionally equal proportions. (I can't count how many bartenders have said to me, "We don't have any Negroni.")

                    I don't use the orange bitters -- as Alcachofa said you've got the Campari bitter -- but it's worth a try sometime. Try a slice of orange as garnish.

                    1. re: Up With Olives

                      The orange bitters play off the orange flavors in the Campari. I'd strongly suggest giving it a try some time.

              2. Thanks for the Campari ideas!

                Sorry for the mini-hijack of your thread, Icantread.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Metalee

                  No problem, education is education.

                  By the by, I got my hands on some "blood orange bitters" from Williams-Sonoma this past weekend (which are alcohol free) and wondered if anyone had any opinion of them.

                  1. re: Icantread

                    Are those the Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters?

                    Here is a good thread on Bitters and the blood orange ones are discussed there.. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/490569

                    There are now so many bitters available. All different, that it's getting to the point it's almost overwhelming. I buy every one I can lay my hands on.

                    By the way, to properly taste bitters is a mulit-step process. first put a dash into the palm opf your hand and rub your hands together. Then cup your hands and smell. Then taste a single drop. Then put a few dashes in cool water, stir, and sip. You can do this with hot water as well. You will get a different sense of the aromas and tastes each way.

                    Relatively easy to find or buy online.

                    Angostura is the old reliable, their new orange bitters are very good too. You have to have Angostura, it's a classic.

                    Peychauds are great as well, you have to have them to make a Sazerac or Vieux Carré.

                    Fee's are very good. I have almost all of the Fee's line except the grapefruit and the new rhubarb one, which Joe Fee let me taste at Tales this summer.

                    Gary Regans, Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 are a must. They were the first orange bitters to come on the market in recent times. you can order them from him.

                    Harder to find.

                    From Germany, The Bitter Truth has a full line-up and they're all great. I really like their celery bitters. Their Jerry Thomas bitters are quite different.

                    Very difficult to get are the Hermes bitters from Suntory in Japan. They have an aromatic and an orange.

                    Here's what Lenell has to say, her product list is a bit out of date.

                    And wikipedia sometimes has good info.

                    1. re: JMF

                      thank you very much for that reply. I don't know if florida allows cross border orders of alcohol, but I'll try to order them via internet. Bummer about Suntory, I was in Japan a month or so ago. I'm not surprised they have a reputable product, as they were huge into cocktails when I went.

                      The bitters I bought were indeed Stirrings, and no convenient spout on top either, but I think it requires more in the drink.

                      Edit: thanks for that tidbit about Regan's. I was very curious to see if they were one and the same. (Gary and his bitters)

                      1. re: Icantread

                        tried to find Suntory bitters in Japan a couple weeks ago, was told by several liquor shop owners that SUntory had discontinued production of them about a year ago.

                        1. re: barleywino

                          thanks for making me feel better then.

                          1. re: barleywino

                            I'll have to look into that. If so I'll have to hoard my last few bottles of the Hermes.

                          2. re: Icantread

                            Bitters usually count as a food product by most states, nor a liquor.

                            1. re: JMF

                              Actually, I believe the non-potable designation is usually Federal. Of course there's probably some stuffily drier than dry locale somewhere that has managed to consider them as "liquor"...

                              That said, I definitely recommend having the big three, Angostura, Peychaud's, and the Regans in the repertoire at the very least. if you wish to branch out a bit, to make some taste comparisons, get the Fee's Aromatic (if you can get the limited edition Whiskey Barrel Aged, I highly recommend them - just don't get rooked on the price. $12 or so and not much more) to compare against the Angostura, and the Angostura Orange to contrast with the Regans (the Peychauds is, in my opinion, in it's own special niche).

                              I can warn you of one thing. You will easily find yourself addicted to the idea of trying different types of bitters. I have 8 in my repertoire right now and am about to place an order for the Bitter Truth canon... Just a warning.

                      2. re: Metalee

                        just one last note on the hijack.... to mix it up a bit (pun intended if you like it, otherwise not) i've been experimenting with replacing campari with aperol in many recipes, and i've yet to be unhappy i did it

                        1. re: thew

                          I've had the aperol negroni. It is excellent.

                      3. The Angostura Orange Bitters are really the best in my opinion. They've got much more going on than the Fee's or Regan's. I've never seen the Stirings for sale in my part of the world

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Calamityville

                          stirrings is an entirely different beast. it's more like a bitters syrup; it's sweet, and you use more than just a dash

                          1. re: thew

                            The Stirrings are a non-alcoholic bitters that seems to be more of a flavoring agent. I'm sure they have a decent use in some new cocktail somewhere, but the only instance I have heard of them being used is as an ingredient in the recipe Jaime Boudreau's Amer Picon recreation. I haven't been able to make them work well in anything. That said, they don't inherently sink the flavor of everything, either.

                            As for Calamityville's opinion on the Angostura Orange- I will agree that they have a whole lot more character that the Regan's -which itself is a more complex taste that Fee's- but I give them a 50-50 on the importance scale. The Angostura orange is the bridge between aromatic and orange, but I don't always need or want that in every cocktail calling for orange bitters. I am happy to have both in the canon!

                            1. re: Scortch

                              they work in any drink that calls for orange bitters and simple syrup, or as a change from anything with triple sec as well.

                              1. re: thew

                                Hmmm - definitely not the classic bitters function, but interesting nonetheless!