Where's the best place to buy bitters?
I'd like to get some less common types of bitters for a friend as a shower gift - brick & mortar stores only, as I've procrastinated as usual. Recommendations for specific brands are also appreciated. And if there's already a thread about this that I've missed, please share the link.
I know there is a fairly new bar (in the EV I think) called Amor Y Amargo which focuses on bitters, not sure if you can buy bottles there but you could at least taste and get a sense of what you want to buy. I would imagine Union Square Wines or Astor Wines would be the place to go to purchase.
The best selection I've seen so far is at Whisk on Bedford Ave in W'burg. Better than Astor, Amor Amargo and various liquor stores.
Edit:....although the above mentioned Meadow looks good too.
I hope you have a healthy budget as the new, artisanal bitters can be pricey, getting up to $25-30 dependent upon who is making them.
Kalustyn's will sell Angostura, Peychaud's, Regan's, Fee Brothers, and Urban Moonshine. These are the more common brands. Would still make a good gift, but your recipient likely already has Ango, Peychaud's, and Regan's, so you'd probably end up getting some of the more interesting flavors of Fee's and some Urban Moonshine if you went there.
Amor y Amargo primarily sells Bittermens brand bitters (the Bittermens folks help run Amor y Amargo). The Hellfire are good, as are the Tiki, Chocolate, and Grapefruit. HOWEVER, they are only open during the bar hours (6pm onwards, web site is outdated). Good if you can't get away during working hours, though. These are pretty pricey but would make a great gift, and they have tons of recipes on their site as they are very close to the Death & Co staff. Their own bartenders will definitely let you taste, smell, and sample the bitters as they are all very passionate about the products.
Union Sq Wines should not have bitters.
Most bitters are FDA classified as food, so liquor stores CANNOT sell them legally.
HOWEVER, Bitter Truth brand bitters are classified differently (they went through the trouble of getting a potable classification). Astor Wines carries the entire line. I like the celery. However Astor doesn't (and can't) carry any other bitters. Because they are considered booze, you can't get Bitter Truth brand everywhere due to liquor shipping laws.
The Meadow has a great selection, but their prices are higher than other places. Cocktail Kingdom has Bittermens Xocolatl bitters for $18 but the Meadow has it for $26.
I also like Cocktail Kingdom, you can call or email to make an appointment. Plus you can have Don Lee or Kelly Slagle help you make your selections. It's a smaller selection than The Meadow, but it's a really cool place to visit if you're into cocktails. Only Mon-Fri though.
Hope this helps.
re: small h
I'm partial to The Meadow, and not just because my bitters are sold there. I'm not here to shill so I won't say which brand, but suffice it to say that they have what I believe is the largest selection of bitters in the country -- well above 100 different varieties. I always find something new whenever I visit, and the insane chocolate selection doesn't hurt either.
To really get down and dirty with the stuff, however, Amor y Amargo is the place.
That's my two cents. Happy bittering!