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Bittters recommendation

I'm soliciting recommendations on bitters to use in whiskey-based cocktails (mainly Manhattans or Old Fashioneds). Currently i have Angostura, Angostura Orange, Regan's Orange, Peychauds and Fee Brothers Aromatic. Thanks. ,

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  1. I'm a big fan of the Bitter Truth Aromatic and Jerry Thomas bitters.

    Another interesting one is the Boker's Bitters clone by Adam Elmegirab.

    Aside from those I don't personally reach too far when making Manhattans and other "classic" drinks. I think this is a combination of expecting a certain flavor profile in those drinks and the fact that a lot of the other bitters I have simply don't pair very well. I think Angostura is very, very tough to beat in this category.

    One that I'm very interested in, but haven't tried yet, is Dale DeGroff's Pimento (allspice) bitters. I think that would make a killer Old Fashioned.

    1. Scrappy's Chocolate bitters are very good in Manhattans. Bar Keep's Baked Apple bitters make good Old Fashioneds.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Josh

        I love Chocolate Bitters in Whiskey based cocktails. I have the Fee Brothers Aztech Chocolate.

        1. re: Josh

          I really like Bittermens Xocalatl Mole bitters -- chocolate without the Kiss. It goes well in brown spirits, plus tequila, of course.

          Their Hopped Grapefruit bitters is also excellent, although I tend to use it with gin and other clear spirits to bump the citrus without affecting the acid/sugar balance.

          I tend to use less orange bitters than other people. Orange is such a common flavor in cocktails that when I have an option, I tend to try other things. If you love orange bitters, try lemon or lime.

          www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

        2. I had Fee Bros' Whiskey-Barrel Aged Bitters recommended to me, but I find it kind of one-note and not nearly as complex as angostura - it just tastes like liquid red hots (i.e. fake cinnamon). Is it just me?

          Very interested in the Boker's clone.

          6 Replies
          1. re: monopod

            I agree, it's very heavy on the cinnamon. But I do like it in various applications. It pairs really well with apple or pear brandy and is my go-to bitter in the autumn when I'm trying to make something evocative of the season. I also find that it works well in various tiki drinks.

            1. re: monopod

              Which vintage of the whiskey barrel fees do you have? They vary a bit from year to year. Which vintage is it that is heavy on the cinnamon. I have the 2007 and it is nicely, but not overly complex, maybe too bitter from the gentian and angostura bark, with a base that is slightly clove, fruit, mint, and floral.

              1. re: JMF

                I have all four of 2008 - 2011. All of them taste heavily of cinnamon, with various other subtle differences. (I think the cinnamon flavor increased and other flavors decreased along the way; 2008 is much more interesting and complex than 2011. I won't buy any more of them.)

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  I agree about the lack of complexity, but at least Fee WBA bitters is ... um ... bitter.

                  This is an objection to a lot of bitters. By the time they add any noticeable bitter aspect, their flavor(s) dominate.


                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                    Agreed. Thinking of bitters that actually have a heavily bitter flavor, not many come to mind.

                    Boker's is another that is fairly bitter (but also very nuanced).

                    I no longer have a bottle of Regan's orange, but I seem to recall that it's extremely bitter.

                    Scrappy's cardamom is bitter as well, but that's a case where the base flavor is so powerful that you may not get the bitterness unless you overdo it.

                2. re: JMF

                  Interesting, I didn't realize they varied that extensively from year to year. No idea which vintage I have - will have to check when I get home. Probably 2011, since I bought it in early 2012.

              2. I've enjoyed grapefruit bitters in an old-fashioned variation. Rye, simple, both angostura and grapefruit bitters. Grapefruit peel garnish.

                Obviously grapefruit plays well with gin/tequila as well, so even if you stick to whiskey it can be handy for guests.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Klunco

                  Second on the grapefruit bitters. Also wonderful in anything involving Campari, Aperol or Cynar, including a Boulevardier (rye, sweet vermouth and Campari).

                2. I love Woodford Reserve's bourbon barrel aged spiced cherry bitters in my Manhattans.

                  1. I have tried as many classic bitters as I can get my hands on and won't stop there, but so far I still reach for the Angostura for a Manhattan. In an OF, maybe that plus a dash of Fee Bros. Orange.

                    1. You've got the bases covered. At this point anything you add, should be to try some of the sometimes whacky, sometimes very good or very bad, new ones.

                      While I have around a hundred bitters in my collection, the ones I use the most are basically the sake as yours. Angostura, Angostura Orange, Regan's Orange, Peychauds, and Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel aged. Primarily I use the two Angostura's, at ten times the rate of any others.

                      I am very curious to see how Darcy O'Neil's recreation of barrel aged Abbott's Bitters come out. If his first full scale production run comes out good, they'll be on the market pretty soon.

                      1. Thank you to everyone for the recommendations. Another question I have is, how often do you combine bitters? For example, with Manhattans, I typically use Angostura, and sometimes couple it with orange bitters as a change of pace. Using only orange bitters just didn't work for me in a Manhattan. It seemed to lack backbone. Any thoughts?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: tomjb27

                          I do the same. For me, orange bitters (Fee bros is what I have on hand now) isn't bitter enough--or at least not in a Manhattan.
                          I am a three dashes Angostura girl, plus or minus a dash of orange bitters depending on my mood.
                          I also do a rum based "catamaran-hattan" that I like the combo of both in. A couple dashes orange and one of Angostura. It's less sweet than a bourbon or rye Manhattan so IMO it needs less bitter.

                          1. re: splatgirl

                            Mind sharing the recipe on that "catamaran-hattan"?

                            It looks like experimenting with different combinations of aromatic and fruit bitters might be worthwhile. That, and investing in chocolate bitters.

                            1. re: tomjb27

                              The original comes from Bradstreet Crafthouse here in Mpls. My interpretation is:

                              1.5 Lemon Hart
                              1 white rum. I have been using Metusalem palatino lately, but the original calls for Appleton.
                              .5 Dolin sweet
                              .5 Dolin dry
                              3 dashes orange bitters, +/- one dash Angostura
                              garnish with a twist of orange

                        2. During the recent great Angostura Bitters Draught I bought different kinds for Mr. Rat (the mixed drink maven Chez Rat). His favorites by far are The Bitter Truth, and second, Peychaud's. I like the Fee Bros. Aztec Chocolate, myself.

                          1. I enjoy The Fourth Regiment cocktail a good bit, and as such, I keep a bottle of celery bitters around. However, other than use in Bloody Marys (which I hate), I have no idea what else to do with them.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: The Big Crunch

                              The Means of Preservation is a good drink that uses celery bitters. I just had one this weekend at Drink in Boston. It is a Martini variation with St Germain, celery bitters, and a grapefruit twist. Quite nice, although I would decrease the amount of St Germain over what I was given at Drink.