Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mixology Monday: Bitters

A Dash of Bitters is hosting this month's Mixology Monday, and the theme is - of course - bitters.

I've done a lot of drinking tonight - and all for your edification, my friends. This was a fun topic. I decided to play around with two classic drinks: the Manhattan, and the Old-Fashioned. I wanted to see if using different kinds of bitters affected the taste. I always turn to Drink Boy on how to mix the classics, so let's start with his mana`o:

The Manhattan:
  • 2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash of Angostura bitters
  • Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass

The Old-Fashioned:
  • 1/2 orange slice
  • 1 cube sugar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
  • Muddle orange, sugar, bitters together until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Fill glass with ice, then add the whiskey. Garnish with a marachino cherry, and perhaps an additional orange slice.

And now here's what I had to work with: Jim Beam rye, Cinzano sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, three kinds of Fee Brothers' bitters [orange, peach, and mint], gomme syrup*, a Ka`u orange, and black cherries in brandy.

*If anyone is serious about their mixing, read up on gomme syrup on the Cocktail Chronicles. It's close to a sugar syrup, but has a bit more viscosity to it & can make a drink taste a bit more full. I found food-grade gum arabic on Amazon, and now I'm a convert.

I've been enjoying my Fee's bitters, thinking that they added a fun exotic touch to my drinks - unlike the plain Jane Angostura bitters. But I had never really sat down and compared the drinks side by side.

I started with a Old-Fashioned [or rather, two mini-Old Fashioneds]. I made one drink with Angostura Bitters, and one with Fee Brothers orange bitters. I also added a splash of gomme. I was tending bar at a house party and the [retired] Admiral of the Pacific Fleet taught me to always add a touch of sugar to bourbon and rye. I said yessir and took it to heart.

I thought the Fee bitters would complement the orange in the drink ... but it didn't at all. An old-fashioned with orange bitters was fine, and better than anything I can get at any bar I can afford ... but it was just a drink. Nada mas. The Angostura bitters, however, added a depth to the whiskey that the other bitters lacked. Winner, hands down: Angostura.

I moved on to the Manhattan, making one [or one half] with Angostura, and one with peach bitters. I also added a splash of gomme syrup, And ... see above ... I got the same results. The Fees' bitters were fine, no complaints, but it was the Angostura that really made this a man's drink. Winner of round two: Angostura.

What a surprise. Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason.

Bonus Round: Fees' Mint Bitters versus the last of my Jim Beam.

Google them and you'll come across plenty of posts telling you to just back off from the mint bitters. But honestly ... I kind of like them. A shot of Jim Beam, a couple dashes of mint bitters, and a teaspoon of sugar and babes, I am back in Atlanta. It works for me.

Next Up: On December 11 Brenda at The Spirit World hosts Drinks for a Festive Occasion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should try the Fee's "Old Fashioned" bitters, much closer to the bitters you're looking for. The orange, peach, mint etc. are more for just adding a note of that flavor in my opinion. I really like the Old Fashioned bitters. More than angostura? Hrm, I'll just have to taste test tonight, won't I :)