May 2013 - Bitter Battle

This month's Spirits feature is Bitter Battle
Bitter Battle Reviews
202325
Abbott’s
Bitters
Bold spicy baklava and custard aromas with a dusty cedar attic note. On the palate, honeyed sweetness, cinnamon, mint, and delicate barky astringency follow; this is quite delicious and balanced on its own, remarkably. In the Old Fashioned cocktail, the effect is mesmerizing as it seems to amplify all of the positive attributes: fruits, spice, caramelized nuts, and vanilla and smoothes over any flaws in the alcohol. The finish is really where this bitters shines, as it adds layers of grassy herbs, sarsaparilla, and sweet pastry-like spiciness that mesh brilliantly with the oak of the whisky and add tremendous length as well. A truly world-class cocktail bitters.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202252
The Bitter Truth
Old Time Aromatic Bitters
Deep chestnut brown color. More dried spice in style with cinnamon, allspice, and anise cookie followed by gentian and hay notes with a bone dry palate and chalk and twiggy astringency on the finish. In the old fashioned cocktail, the effect is one of total integration and elevation of the sweet baking spice and fruity caramel notes of the bourbon. It really acts like a glue and an amplifier for the flavors of this cocktail and gives a nice lingering spiced nut top note to the finish. Fantastic.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202277
Scrappy’s Bitters
Orange Bitters
Very fruity and attractive orange pastry and sorbet aromas with a nice dash of herbs, cinnamon bark, and nutmeg. On the palate, fruity sweetness follows with a mellow, astringent, bitter dandelion greens like finish. In the gin martini cocktail, the orange pastry notes waft on the nose and a delicious candied violet like floral quality emerge from the cocktail. Later a sweet orange gelatin note and finally a honeyed orange zest and delicate minty herb quality. This bitters really transforms the cocktail completely and makes it nearly impossible to put down. Quite a powerful tool for the adroit bartender’s arsenal.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202235
Fee Brothers
Rhubarb Bitters
Very attractive aromas suggest tropical fruit custard, lemon meringue and blossoms, and strawberry and melon sorbets with a fruity sweet palate and nice balanced and a nicely astringent citrus rind, gentian, and stalky rhubarb finish. Impressive. In the pisco sour, the sweet citrus and cream notes thoroughly compliment and integrate the cocktail adding a lovely floral and deep fruit dimension to the affair. This bitters is a no-brainer for crafting clever cocktails.
93 points $5.35
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202236
Fee Brothers
Black Walnut Bitters
Bold black walnut toffee aromas have a rich roasted quality and end with savory smoked peppercorn and herbal steak-rub-like notes. On the palate, honeyed sweetness followed by balanced, bitter eucalyptus leaf and grilled fennel like flavor and astringency. On its own, it’s remarkably vibrant, dimensional and balanced. In the pisco sour cocktail, the nuttiness meshes with the creamy egg to form a walnut pie like effect and the pungent herbal and fennel notes give the cocktail serious depth and dimension. This is a great choice to add attractive layers to the foundation of a cocktail and ornamentation to the top flavor notes.
93 points $5.35
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202251
The Bitter Truth
Orange Bitters
Orange cake like aromas have a delicate almond and wheatgrass-like back note with a well balanced level of sweet fruitiness and low bitterness on the finish. In the gin martini, the effect is mild with a hint of orange gelatin candy and frosted pastry that compliments the fruity dimension of the gin making this cocktail quite fruit-driven and likely to have appeal with those who normally don’t drink gin cocktails, without alienating gin fans. In other words, this is a "secret sauce" to create really crowd-pleasing cocktails that are utterly delicious.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202233
Fee Brothers
Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters
Pretty bronze pink color is quite unique. Pure cinnamon red hots aroma dominates the nose but a hint of cedar is discernible. On the palate a honey sweet medium body and a nicely bitter barky finish. A nicely defined and tight flavor profile. In soda water, more complex peppery and brown spices emerge. In the pisco sour cocktail, the effect is to heighten the bitterness and savoriness of the citrus, like flaming a lemon peel. The cinnamon gives way to a more nutty, woody, praline-like dimension that add nice depth to the cocktail and takes it in an interesting direction. Quite impactful and instantly gives more serious depth to a cocktail.
91 points $9.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202247
The Bitter Truth
Lemon Bitters
Deeply layered baked lemon and grassy herb aromas with well-balanced lemon oil and nettle-like botanicals. In the gin martini, the savory lemon and green herbal character of the bitter meshes flawlessly with the gin, supports it, and elevates the cocktail to a high level of complexity and refinement.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202249
The Bitter Truth
Creole Bitters
Electric red pink color. Aromas of pink peppercorn, sarsaparilla, and fig-pepper bread with a bone-dry, nicely astringent cinchona and gentian finish. With soda, some anise and rhubarb notes emerge. In the pisco sour, the effect is exceptional, adding great layers of complexity that follow the bitters’ flavor profile of anise and sarsaparilla and creates an even longer finish. A really lovely addition to this cocktail and is sure to work effectively in a broad range of cocktails.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202250
The Bitter Truth
Jerry Thomas Bitters
Muddy brown color. Aromas of allspice, clove and cinnamon suggest mincemeat pie, yet the palate is bone dry with a stalky fennel, cinchona and fenugreek-like finish. In the old fashioned cocktail, the effect is a to add another layer of baking spices and fruitiness that compliment the vanilla, toasted marshmallow, and oak spice of the bourbon. The bittering effect is nominal with only a hint of nutty and leafy astringency that again is extremely well-meshed with the oak notes of the whisky. This bitters plays nicely.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202245
Bad Dog Bar Craft
Sarsaparilla "Dry" Bitters
Medium brown color. Vanilla extract, root beer float, and raisin cake aromas with a tart, dry and astringent cacao nib, sweet grass, and dandelion notes. In the pisco sour, the bitters round on the creaminess of the egg and make it more meringue-like with a great spicy top note. The root beer float quality comes through more on the finish and aftertaste and plays nicely with the citrus. This bitters is a lot of fun.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202246
The Bitter Truth
Spiced Chocolate Bitters
Intriguing aromas of chocolate, peppery spices, and cinnamon candies with a dryish medium body and a snappy bitter nettle and bark finish. In soda, the dry baker’s chocolate notes move forward and the cinchona bitterness pops even more. In the pisco sour cocktail, the effect is almost identical to adding chocolate to the crust of a Key lime pie and the herbal profile makes the pisco taste more gin-like, a very interesting effect. The end result is quite pleasant and not overdone. These bitters are a unique tool, use judiciously.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202248
The Bitter Truth
Original Celery Bitters
Pure celery and lemon pepper aromas and flavors with a dry, light body and a lingering anise seed and rooty bitterness. Nicely constructed. In the pisco sour, the effect is to add a savory, umami layer to the citrus and egg creaminess. Very subtle in the nature, but it makes the cocktail a little more, dry, serious, and deeply layered. Will be fun to experiment with this one. Try in tequila cocktails or Bloody Marys.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202197
Tamborine Mountain Distillery
Bitters
Very layered aromas are exotically tropical and curry-like in their herbage and vibrantly culinary in spiciness (a spicy meringue or custard comes to mind) followed leafy greenness. The flavors follow with well-meshed fruit, herbs and spices. In the old fashioned cocktail, the bitters add a top note of cracked pepper, crushed mint, and spice to the nose and coconut custard and mango notes are summoned forth on the palate. The finish continues the tropical theme with sweet mint, mineral and herbal honey notes lingering. In the cocktail, these bitters are somewhat subtle, yet effective.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202253
The Bitter Truth
Grapefruit Bitters
Rich aromas of grapefruit, lemongrass, and apple and cherry grilling woods with an intensely bitter, almost iodine-like herbal quality and a long astringent finish. In the gin martini, the grapefruit pith notes dominate the other citrus and spice qualities of the gin and take the cocktail in a more bitter herbal direction, as expected from the solo nosing and taste profile. Overall, the effect is like a magnifying lens on the more bitter and astringent qualities of the gin with a halo of grapefruit zest lingering retronasally.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202234
Fee Brothers
Gin Barrel-Aged Orange Bitters
Intense tangerine oil and nut aromas with a sweet fruity citrus upfront and a bitter bark notes in back. In the martini the tangerine sharpness and nuttiness clashes a bit with gin but the effect is interesting, if a little too bitter for this cocktail. A different style of bitters that is best suited for brown spirits where the nuttiness and astringency would be better integrated.
87 points $9.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202275
Scrappy’s Bitters
Cardamom Bitters
Bold cardamom, tree tree oil, and fresh eucalyptus leaf aromas are attractive. Bone-dry on the palate with a fun, warming menthol quality. In the pisco sour cocktail, the effect is a little medicinal and slightly discordant, but very amaro-like. Really transforms the cocktail from citrus driven to pungent lingering herb-driven. Hyper effective and very intense flavor so use carefully and with a well thought out cocktail game plan.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202276
Scrappy’s Bitters
Celery Bitters
Bold celery salt on a poppy seed hot dog bun aroma with turmeric, clay, crayon and a slight ironed fabric note. On the palate, very dimensional and stalky with an earthy, fresh out of the ground, celery quality. In the pisco sour, the effect is to amplify the bitterness of the citrus, the pepperiness of the pisco, and the astringency of the finish. This is a bit of a clash in this cocktail, but it’s very pure and earthy celery character should work better in a more savory cocktail.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202254
The Bitter End
Chesapeake Bay Bitters
Hot chili pepper aromas and flavors. In the cocktail, the bitters adds a lot of peppery heat and zest that makes this almost like a pepper infused spirit. Quite lively and fun, but use cautiously and try with tequila drinks or Bloody Marys.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202239
Mozart
Chocolate Bitters
Bright chocolate chocolate powder and nougat aromas. On the palate, remarkably bitter and alcoholic with pine sap and burnt hop notes lingering. Very angular and aggressive. In soda water, it cleans up a bit and goes down a more straightforward chocolate road albeit with fresh blacktop underneath. In the pisco sour cocktail, the chocolate whipped cream and bitter vegetative and alcohol notes ratchet up some fuel-like heat and lingering bitter leaf and bark notes detract. A bit of a miss here, but should play a little better in other, perhaps drier, cocktails.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
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