Which Bitters?

four-bittersIf you’re a regular reader here, you know that we’re fascinated by how different ingredients affect a drink. Some might even say we’re somewhat obsessed with it. 🙂 This week we decided to noodle around a bit with bitters. Bitters, in our minds, are one of those essential ingredients that can perfect a drink, but for the uninitiated they can be somewhat of a mystery. How can such a small amount of ingredient affect a drink in such a substantial way? We decided to try a Manhattan with four different bitters to see how this one ingredient affected the final drink. Read on to find out what we discovered.

We decided to go with a Manhattan since it’s only three ingredients, and historically several different types of bitters have been considered kosher. We kept the whiskey and vermouth the same and just varied the bitters. We used Angostura, Angostura orange (our preferred orange bitters), Scrappy’s Chocolate, and Woodford Cherry bitters to see how they compared.


  • 2 1/2 oz whiskey (We used the Prichard’s Tennessee)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth (We used the Carpano Antica)
  • 2 dashes bitters

Stir with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a cherry (we did this) or an orange twist.



  • Nose: Cloves, black pepper, black cherry, oak, faint chocolate.
  • Palate: Lot of spice on the front, predominantly cloves & black pepper. Cherry and barrel notes on the mid-palate followed by a slight uptick in sweetness. Spicy and bitter finish.

Angostura Orange

  • Nose: Quite strong orange, subtler notes of oak, cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  • Palate: Very strong orange peel on the intro along with cloves and ginger. Oak, vanilla, and sweet orange on the mid-palate. Bitter and still orangey finish. Christa finds it as bitter as the regular Angostura, Shaun finds it less so.  The oak and barrel  notes really stand out in comparison to the other variations.

Scrappy’s Chocolate

  • Nose: Oak, cocoa, coffee, faint cherry.
  • Palate: Milk chocolate on the very front. Cocoa, oak, and vanilla notes on the middle with some dried fruit notes like fig. Dry, slightly bitter finish with a little bit of a tannic bite like black tea. Very faint coffee notes on the mid-palate and finish as it warms up. Much drier than the Angostura versions, and the driest of the four.

Woodford Cherry Bitters

  • Nose: Strong black cherry, some vanilla and clove, dusty oak, slight bitter green smell from the Carpano.
  • Palate: Sweet cherry and vanilla to start. Oak and caramel on the mid-palate along with light floral notes somewhat like roses. Dry finish. Drier than the Angostura, but not as dry as the Scrappy’s.

As you can see, even though the bitters are a “small” ingredient, they bring a lot to the table. It’s always fascinating to us how each ingredient changes the drink (sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse ;)). We recommend you try your favorite bitters-using drink with a few different varieties, as you may find that your old standby may not end up being the one you like the most.

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