28 September 2011

Orange Bitters: Angostura vs. Regans'

Quick note: although I always welcome spelling and grammar corrections, the proper name of the bitters is Regans', because it's a collaboration between Gary and Mardee Haidin Regan. Now, on with the fun!

Years ago I'd put a collection of orange bitters on my Amazon wish list, because I was going to order it at sometime in the future. Then I got deep into the Fee's line and sort of forgot about it. One neat thing with the wish list is that people can buy something for you, it's shipped to you, and the only way you'll ever know is if they tell you. (My address is kept private, so it's not a way for someone to find where I live. Cool system.) Anyway, thanks to the anonymous donor who sent the bitters from Amazon. I've already been using the Fee's for a while, so I'll give that one as a gift to a friend. But I was glad to get the opportunity to try two others bringing my bitters collection up to 17. And what better way to test orange bitters than with a good martini.

For testing purposes, the martini was a 5:1 gin:vermouth ratio, using Tanqueray and Cinzano. I made one big batch and split it evenly between the two glasses, which each contained two drops of the respective bitters.

Angostura Orange Bitters
$7/4 oz., 28% abv.
Aside from the orange peel there's a lot of cinnamon and clove on the nose. In the martini, it gives a slightly hot, spicy mouthfeel. I think I'm going to save this for citrus based cocktails, and for cooking purposes, as I felt it threw the martini off balance.

Regans' Orange Biters No. 6
$4.50/5 oz., 45% abv.
Even though it's got a lot more alcohol than the Angostura, the nose is far milder, with more of an orange blossom aroma and more delicate spices. And we have a pretty good idea of what those are, because Gary Regan has publicly published the recipe for his No. 5 batch. In the martini it's much smoother, and really enhances the cocktail without overwhelming it.

After tasting back and forth, I added Meyer lemon zest to both, and got to try another two different flavor combinations.

Retail prices will vary across the country and across the internet. In general, the Regans' seems to be a couple of dollars cheaper, and you're getting an additional ounce over the Angostura. Plus, I think the Regans' tastes much better, so the choice between these two should be simple.

Note: These bitters were received as gifts.

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