As part of the blowback of the recent Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission kerfuffle over the use of infused products in bars, the TABC has issued a new ruling that bitters must now be regulated like distilled spirits. This means that consumers will no longer be able to buy them at grocery stores or in the beer side of your favorite liquor/package store combo.
While it’s true that some bitters can contain quite a bit of alcohol (so does Listerine at 26.9% ABV), I doubt that many folks really intend to get drunk on either product. But bitters are an important part of so many craft cocktails that you’ll want to hunt them down at the liquor store instead of the supermarket. That’s not a really big deal, but as producers and distributors wrestle with transferring distribution and regulation to the spirits side of the business, I’ve heard that several popular brands of bitters have become pretty scarce around these parts. Notably, Angostura, one of the grandaddies of the bitter world has been in short supply.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other options that have always been sold in liquor stores, so this might be the perfect opportunity to check them out and find a new favorite. Regan’s and Peychaud’s have been popular aromatic and orange bitters for years and are a crucial tool in any good mixologists repertoire. Regan’s actually has twice the alcohol of Angostura, and the flavors and aromas are even more delicate with Regan’s. Plus it’s a whole lot cheaper.
Peychaud’s are a little more floral than Angostura, and since they are a critical ingredient in a properly made Sazerac cocktail (accept no substitues!), you need to keep a bottle of Peychaud’s on your home bar regardless. If you want to be even more adventurous with your bitters selections, check out the long lines of flavor varieties from The Bitter Truth, Bittermens, and The Bitter End.
These producers manufacture cocktail flavorings like lemon, celery, grapefruit, chocolate, curry and even Memphis BBQ that will allow you to create new recipes that are truly unique. Nothing can affect the flavors of a well-crafted cocktail more than the proper usage of bitters, so why not experiment with something new while we wait for Angostura to show up again?
But seriously, learn how to make a Sazerac.