Review – The Bitter Truth Bitters
Founded in 2006, The Bitter Truth produce a range of cocktail bitters, spirits and liqueurs from their base in Germany. In addition to the full size bottles of bitters, they also produce a very handy hand luggage-friendly travel pack of five 100ml bottles which includes celery, old time aromatic, orange, creole and Jerry Thomas bitters.
Neat: Sweet and tangy, almost sherbet-like peach on the entrance swiftly followed by a wholesome,but not overpowering bitterness. Impressively fresh-tasting, with the almond/marzipan note that often accompanies peach flavoured products playing second fiddle to the more aromatic fruit flavours. The finish tails off with a herbaceous, nutty note, leaving more fizzy peach to linger.
Mixing: Although just one flavour is singled out to shine above the rest, it is one that plays very nicely with a range of spirits, bringing depth to lighter drinks and a summery freshness to darker spirits. Unlike many bitters, they are safe to add relatively liberally without fear of over-bittering, and indeed in drinks such as the signature Peach Fizz (recipe below) a generous helping rewards the palate with a fresh-tasting fruity refresher. Mint is a great friend of peach, and as such it is no surprise that the equally fresh and floral Monarch Martini is a joy. Such drinks do however benefit from a relatively boldly-flavoured gin, for the lighter styles can result in a drink that tastes a little washed out. Peach also happens to partner well with bourbon, and thus these bitters present yet another fine reason to partake in a Mint Julep. The Derby Cocktail (in its bourbon form at least) uses similar ingredients but somehow just doesn’t quite work in the ‘up’ style in which it is served, the bitters just not quite adding enough oomph for what is a short and boozy libation. Of particular success is the ability of these bitters to make other fruit flavours shine. The Whiskey Cobbler for example is much improved through the inclusion of these bitters with a variety of different fruits. In some respects, Cognac is thus the most obvious base spirit with its reputation for being fruit-led on the palate. Sure enough the combination of Cognac, and peach bitters balanced by sweet vermouth in the Mayence Cocktail is a simple yet very effective palate pleaser.
Signature Cocktail – Peach Fizz
50ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin, 4 Dash Peach Bitters, 30ml Lemon Juice, 20ml Sugar Syrup, 30ml Soda Water
Shake ingredients except soda water with ice and strain over ice into a highball glass. Top with soda water and stir lightly.
Thomas Henry Tonic Bitters
The background of bitters being in their medicinal use is a reasonable well-known fact, at least within the cocktail fraternity. Perhaps less commonly appreciated however, is the fact that carbonated waters were also considered a therapeutic beverage. It was a chap by the name of Thomas Henry, a Mancunian apothecary who is attributed the honour of being considered to have first produced carbonated water which led to the production of ginger ale, bitter lemon and of course tonic water. The Thomas Henry Tonic Bitters are inspired by his work and include grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, juniper, coriander seed and maze in the botanical list.
Nose: An intensely fresh and uplifting nose of lemon and orange sherbet mixed with floral aromas of rose and lily, backed up with just a hint of earthy spice. Zesty and almost fizzy in the nostril, these are bitters to brighten even the darkest of nights.
Neat: Pleasingly bitter, the citrus notes are somewhat constrained on neat tasting, with the background spices courtesy of the inclusion of botanicals such as coriander coming to the fore. Diluted with water, the combination of orange, lemon and grapefruit is a delightful one, with the merest hint of juniper hinting at the success in partnering with gin that is to come.
Mixing: The obvious choice with such a flavour profile is to add a couple of dashes to a gin and tonic. Doing so is a very fine idea indeed; rather than trying to become the star of the show, these bitters instead offer a subtle citrus spike in flavour that complements a wide variety of gins. The added complexity is perceptible, but does not detract from the mass-appeal of this most utilitarian of libations. Of course the pairing of gin and bitters extends to many other drinks, where Thomas Henry presents a fine choice. Substituted for orange bitters in a classically-made Martini, Dandelion and Burdock bitters in a Spruce Goose, or Celery Bitters in the Celery Gimlet, all demonstrate how well-balanced and flavoursome these bitters are. Moving away from gin, tequila makes for another very successful pairing; a couple of dashes in a Margarita made with a nice earthy tequila is absolutely sublime. Indeed these bitters even work well with aged spirits, with a little consideration to which drinks will be appropriate. As a replacement for the spicier/earthier bitters traditionally used in the drinks such as a Manhattan for example, they are not at their best, whereas in drinks with a citrus component already present such as the Whiskey Sour, you’re onto a winner. Like the best bitters, these are versatile and add a perkiness to the drinks in which they are used, but in doing so they never dominate, making them an excellent choice for all.
The Bitter Truth produce well balanced and flavoursome bitters that offer versatility and a unique freshness to cocktails. They have a certain lightness of flavour that steers away from the traditional heavy spices that many bottlings offer, making them worthy of space creation on any home bar. Rating: ★★★★
The Bitter Truth Bitters are available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.