I've even become a fan of places like Holland House and Rolf and Daughters where the bartenders are doing some amazing things with amaros and quinine-infused wines like Cocchi Americano to add an element of bitterness to cocktails. And you can't make a decent Sazerac (which I do) at home without some authentic Peychaud's bitters.
Maybe that's what's been wrong with the attempt to integrate bitters into the home bar in the past. It used to be that if you had a bottle of Angostura and some Peychaud's, you probably had twice as many bitters as most places. Now mixologists both home and in cocktail bars have discovered a whole range of other bitters and tinctures to pep up their concoctions. Since you only need a few dashes in each drink, the big bottles last forever and are pretty expensive. Do remember, though, that a dash is not a drop. So if the recipe calls for three dashes, get your shoulder into it!
Luckily, the folks at The Bitter Truth have come up with a perfect solution to expanding your repertoire of bitters with their handy Traveler's Set. This little box of fun contains five different varieties packaged in 20 milliliter bottles. This means that not only are they TSA-compliant in case you want to mix a proper cocktail on your next flight, but you can experiment with various flavors without investing in big bottles. If you particularly like any of the flavors, you can always buy the full-size 200 ml bottles from their website or from your favorite spirits retailer. Remember that these are alcohol-based products and must be purchased from a liquor store, unlike other mixer ingredients.
Here is what you'll get in The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set along with some tasting notes from the company:
CELERY BITTERS: Very complex and exotic. The initial flavor of celery is dominant, leading into a complex palate with aromas of lemongrass, orange peel and ginger.
OLD TIME AROMATIC BITTERS: Classically bitter and tangy. Combining the aromatics of cinnamon, cardamom, anise and cloves, it reminds one of gingerbread.
ORANGE BITTERS: The aroma of bitter orange peel is in the foreground, complemented by the spicy flavors of cardamom, caraway and nutmeg.
CREOLE BITTERS: The complex combination of flavors hints upon spice, bitterness and cardamon with a subtle floral finish that evokes the flavors of Creole cuisine in New Orleans/Louisiana.
JERRY THOMAS BITTERS: Dedicated to Professor Jerry Thomas (1830-1885), who is considered to be the most famous and important bartender of the 19th century, these bitters reveal citrus and dried fruit aromas which unite with the spicy flavors of cloves, angostura bark and cinnamon.
I have tried them all and use the celery and Creole bitters extensively, enough that I have graduated to the big bottles. But it's nice to have the others around the house to play with. You can find these products at many local retailers including Maryland Farms Wine and Spirits, Woodland Wine Merchant, Midtown Wine and Spirits and The Bottle Shop at McEwen. Pick yourself up a pack and give them a try.