If you’re an Old Fashioned lover, we have some bad news for you. You’ve been making your Old Fashioned wrong this whole time. In fact, it's possible that you’ve never tasted an Old Fashioned the way that it was meant to taste. The missing ingredient was Bogart’s Bitters, one of the first bitters ever made specifically for cocktails. But now, for first time in nearly a century, the bitters are available again, thanks to The Bitter Truth.
In Jerry Thomas’ A Bartenders Guide or How To Mix Drinks, the Whiskey Cocktail (aka the OG Old Fashioned) is made with whiskey, gum syrup, lemon peel and bitters—but not just any old bitters. The recipe specifically calls for Bogart’s Bitters. After Prohibition, the bitters became nearly extinct, and bartenders started making Old Fashioneds with other aromatic bitters like Angostura. But then, a few years ago, Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck, the bartender duo behind The Bitter Truth, took it upon themselves to recreate and revive Bogart’s and, in turn, the real Whiskey Cocktail.
Over the course of their years of research, Hauck and Berg managed to track down one of the last remaining bottles of Bogart’s, which they believe dates back to 1900. They analyzed the contents and created their own version on the cocktail bitters, which they claim is the closest tasting bitters to the original Bogart’s bitters that Jerry Thomas would have used. They even went as far as recreating the original label and the original glass bottle, known as a Lady Leg bottle.
Since we don’t actually know for sure what the original Bogart’s Bitters tasted like, it’s impossible to know how close The Bitter Truth has gotten to an authentic reproduction, but we’re prepared to take Berg and Hauck’s word on the matter. What we can say for sure is that the bitters do work wonders in cocktails. In an Old Fashioned, the bitters give the cocktail an orangey brightness, a hint of spice, notes of black cherry and fruity Kenyan coffee, and a chocolatey richness. It’s almost like a blend of orange bitters, Angostura bitters, coffee bitters and mole bitters. But there’s also an intangible je ne sais quoi that gives the bitters a new level of complexity. We also tasted the bitters in a Cognac Old Fashioned and a Martini (Harry Johnson’s 1888 recipe for the Martini actually calls for Bogart’s rather than orange bitters). Both drinks benefited from bitters, becoming rounder and more nuanced.
Even if you’re skeptical of Bogart’s Bitters’ miraculous ability to make any cocktail taste better, you should still snatch them off the shelf if you see them. Released in limited quantities, the bitters are selling out fast. If you don’t manage to get a bottle before they disappear, you just might have to wait another century to try them again.
A 375mL bottle of the bitters will set you back around $38. Get them here.