Sunday, March 21, 2010

Product Review: Fee Bros Aztec Chocolate Bitters

It drives me crazy when there’s an ingredient I want to play with but it’s not readily available. Yesterday I had an overwhelming sense of this as I scoured the city for chocolate bitters. Unsweetened chocolate is one of the great underutilized flavors in drinks. And according to some teasing online reviews of mail-order products, there’s at least one great chocolate bitters out there. I got the idea, though, that the Aztec Chocolate bitters by Fee Brothers, nice company though they are, might not be so great. But since it was the only product I could find on the shelves, I decided to see what I could make of it.

When I opened the bottle, the aroma seemed more cinnamon than anything else. It smelled odd for bitters, and then I noticed why: no alcohol. (Sigh.) In a glass, it seemed somewhat more chocolate and more vegetal. Still not much depth or complexity. Tasting a bit didn’t add anything to these impressions. Oh well.

I decided to try it in a Wild Turkey Manhattan: strong, spicy, hard to louse up.

Manhattan-Bound M Train

  • 2 oz Wild Turkey 101-proof bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Punt e Mes
  • 5 or so dashes Fee Bros Aztec Chocolate Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Cocktail cherry
Rowen, Fogged In Lounge

My first sip didn’t seem all that different from what is in fact my basic Manhattan recipe, but soon the housemate and I agreed that there was an elusive chocolate note on the finish. I wasn’t too sure that this was the novelty Manhattan the world was waiting for, but it was fun. There seemed to be something 1940s about it, like an old drugstore.

I tried reducing the Punt e Mes so that the chocolate might come through a little more, but what worked well in the background the first time got too much like Fox’s U-Bet—nicely reminiscent of childhood but weird in a cocktail.

Special thanks to Drew at PlumpJack in Noe Valley.


  1. This is really disappointing. No alcohol? I guess it's just a heavily reduced solution of some sort... certainly no alcohol-soluble flavors in it. The fact that it tastes like cinnamon interests me, though... my vintage of Fee's Whiskey Barrel Bitters is very cinnamon-heavy and I love it.

    Btw, I made some Irish Horse Necks for my friends last St. Paddy's day, and they loved it.

  2. I’m partial to the Whiskey Barrel too. I use that a lot.

    Horse’s Neck is swell—probably my favorite highball besides Dark and Stormy.


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