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Fee Brothers Old Fashion Bitters vs. Angostura Bitters


Artisanal bitters are all the rage these days, with no producer more hallowed than Fee Brothers. (I rely on their Orange Bitters religiously, so I’m a devotee.)

fee-brothers-old-fashioned-bittersBut I’d never tried Fee’s “Old Fashion Aromatic” Bitters until recently. Angostura’s always worked for me, so why change?

Well today I finally put Fee Old Fashion head to head against its forebear. Flavored with Angostura bark and other aromatics, it’s a clear homage to Angostura, and the aroma on its own is decidedly similar. The big difference: A cinnamon/allspice aroma that’s strong in the Fee but minimal in Angostura.

The cinnamon/allspice character follows through in mixed drinks pretty strongly. It was noticeably present in a Champagne Cocktail (a rather loathsome drink, really), and even stronger in a rye Manhattan. It also sweetened the Manhattan considerably vs. a version I made with Angostura. In the case of the Manhattan, I liked both renditions, but ultimately preferred the one made with Angostura by quite a margin, which was a more balanced drink that hung on to its rye core and wasn’t overwhelmed by spices.

Both bitters are good, but ultimately the original Angostura still has stands as a bar essential. The Fee Brothers will stick around for experimentation — I’m sure there are cocktails out there where it will outclass Angostura, I just haven’t gotten to them yet — but for now it plays second fiddle.

feebrothers.com [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
angosturabitters.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content company.

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  1. Blair Frodelius December 30, 2008

    I totally agree with your assessment. I have yet to find a cocktail that works better with the Fee’s Old Fashioned than with the Angostura. What I would like to know is how the new Orange Angostura compares to Fee’s Orange. I’d pick up a bottle via Kegworks, but the shipping is ridiculous.

    One nice thing abut Fee’s is that they are still a small company who care about their customers. They are friendly and work with you on a first name basis.

  2. Calamityville May 2, 2009

    This is a great post even if I partially disagree with your conclusions. I don’t necessarily think a Manhattan made with the Fee Brother’s Old Fashion Bitter’s is better or worse, just different. Personally I like them made with either brand of bitters as either version has it’s virtues. My big plus for the Fee Brothers is the big hit of bittering from the gentian. I think my current favorite; and it’s certainly subject to my moods and whims is a couple of dashes of each in a Manhattan.

    An interesting Ted Talk on why there isn’t one perfect recipe for anything is Malcolm Gladwell’s take on spaghetti sauce here – http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce.html

    Keep up the good work. You’ve got a great blog going.

  3. Christopher Null May 2, 2009

    Calamityville – True, true. And I expect the choice of whiskey would be important, too — Fee may work better with some, Angostura with others.

  4. Sarah B. August 7, 2009

    Try the Fee’s in something that plays well with the flavors — an applejack old fashioned really, really loves the cinnamon.

    I agree that they’re really different. I’ve had the Angostura for a while, but just got a bottle of Fee’s, so just a change is a nice thing to begin with.

  5. Christopher Carlsson February 8, 2010

    At least Fee Bros actually contain Angustora bark (read the label carefully on Angostura) they named that one after a town and not the ingredients .
    Have you tried Fee’s Whisky Barrel Aged?
    3 releases so far ( I reviewed all of them and compared them to each other) and a new one is due out early March 2010.
    Also to add to the mix as it were Urban Moonshine has 3 totally organic bitters out too.
    Keeps me off the street trying all this stuff.
    At least it’s something to do till the snow melts.

  6. Max March 20, 2010

    Haha. I just found this while looking for fees reviews.


  7. Jessica Jenson April 19, 2011

    I love your blog! You always have very interesting and informative.Keep it up!

  8. Johann February 23, 2012

    The answer is:

    4 dashes Fee Bros Old Fashion (their Aztec Chocolate also works, but not as well)
    1 oz Leopold Bros Apple Whiskey
    1 oz Domain Canton Ginger Brandy
    +3 oz Selzer water (I use Pellagrino), absolutely mandatory because the Apple and Cantor are sweet enough to need reduction

    The cinnamon and ginger play well together, and the cinnamon and apple are, of course, standards.

  9. jay June 8, 2013

    Fee Bros. In a bourbon Old Fashioned. With orange only, no lemon or cherry, is delightful.


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