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Friday, October 22, 2010

A bitter lesson from Peychaud's

Last month Salt Lake City readers got an update about how Harmon’s groceries had begun selling Peychaud’s® Bitters ($5.99 in the beverage aisle) in place of Angostura® Bitters during the great Angostura shortage of 2010.  Last weekend the Utah Mixologist was discussing mixing cocktails with his friend Fred from the wilds of New Mexico when Fred mentioned that his local grocery store had stopped selling Angostura and started selling some other, terrible tasting bitters that didn’t go well in cocktails.  At first the mixologist was aghast that such a transgression had been perpetrated, then he though a minute and said “you don’t mean Peychaud’s, do you?”  Yes, sad to say it turned out that Peychaud’s was exactly what Fred meant, and the root cause of his problem was that he didn’t have any good recipes to use them.  A speedy email delivered links to the much needed recipes and solved Fred’s problem, and this article will help any Salt Lake City readers who find themselves in the same situation.  There are many really good cocktails that contain Peychaud's, and you should give some of them a try.

Peychaud’s is a key ingredient in one of the most famous New Orleans cocktails: the Sazerac (along with Rye whiskey and a hint of Absinthe), and those Utah cocktailians who have never had a Sazerac owe it to themselves to give one a try.  Let the good times roll!

The Vieux Carré is another classic cocktail that utilizes Peychaud’s.  It was invented in the French Quarter of New Orleans at the Hotel Monteleone.  The Vieux Carré is a cocktail with six ingredients, so it might seem like a lot of work, but two of the ingredients are bitters, so there’s not that much measurement.  The Vieux Carré calls for equal amounts of Rye, Cognac, and sweet Vermouth, with some Benedictine and a dash each of Peychaud’s® and Angostura® bitters added.  Try one and you will agree it’s well worth the extra effort.

The Rimshot, while not a classic (it’s only about a year old and was developed by the Utah Mixologist), is a close relative of a true classic: the Manhattan.  The Rimshot has everything a good comedy routine needs: wry humor, bitterness, pratfalls, a little sweet and a little sour, and some of those contribute to a good cocktail.  So if you like Rye whiskey or the Manhattan cocktail, give the Rimshot a try.

The venerable Bourbon Old Fashioned is usually made with Angostura® Bitters, but as my article on the Old Fashioned tells you, you can make an Old Fashioned with just about any good liquor you have.  Rye whiskey and Brandy present great opportunities to use Peychaud’s in an Old Fashioned.  Some eschew the cherry and orange wheel, but this mixologist likes to chew them at the end for dessert (caution: don’t over muddle, you want just a hint of orange peel oils).

So if you’ve been a little disappointed in that bottle of Peychaud’s you bought, you probably haven’t been using it right.  Try one or two of these suggestions and I'm sure you will soon be putting that bottle of Peychaud's to excellent use.  For a better look at these cocktails, check out my Examiner slide show.


  1. Can you recommend a good place to buy Bitters in Utah. I am looking for Orange Bitters and live at the South end of the valley. Pirate O's maybe? I hear also Liberty Heights on the North end perhaps?

  2. Hi Tanya: I'm sad to say that the only "real" bitters I've found in Utah are the Angostura and the Peychaud's. Everything else I have I've ordered from (Note: If you buy from KegWorks via Amazon you pay more, so you might want to deal with them directly.) Fortunately, bitters tend to go a long way so I haven't had to order them very often, but the more I get into craft cocktails, the faster I use them up. Keep an eye on the shipping costs at KegWorks, it used to be that you could sometimes add a small item (like a bottle of bitters) to an order without increasing the shipping costs.

    If you find a local place that has them, please post a response to this post and let us all know.

  3. Liberty Heights carries a number of the Fee Brothers bitters. It's an odd mix of them. I found a couple that were worthwhile.
    I also found some of the Angostura Orange bitters at Pirate O's. They also had orange water and rose water. However, I can't vouch for what you'd find today. I'd give them a call in advance.
    I was thrilled to find the Fee Brothers limited edition Whiskey barrel aged bitters at Spirit of the Red Mountain on the road to the racetrack in Evanston. That was just a couple months ago.
    In reality, if you feed a need to purchase a good set, is the way to go. They are a good site I've purchased from as well.

  4. I just ran out of Peychaud's and tried both the Harmon's in Midvale and Draper, but neither carries it. Both had Angostura. Is there a Harmon's location one might suggest trying for Peychaud's?

    1. Hi Don: Sorry, but unless you know of a Harmon's that is a lot larger than the one near you, they probably all stock the same things. I asked my daughter-in-law, who sometimes gives me bitters for Christmas (good girl!), if she had bought any locally, but she said that they had ordered them. I would try phoning ahead to the places that BrownBag mentions above. Good luck! ...and please let us know if you find a good source.

  5. This post was a long time ago. Harmon's went back to Angostura a year ago. I don't know where I'd go now except mail order.