By: Mahon McGrath |
K&L Staff Member |
Review Date: 9/9/2011
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What's in a name? When confronted with "Forbidden Bitters," I had to ask. The answer lay in the past. Once upon a time, from about 1865 through to just before the second world war, America's pre-eminent brand of bitters was a certain Abbott's bitters. They were reformulated after the war, subsquently fell out of favor and haven't been heard from since, the recipe long ago lost. Attempts to re-create them based on still existing bottles fell flat, until a group of dedicated folks subjected one of those dusty old bottles of Abbott's bitters to a gas chromatographic analysis, a process usually employed in analyzing perfumes. The mystery ingredient was... tonka beans! Often used in perfumery, they smell way better than the toy trucks, contributing a spicy-vanillic flavor. Sadly, they are currently forbidden as a food additive in the US of A. While I do not know what the work-around for this was, word from people who have experienced Miracle Mile's forbidden bitters and antique bottles of Abbott's claim Forbidden bitters do an exemplary job of reproducing Abbott's bitters.
I've tried Manhattans up, down and sideways over the years; these bitters, that liqueur, dashes of this or that, varying proportions, etc. In my humble estimation, these bitters are the only serious contenders in the drink against Angostura and might be the single best thing to happen to the Manhattan in a very-long-while. They open up a sweetly aromatic space in the middle that is revelatory. While I think the bitters of choice for something like the old fashioned is still a matter of taste and spirit employed, if you like a manhattan, I heartily recommend you give the Forbidden bitters a whirl.