The beauty of cocktail bitters is that just a few drops are enough to alter and enhance the flavor of your drink. You can create whole new layers of flavor just by using a dash of bitters. That is also the reason why bitters are essential ingredients for making cocktails in today's cocktail culture. Two of the most popular brands are dominating the market for ages: Peychaud's and Angostura bitters.
Both brands emerged in the 1800s, and both play a vital role in the history of cocktails and mixology. But what are the differences and in which cocktails should they be used? Let's take a closer look at the battle of the bitters: Peychaud's vs. Angostura.
The Origin of Peychaud's and Angostura Bitters
The origin of Peychaud's bitters is said to be Haiti. To be more precise, Antoine Amédée Peychaud brought the recipe from San Domingo, Haiti to New Orleans. But it was not him that made the recipe famous. It only got popular when his son, named, too, Antoine, started making it in his apothecary in the 1830s. It took some years until it was used to make cocktails. -In 1857 it was for the first time advertised as an ingredient to the Sazerac cocktail.
Angostura bitters are even a few years older. Dr. Johann Siegert invented them in 1824 as a medical tincture when he worked as surgeon general for Venezuelan military leader Simon Bolivar. Just as Peychaud's, Angostura bitters is a family business. When the sons of Dr. Siegert joined the company, they created the iconic look of the Angostura bitters bottle.
The Difference Between Peychaud's and Angostura bitters
Besides their age and standing in the cocktail and bar industry, the two products are fairly different. And both have very distinct flavor profiles. Peychaud's bitters are less bitter with more pronounced sweet notes and a strong anise taste. Angostura, on the other hand, is full of spices like cassia, cloves, and cinnamon. That makes for a deeper flavor profile and a more savory taste.
Another difference between the two brands is the amount of alcohol. While Angostura contains around 44.7% ABV, Peychaud's bitters have a significantly lower amount of alcohol (35% ABV).
Both products are common ingredients in cocktails. And although Angostura is by far the most used bitters brand, many classic cocktail recipes ask for Peychaud's bitters. The most popular is probably the already mentioned Sazerac. But it is also a key ingredient in recipes like Vieux Carré or the Queens Park Swizzle.
When to use Peychaud Bitters?
I already mentioned some cocktails where Peychaud's bitters play a vital role. And even though it is not a perfect replacement for Angostura bitters, there are many times where Peychaud's bitters are the better option. Their bitters are light and dry with strong notes of anise. It balances sweetness and acidity pretty well, making it a fantastic choice for drinks with many sweet or sour ingredients.
But to be honest, there is a reason why Angostura bitters are more popular. And it is not because one is ultimately "better" than the other. The main reason is that Angostura works with almost every flavor combination. They add extra flavor, and most of the time, you don't have to worry if it works. Just put some Angostura bitters to your cocktail, and it makes the result is richer, more flavorful, and mostly a better cocktail.
With Peychaud's bitters, you have to be more careful. They don't work all the time, and there is more trial and error involved in finding the right amount of Peychaud's bitters.
The most popular cocktail bitters are very dissimilar in taste. And they're also used in very different recipes. Saying this, it makes sense to have them both at home. And it also makes sense to get familiar with what they actually do with your drinks. If you use them properly, Angostura bitters and Peychaud's bitters both improve your cocktails.