Abbott vs. Abbott
So now with cocktails all the rage and a return to the days where Speakeasy bars and prohibition was cool, we see an re-emergence of cocktail culture. And for those of you who don’t know about classic cocktails from pre-prohibition, the one thing you need to know is that bitters were a part of it. Bitters a century ago would aid the unpleasant taste of home distilled spirits, but bitters also were brought over from immigrant Europeans as elixirs to help cure stomach and other simple ailments. So, if you are going to drink, why not make it a preventative cocktail that includes bitters?
Long story short: Abbott’s Angostura Bitters came to fame around the same time as Angostura Bitters. Like Coke & Pepsi, both tried to claim they were the first on the scene. However, one sued the other, and during prohibition, which was a tough enough time during the cocktail history, the Abbott’s company went out of business. Abbott’s bitters are basically the Holy Grail when it comes to bitters. They are believed to been have served in the first Manhattan, Martinis, and other cocktails. It was like having a rum and coke back then. Without one, you could not have the other.
So now in the 21st Century, and many scrambles for the original recipe, two companies arose. One claims its as close to the original recipe as it can be (based on scientific research) and the other who has claims that its theirs and they have the original handwritten recipes to prove it. Let the legal battle go on, however, there is nothing to see here, this is not a multi-billion dollar industry, and one will hang in there, the other might not.
So, which to choose and what are the differences? The two versions are actually quite different. The one that Darcy O’Neill from Canada created tastes more like Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters which are more spicy. The other tastes more like what I think might have been the original, more sweet with more raisin flavors.
It is nearly impossible to say which was more like the original of a century ago. Even if you can ask someone living, there is no way they can give you an accurate answer. The only way to determine, is to buy a bottle of each, try them out and see which one you like better in your cocktails.