Review of Hella Bitters Founder’s Collection Bitters, Plus Eucalyptus Negroni Recipe
Most cocktail enthusiasts are familiar with the three most iconic bitters – Angostura, Regan’s, and Peychauds. This basic assortment covers both aromatic and orange bitters, but they’re far from the only options. Countless brands and home enthusiasts sell their own formulas – I have over two dozen types in my home bar alone.
Bitters are seemingly the lowest hanging fruit of the thriving cocktail culture, something that could be attributed to the relatively low cost to produce and less strict regulation involving their bottling and labeling as opposed to spirits. One brand I’ve been a fan of for awhile now is Hella Bitters, by Hella Cocktail Co.. I’ve been looking forward to their latest product since tasting some of their pre-release formulas at a Bar Institute event.
Their latest limited edition release is what they’re calling the Founder’s Collection, which may seem like an odd name for the bitters 3-pack unless you know there are three founders – Jomaree Pinkard, Tobin Ludwig, and Eddie Simeon. You may have you seen them in an American Express ad a few years ago.
The Founder’s Collection contains Apple Blossom, Mexican Chocolate, and Eucalyptus bitters, each in 5 ounce matte black bottles. When adding a new bottle of bitters to my shelf, there are a few things I want to know – “Are the bitters authentic or are they artificially flavored?”, “Are they artificially colored?”, and most importantly, “How are they different than any bottle currently taking up precious shelf real estate?” The Founder’s Collection passes all these tests.
After a few weeks of playing around with these bitters, here are my tasting notes and thoughts.
I’m very impressed by how much the apple notes come through in this. Key ingredients include dried apple, hibiscus, chamomile, and orange peel. These bitters are very pleasant and aromatic, but not overly floral in taste. Apple and baking spice are the dominant notes. These would play well with gin, vodka, cognac, apple brandy, just to name a few. Try them in a Vieux Carre, but swap the cognac for Applejack.
I have chocolate bitters and various spiced bitters, but these are different. The heaviest notes are chocolate and spice, but coffee is also present. The unique thing about these is that they are pretty spicy. The heat lingers after the chocolate and coffee notes fade. Obvious cocktails to feature them in would contain whiskey or an aged tequila or mezcal.
This is the more obscure of the bunch, and possibly my favorite. It’s not packed with eucalyptus flavor, despite eucalyptus leaves being the primary flavoring ingredient. However, I imagine if it were, they would taste medicinal. There are some citrus notes and a surprising amount of spiciness to these bitters. Gin and vodka are the main companions for these bitters. I suggest trying the Hella Cocktail Co. featured recipe for these – the eucalyptus negroni. (Recipe below.)
It is easy to be skeptical about a bitters set that come as a “Limited Edition Founder’s Collection” and sells for $75, however, for these unique batches made with quality ingredients I feel no buyer’s remorse.
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