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Bitters are intensely flavored spirits that are intended to deliver a hint of the strong aromatics, roots and herbal elements that they are made with. Orange bitters have a pronounced orange flavor and one of their main flavoring components are the peels of (Seville) oranges. Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters caught my eye because you don’t see too many products that feature blood oranges and I’m always interested in trying a new type of bitters. Unlike most bitters, Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters are not alcoholic and are made with a base of water and sugar, in addition to blood oranges and the various aromatics that are used for flavoring. The company says that the fact that they don’t use alcohol makes the bitters even more versatile than other types of bitters.
You get a strong orange sweetness from the bitters at first taste, which quickly slides into a bitter orange peel flavor with a long, slow, herbal aftertaste. Surprisingly, it reminded me a lot of Campari. The fact that the bitters has a noticeable sweetness at the beginning really sets it apart from other bitters because it means that you can use it more generously in a recipe without overpowering the other elements of a cocktail. You can easily add a stronger orange flavor to a drink and a touch of color that is a nod to the blood oranges used to make the bitters. The downside is that this also means you actually need to use more to get your flavor across, since the sugar syrup base doesn’t carry the flavors as intensely as alcohol would. A few drops of this bitters is not enough to add a real spice to a drink like a Manhattan, but a teaspoon or two adds a good orange flavor to a drink.
Worth another round? I like the flavor of these bitters, but I won’t be replacing any of my other bitters with these any time soon. Instead, I’ll use these as a larger component of a drink when I use them to make the best use of their all natural blood orange flavor, their distinctive orange peel note and their sweetness.