When I was gathering together the various bitters for my recent orange bitters and aromatic bitters comparisons there was one brand whose bitters I just couldn’t get hold of – Hermes. I had read about them on several other cocktail sites, and really wanted to include them in my comparisons, but no matter how hard I tried to get hold of them, they remained elusive.
Hermes bitters are made by a Japanese company called Suntory, who produce and/or distribute a wide variety of spirits, including various beers, whiskeys and the famous Midori melon liqueur. Unfortunately they only appear to be available directly from Japan and although I found a few promising contacts, none of them resulted in me having the bitters in my possession.
However, last week Stephan Berg got in touch with me and thanks to his immense generosity I am now the proud owner of both Hermes Orange bitters and Hermes Aromatic bitters. Of course the first thing I did was whip up a Dry Martini and a Manhattan to see how the bitters tasted. I didn’t have it in me to make similar cocktails with all the other bitters for another side-by-side comparison, so these reviews are a little more subjective, but nonetheless present my thoughts on how the Hermes bitters compare to all the others I’ve tried over the past few months…
Hermes Orange Bitters
The Hermes Orange bitters have a strong orange zest smell, more powerful than that of Regan’s Orange bitters, but perhaps not has heavy as that of Angostura Orange bitters. It leads with a slight sweetness, and has a complex, spicy taste with a slight bitterness following, though it is far less pronounced than the bitterness of Regan’s and in particular the Angostura. It is probably the most orangey (rather than orange zesty) of all the orange bitters I have tried.
In a Martini they worked really well blending the ingredients nicely and adding an interesting, more overt, orange taste to the drink. I found myself adding more than the usual few dashes, though, in order to bring it’s effect up to that of say the Angostura Orange bitters. They sit nicely between the relatively sweet Fee Brothers and the spiciness of the Regan’s, but with a distinct set of complexities which definitely set them apart from the other bitters.
Hermes Aromatic Bitters
The Hermes Aromatic bitters are probably the least bitter aromatic bitters I have tasted, though conversely they aren’t overly sweet either. They have a mild spice to them, but seemed surprisingly weak in overall flavour. Indeed, whereas tasting a few drops of a bitter like The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic will knock your socks off, these bitters barely raised an eyebrow.
Like the Hermes Orange I decided to increase the usual few dashes used to ensure I’d pick up the taste of the bitters. Despite what the neat tasting led me to fear, the Hermes Bitters did have a noticeable effect on a Manhattan, albeit far more subtle than any other bitters I have tried. While not a terrible bitters, the weakness and lack of anything to really set it apart left me somewhat disappointed.
A massive thanks once again to Stephan Berg for making this review possible – I owe you a cocktail or three next time you are in London! Those of you sick of bitters reviews will be glad to know that’s it as far as bitters are concerned at Oh Gosh! for now. I will be trying out a few recipes for home-made bitters soon, but as they take weeks of infusing, shaking and straining you have a restbite, at least for a few months…
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