Hella Bitter is a small-batch cocktail bitters company founded in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and with its heart in the Bay Area. What began in the early 2000s as a hobby turned serious in 2011, when they started a Kickstarter project to raise money in order to produce 50 bottles of citrus bitters. They knew they were on to something when they managed to raise twice as much as they set out to raise and, with that, Hella Bitter moved from a weekend project to a serious pursuit.
Hella Bitter represents two different styles of bitters: citrus and aromatic bitters. It is clear that Hella Bitter has focused their energy on the two most staple bitters on the market as both aromatic and citrus styles are both called for in classic and current cocktails. The question many will have is, "why do we need yet another set of aromatic and citrus styles?" The answer comes down to personal preference, vision and recipe.
The reason to choose Hella Bitter over other alternatives, such as Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 and Angostura is because the recipes are different and the flavor profiles will be their own style all while providing the same benefit of bitters in a cocktails.
Hella Bitter Aromatic (5 oz. bottle)
Hella bitter aromatic brings a holiday spice aroma with a warm and inviting clove. The taste is that of ginger root, brown sugars and a very defined clove-driven flavor. For the next twenty seconds you're mouth continues to recall the warm clove finish of these aromatics and leaves no astringent bite when added to liquids. When compared to Angostura Aromatic you will find these to be a bit more mellow and clove centric. (see full review)
Hella Bitter Citrus (5 oz. bottle)
Hella Bitter brings a citrus bitter to rival others playing the citrus game. The complication in this comes into trying to become that "go-to" bitter for orange. From the aroma you get some of the similarities found in Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 but with a bit more of a fleshy orange scent over the more "peel" or zest found in Regans. When dipping into the flavor profile, you'll find the citrus peel tones are also wrapped in a biting clove and other spices. Overall, the citrus is more of a subtle mellow tone with a bit more of a bitter peel finish that lingers for a few seconds. There is definitely more of a herbal citrus within the Hella Bitter Citrus recipe.
Overall, I believe Hella Bitter does a clear job bringing a clove-base to their bitters and tries to play a bit on the mellow side allowing cocktail ingredients to shine through while taking more of a back seat. When a cocktail calls for an orange/citrus bitter or a "dash of bitters" you can rest assured that Hella Bitter is there to bring an alternative to the bigger market brands. Are they meant as a replacement? No, you'll find them both a suppliment and a refreshing change to cocktails you make day in and day out.