Bitter Truth has an adorable Traveler's Set of three mini-bottles of bitters.
If all you know about bitters is that you're supposed to put a few drops of Angostura bitters in a Manhattan, then you've got some catching up to do. There's been an explosion of flavored bitters to go with the exploding mixology scene, and even amateur cocktailians can benefit from adding the new breed of bitters to the cocktail mix.
Start at Barkeeper in Silver Lake, where Joe Keeper has a bitters tasting bar with a wide variety of flavors available. Fee Brothers bitters have been more widely available for a while; I've been enjoying the orange ones in my Manhattans in the past year.
Now, take a deeper look at the selection of bitters. Miracle Mile Chocolate Chili bitters are a local, artisanal product made from Valrhona chocolate nibs and a blend of chilis. Their deep flavor is round and tingly, and would make an amazing addition to a dark rum drink, something made with a smoky Scotch or any number of other cocktails. These bitters are made near L.A.'s Miracle Mile, of course, by Louis Anderman, a former Miramax exec who is exploring the newly-popular bitters field and contemplating new varieties based on ingredients such as exotic Asian citrus.
The founders of The Bitter Truth are German bartenders Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck, who started making bitters in 2006 and have recently started importing their products to the U.S. Their celery bitters are a terrific aromatic, floral blend that would add a whole other level to a bloody mary or cucumber martini. The wide range of flavors are more powerfully herbal than some of the other makers' fruitier, sweeter blends, with complex, historic-tasting flavors like Creole bitters and Aromatic bitters. They also make a terrific Sloe Gin made from real sloe berries (actually small plums), not the sickly sweet supermarket stuff that would ruin your Slow Comfortable Screw or other Sloe gin recipe. Good bitters aren't cheap, but at around $17 a bottle, they're well worth it to enliven dozens of cocktails.
For more about The Bitter Truth and the history of bitters in cocktails, see this Q&A from FoodGPS.