The Simple Secret of Great Cocktails – Angostura Bitters

Something different you may notice about many of my cocktail recipes versus others is that I often emphasize the importance of adding Angostura Bitters. Angostura Bitters is the simple, secret ingredient for making just about any cocktail a great cocktail. This is because a great cocktail is about the balance of flavors (sweet, sour and bitter and sometimes salt). Most cocktail recipes cover the sweet, the sour and the salty ingredients but they hardly ever call for a bitter ingredient. It’s the bitter flavor that often adds the final balance need to ensure a cocktail is not too sweet or too sour.

This is where Angostura Bitters comes in.

If you’ve followed my posts before, you already know something about Bitters. If not, I’ll bet you still know something about Bitters or have at least seen it around… it comes in a very distinctive bottle thanks to it’s over-sized label.

Angastora Bitters often makes all of the difference in achieving the right balance of flavors in many cocktails. This opinion is common amongst mixologists, yet it is hardly (if ever) mentioned as an ingredient for any cocktail in any common recipe you find. This is a bit odd given it is a very inexpensive ingredient you can find in most grocery stores and it really does make the difference between a good cocktail and a great cocktail.

So… use this advice to your advantage! Add a few drops to just about any cocktail you make and you’ll be surprised of the reaction you get from those you serve. They will taste the difference!


History

Angastora bitters is made from water, 44.7% alcohol, gentian root and vegetable flavoring extracts. It’s name comes for the fact it is was first made in the town of Angostura in Trinidad (now Ciudad Bolívar).

That was in 1873 and has been crafted by House of Angostura ever since.

The label bares the image of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria because Angostura won a medal at the 1873 World Fair in Vienna.

Angostura bitters is often simply referred to as “Angostura” or “Bitters”. Even though commonly used to flavor drinks, it can be used to flavor foods as well. Some historical accounts also indicates that Bitters may have originally been used for medicinal purposes. Specifically, it appears the recipe was developed as a tonic by a German Doctor named Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert who sold it nearly in 1824… Nearly 50 years before it’s World Fair acclaim. An official distillery was established for the purpose of mass producing the tonic in 1830.

Siegert based his operations in the town of Angostura and used only local ingredients. The World Fair medal he won shortly thereafter is still depicted on the over-sized label, along with the Emperor Franz Joseph I image. The exact formula is actually a closely guarded secret. It is said that only five people in the while world know the recipe.

One if the reasons Angostura was able to enjoy a spread in popularity is the fact that the town was on the banks of the Orinoco River which was an important trading post. Ships came into this port from all over the world. The sailors often complained of sea-sickness and Angastora’s tonic was a remedy. As sailors and locals learned of the “healing” qualities of Dr. Siegert’s tonic, demand soon expanded around the world. This is what drove Dr. Siegert to think of producing his bitters on a commercial scale.

Siegert died in 1870, but his reputation and that of Angostura® aromatic bitters were internationally established by that time. The company survived some hard times as it changed hands from the Siegert family to US and Canadian distributors. However, the company is now back in the hands the Siegert family and is very successful once again as the company honors it’s traditions and roots.