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Bitters is an alcoholic beverage which is flavoured with aromatic plant extracts such as cinchona bark (quinine), wormwood, wormwood, and angostura bark and root. Bitters tend to have an alcohol content of about 45% by volume and are mainly used as digestifs or as flavouring in certain cocktails, such as the Negroni and the popular Cosmopolitan.

Bitters add a spicy, warm and rich dimension to almost any cocktail and indeed are key to the development of many American classics, such as the Manahattan and the Sazerac. They transform some mixed drinks with just a few drops, as when you add just a couple of drops of Angostura to a Gin and Tonic you create a Pink Gin.

Right up until the 19th century, bitters were used primarily as a medicine, thought to help cure a number of ailments. The pivotal moment for the evolution of bitters was when a doctor named Johann G.B. Siegert invented a potion in the town of Angostura in South America, in order to help wounded soldiers in a local war. This potion was to become known as “Amargo Aromatico” which is Spanish for Aromatic Bitters. This medicinal liquid went on to be known as Angostura Bitters, taking its name from the town of its birthplace and was soon finding its way throughout  the world as sailors would take it back on the ships with them. By the beginning of the 1850s Siegert began actively marketing and distributing the product internationally, although it had already gained a foothold in many countries, particularly in Europe. The role of bitters as a flavouring agent in drinks, particularly mixed drinks, was to slowly develop over time. Certain bitters, such as Peychauds bitters, which is still widely used to this day, were soon being created to be added to alcohol, in the case of Peychauds the targeted spirit was brandy.

Today there are many types of bitters available, with Angostura and Orange Bitters, being the most popular varieties. Flavours such as peach, celery, lemon and even chocolate have emerged over the last few decades, led by the demand for more interesting drink flavour profiles. There are several prominent brands within the bitters market, including Angostura, Fee Brothers, Regan Orange Bitters No.6 and The Bitter Truth.

Bitters are only meant to be added a few drops at a time and as such they are considered non-potable i.e non drinkable.