Cocktails – The Bitter Truth

Cocktails – The Bitter Truth
Share With Your Friends:

Cocktail bitters are highly concentrated extracts made from botanical flavouring agents – herbs, spices, flowers and/or fruits. Bitters are an essential ingredient in many popular cocktails, such as the Tequila Sazerac, the Rum Swizzle and the Singapore Sling. Gentian is a common ingredient in cocktail bitters and has one of the highest bittering concentrations. Bitters not only add their own flavour profile to a drink, they enhance and carry the drink’s other flavour. Bitters stimulate the salivary glands, which in turn stimulate the digestive system. In Italy, beverages containing bitter compounds are traditionally taken 30 minutes before a meal. These apéritifs and digesifs include Campari and Fernet and vermouths like Punt e Mes and can be ingredients in many other classic cocktails, such as the Americano. Cocktail bitters are generally non-potable, meaning they are not meant to be consumed neat or on the rocks.

Bitters were originally marketed as medicines but are now considered more as digestifs and are also used to flavour cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Bitters commonly have a strength of 45% alcohol by volume. The most widely used ingredients in the making of cocktail bitters include orange peel, cassia, quinine, cascarilla and gentian, which is a bitter herb that drives the flavour in some of the most popular bitters, such as Angostura Bitters and Peychaud`s Bitters. Aromatic BittersAngostura Bitters is probably the most well-known of all bitters and is easily recognisable by its over-sized label. The recipe for Angostura Bitters was originally developed by a German General Surgeon in 1824 as a cure for stomach maladies. The recipe was exported to England and Trinidad and today the plant that makes Angostura Bitters is still located in Trinidad, in the Port of Spain. The exact formula for Angostura Bitters has remained a closely guarded secret for all these years, with legend being that only 5 people knowing the exact formula.

Angostura Bitters is a key component in cocktails such as the classic Pink Gin, where a splash (or two) of Angostura bitters is swirled around the inner surface of a tumbler before adding a generous measure of gin. It is also an ingredient in the Singapore Sling and the Anejo Highball. There also exists an orange variety of Angostura Bitters, which is used to make certain cocktails, such as the Alaska Cocktail and the Old Fashioned. Orange bitters is made from the peels of Seville Oranges, cardamom, caraway seed, coriander and burnt sugar in an alcohol base. Orange Bitters are currently enjoying resurgence among cocktail enthusiasts

Another widely used variety of cocktail bitters is Peychauds Bitters, which was originally created around 1830 by Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole apothecary from the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which is now Haiti, who settled in Louisiana. Peychauds Bitters is similar to Angostura Bitters only it has a sweeter taste and a more floral aroma. It is used in many cocktails such as the Sazerac and the Brandy Cocktail to give them a distinct bitter, floral flavour. There are also many lesser known bitters which have recently been growing in popularity, such as Lemon Bitters, used in the Distracted cocktail, Grapefruit Bitters, used in the Southside and Peach Bitters used in the Nixon cocktail.


Written by damien

Posted: October 13, 2012