All About Flavor
Make It Better With Bitters
Bitter truth, bittersweet, bitter end—the word “bitter” is typically associated with negativity; something we want to avoid. However, in the cocktailing world, bitters are purely positive. They enhance a drink’s flavor the same way spices enhance the food we eat.
Bitters are a combination of glycerin or high-proof alcohol mixed with seeds, fruits, leaves, roots, bark and herbs. A drop or two leaves a warm, rich, acrid and bitter flavor behind. Similar to their spice sisters, they are very strong and add an extra layer of complexity when used sparingly.
Rumor has it that bitters have been circulating society since Ancient Egypt, but most of their modern history can be traced back to the 1700s. However, the intense bitter flavor made them difficult to get down, so people began mixing bitters with spirits for a more palatable drink. Slowly, sugar was added to balance the flavor out, and by the year 1806, the word “cocktail” was being tossed around to describe a concoction devised of sugar, spirits, water and bitters.
Peychaud’s® Aromatic Bitters:
This famous red aromatic bitter has a slightly floral aroma and a rich licorice flavor that permeates throughout. Because the base flavor is a root, the bitter is classified as aromatic. It mixes well with aged spirits, such as brandy, whiskey and rum. Peychaud’s® bitters originated from Mr. Antoine Amedie Peychaud, a man from the French Quarter in New Orleans. A coffee shop nearby Mr. Peychaud discovered these bitters and began mixing them with French Brandy, sugar, absinthe and water, giving birth to the first iteration of the Sazerac.
Angostura® Aromatic Bitters:
Known for its bright yellow cap and oversized label, Angostura bitters are rich in both flavor and history. The recipe for these aromatic bitters is steeped in secrecy, but they contain a root flavor, along with traces of cardamom, clove and cinnamon. Like Peychaud’s®, they are an aromatic bitter, but slightly more earthy and go best with aged spirits. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, developed these well-known bitters in a town called Angostura. The bitters caught on, and soon became famous worldwide. When prohibition rolled around, most American bitter producers were shut down, but because Angostura wasn’t based out of the United States, they quickly dominated the bitter market.
Unlike the latter two, citrus bitters are not a particular brand, but rather, a style of bitters. Most famous for the orange variety, citrus bitters include other flavors, such as grapefruit and lemon. Citrus bitters add an astringent bite and a tangy kick to the spirits they’re added to, and they tend to work best with gin.
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Try these recipes to make your cocktails better with bitters: