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Bitters

A rather curious drink, primarily used for adding flavour to cocktails, Bitters are a little like the salt and pepper of the cocktail world (as in the condiment and not the hip hop outfit).

Bitters are made with various bitter herbs, barks and other flavourings, with an alcoholic base (often rum). They are not intended for neat consumption, due to their very (and unsurprisingly) bitter flavour, but when added to an Old-Fashioned cocktail, or a Manhattan, they impart all sorts of complexity, bringing maturity and great depth.

Bitters started life, as did many of our favourite drinks, as a medicine. The famous Angostura bitters were created by Dr Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert as a remedy for sea sickness and stomach ailments. The original recipe was named after the town of Angostura in Venezuela (and not after the bark from the tree of the same name – also named after the town).

Exports started to Trinidad (where the Angostura company is now based) and England. The Royal Navy (which was, at the time, an ardent promoter of some of the more beneficial qualities of alcohol) took to adding a few dashing of Angostura bitters to Gin, a concoction known as “Pink Gin”, which was said to placate tummy woes.

The list of ingredients used to make traditional bitters reads a little like a who’s who of archaic remedies: Angostura bark, cassia, gentian, even quinine (the favourite anti-malarial of the old colonists). Bitters are simply made by macerating a bitter agent (often one or more of the above mentioned barks), and a selection of other herbs and spices in strong spirit.

Did you know?... ...In Trinidad and Tobago, Angostura bitters are often added to coffee – well worth trying!

Bitters

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Using the peel of the small, green and rather bitter oranges you find on the Island of Curaçao, the Bitter Bastards Curaçao Bitters are supremely zesty. With carefully measured amounts of bittering...  More info
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Like chefs arm themselves with spices to create masterful meals, bartenders arm themselves with bitters to perfectly season cocktails. The Bitter Bastards Cumin Bitters wouldn't look out of place in...  More info
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Aromatic, perfumed and altogether awesome Coriander Bitters, for the cocktails that desire intriguing flavours which urge you to take another sip. Rapidly macerated, centrifugally extracted and...  More info
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This bottling of Campari comes from the 1980s, from the era of Fellini's 'woman in red' advert with Kelly Le Brock.  More info
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Fee Brothers Cranberry Bitters does exactly what it says on the tin (or bottle, in this case) - tastes like cranberry with a good helping of bitterness. Sure, you could add it to a Cosmopolitan for an...  More info
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