Bitter tasting spirits made of/flavoured with plant extracts, barks and roots.
To create bitters, citrus and herbs are combined and then the mixture is dissolved in glycerine or alcohol. As the name suggests, bitters have a bittersweet or bitter flavor that works well in many cocktail recipes. At one time, there were many brands of bitters to choose from. They were once created to be patent medicines that were used as digestifs, which means that they were consumed after a meal to aid in digestion. Today, there are only a few brands that remain, and they are most often used as a flavoring in cocktails, or aperitifs.
Bitters usually do contain an alcohol content, with some ranging as high as 45%. However, it would be pretty hard to get a buzz from bitters because they are usually used in such small amounts to flavor a drink. While there are places do consider bitters to be an alcoholic beverage, some, such as the UK, do not consider bitters to be a beverage that a person must be of a certain age to purchase. When creating bitters, there are certain ingredients that are common ingredients, such as cassia, cascarilla, orange peel, gentian, quinine, and angostura bark. Gentian is a bitter herb that serves as a main ingredient for both Peychaud’s Bitters and Angostura Bitters.
Anyone familiar with bitters has surely heard of Angostura Bitters. This brand is the most common and easily recognized brand that has been in existence since 1824. During that year in Venezuela, a German physician created Angostura Bitters for use as a tonic for stomach problems. It wasn’t long before the bitters found there way overseas to Trinidad and England. Not only were the bitters used by members of the British Navy for medicinal purposes, it was there that Angostura Bitters became an ingredient in several cocktails. This transition was made possible because those in the British Navy used the bitters as an ingredient in Pink Gin, a pink-colored drink that combines London Gin and bitters. Another commonly recognized brand is Peychaud’s Bitters. As with Angostura Bitters, this brand is gentian based. However, it has a sweeter, subtly different taste than the Angostura variety. When thinking of Peychaud’s Bitters, which was created by Antoine Amédée Peychaud, you may associate it with New Orleans, or even with a Sazerac cocktail. In New Orleans 1859, John Schiller named the cocktail, which combines bitters and cognac, when he opened the Sazerac Coffee House.
Many older recipes call for orange. This type of bitters is created by using rinds that have been taken from oranges that haven’t yet ripened.
Today, you will find many cocktail recipes that call for bitters. And, just as it was used many moons ago, the ingredient also works well for calming nausea, settling a person’s stomach before a meal, and to stimulate appetite. If you plan on partaking in a night of heavy drinking, you might want to keep a bottle of bitters on hand. It can help with everything from calming your stomach to adding flavor to your favorite drink!