Angostura Bitters

You get to a stage over the annually recurring Festive period – about “Five Gold Rings” in – when your liver starts to petition for mercy.  At this stage you cannot face for another year, in descending order, any Turkey based dishes, any form of finger food containing duck, anything edible on a stick or a nacho chip/cheesy dip that has initial “curb-appeal” but pales quickly and tastes just odd.

It’s from now until well after New Year that you need a drink that isn’t just a form of either intoxication or hydration. So water and wine are out.

I am indebted to a friend who several years ago introduced me to the excellent combination of Angostura Bitters, Schweppes Tonic Water (see later Aestheticons review) and loads of ice.

Angostura Bitter is a curiously retro-packaged, scarlet-coloured consentrated infusion of herbs and spices, ethanol, gentian and water that is now made in Trinidad and Tobago but hails from Angostura (now Cuidad Bolivar, Venezuela).

Angostura Bitters was developed as a tonic for the upset stomachs of Simon de Bolivar’s army by a German surgeon, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert. He began to sell his tonic in 1824 and established a distillery in 1830. He was based in the town Of Angostura and used locally sourced ingredients.

The product was first exported in 1853 and in 1875 production moved to Port of Spain (Trinidad) where it can be found today.

Along with similar brands the precise ingredients remain a closely guarded secret.

The iconic small yellow capped bottle bears an oversized label with ingredients – in several languages – and trophies depicted on it including the medal won at the Weltausstellung 1873 in Vienna and its reverse showing the profile of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.

For those old enough to remember in the United Kingdom the combination of Angostura Bitters and Gin was a mid-20th century classic cocktail. Whilst in the USA it is best known for its use in the Old Fashioned, combined with whiskey, sugar, and water and the Manhattan, made usually with rye whiskey and sweet vermouth.

Deep in the Christmas holidays I really like Angostura Bitters in a Champagne Cocktail. The great thing is that although the cocktail seems to insist on champagne, add a sugar cube – preferably a Billinton’s Demerara one (Aestheticons review to follow) – doused in cognac at the bottom of a champagne flute, a few drops of Angostura Bitters and then top up with Cava or Prosecco to make a lovely cocktail.

My preferred post-Christmas drink with Angostura Bitters and Schweppes Tonic Water is simply delicious but it’s use with other soft drinks is well documented in Australian and New Zealand it is served with lemon and lime.


Image from Angostura Bitters


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I am an English trained and experienced lawyer. I have lived with my wife and family for nearly twenty years in the “California of Europe” - at the tip of Southern Europe. I am a proud European and driven to evangelize about the quality of life to be enjoyed here.

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