The Bitter Truth behind the Art of the Cocktail
Bitters were once considered essential in early cocktail recipes, but then their popularity dwindled and they were left out of many drinks; however they are enjoying a revival, owing in part, to a renewed interest in classic cocktails. Bitters are essentially a fusion of aromatic fruits, herbs and spices infused with alcohol. Essentially they are liquid seasoning that when added to drinks create interesting taste transformations and flavour combinations.
Beginning as a medicinal elixir, bitters were originally used as a medical cure-all. How bitters came to be is a something that is unclear with theories ranging from lucky accident to ancient knowledge and alchemy. Over time bitters have moved from the medicine cupboard to the bar and if creating a home bar they are definitely an important element.
When you start thinking about buying and incorporating bitters into your cocktails at home it can be overwhelming, but they’re definitely worth experimenting with. It’s really tempting to buy a range of exotic sounding bitters and just throw them all in a glass with everything from the drinks cabinet for company and whilst this sort of experimentation may be fun, it rarely comes up with palatable results. I suggest starting with classic cocktail recipes and discover which bitters you like and then develop your own favourite drinks.
Building up a collection of bitters is very much like stocking a drinks cabinet, you don’t run out and buy every type of liqueur or spirit on the market; instead you think about what you like to drink and what you can create with them.
If you are thinking that incorporating bitters into your cocktails this festive season seems like a lot of fuss, then all I can say to you is that you need to try bitters to realise what a difference a drop makes. Warm, rich, exotic, spicy, and astringent, bitters can transform a cocktail from the ordinary into the extraordinary. The addition of a dash of bitters to a cocktail can balance a drinks flavour and breathe character and depth into it. Bitters are essential for creating vintage classics such as the Manhattan and the Champagne Cocktail. Indeed, bitters are an absolute must for the well-stocked vintage home stocked bar.
My top tip is to start with a few simple bitters and build up your collection as your repertoire of cocktails grows. Below is my tasting guide to bitters to get you started and help you create the perfect cocktail.
Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Angostura is probably best known bitters brand with its bright yellow cap and over-sized wrapper. These aromatic bitters are warming with the flavours of cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon and they are