You might have one of the distinctive small bottles with the oversized label in your drinks cupboard, have heard its name from your trusted bartender or simply seen it in your favourite cocktail recipes: we're talking Angostura, the familiar, yet mysterious and unchanging small brown bottle of aromatic bitters.
What is Angostura Aromatic Bitters?
A concentrated bitters made of herbs and spices by House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago with extracts of grasses, roots, leaves and fruits dissolved in alcohol, it is ideal for balancing alcoholic drinks, cleansing the palate and facilitating digestion.
The actual recipe of Angostura aromatic bitters is a closely guarded secret, although it is said to contain more than 40 ingredients, including exotic spices and fruits. However, what is certain is that the orange coloured tonic is a mixture of citrus fruits and vegetable extracts, as well as cardamom and a bitter root called "gentian" that results in a bitters of 44.7% ABV.
Once experimented with exclusively for medical purposes, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that it began to be mixed into cocktails.
Where is Angostura from?
© FB/ Angostura Museum and Barcant Butterfly Collection
Angostura is produced on the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago where secrecy surrounds the manufacturing process and only very few people inside the factory know the exact ingredients – no one is allowed to take pictures during the manufacturing process. It is even said that the original recipe has been filed in a New York bank for safe keeping.
Fascinating Fact: the oversized label that serves as the trademark of Angostura bottles was actually due to an initial typography mistake. The resulting intrigue and interest generated by the unusual look attracted so much consumer interest the company decided to retain it.
Mixing Angostura In Drinks
When Angostura first arrived in London in the late 1800s it was usually mixed into gin-based cocktails. Today the most famous cocktails made with Angostura include Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Singapore Sling.
Try this recipe for an Army and Navy Cocktail.
How to use Angostura in the Kitchen
Angostura is not just the reserve of cocktails, it can also be successfully used in the kitchen. It pairs perfectly with fish, particularly shrimp and shellfish, when the herbaceous liquid is used as a marinade to impart bitter and citrus tones. Angostura is also an excellent ingredient when used with meat, and roasts in particular, to give a hint of acidity.
Equally good in sauces accompanying main courses as well as desserts, Angostura can be used in place of classic rum or other strong spirits. It also works well in cakes, with fruit, simply served on a good scoop of vanilla ice cream, or even in this unusual recipe for angostura-glazed popcorn, as a decidedly adult bar snack.
The Angostura Aromatic Bitters site is full of suggestions for alternative recipes for appetisers and sauces – take a look and try something new with this timeless secret.