Angostura bitters (English: /æŋɡəˈstjʊərə/) is a concentrated bitters, or botanically infused alcoholic mixture, made of water, 44.7% ethanol, gentian, herbs and spices by House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago. It is typically used for flavouring beverages or (less often) food. The bitters were first produced in the town of Angostura (Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela) (hence the name), but do not contain angostura bark. The bottle is easily recognisable by its distinctive oversized label.
The recipe was developed as a tonic by a German, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert (1796–1870), surgeon general in Simón Bolívar's army in Venezuela. Siegert began to sell it in 1824 and established a distillery for the purpose in 1830. Siegert was based in the town of Angostura, now Ciudad Bolívar, and used locally available ingredients, perhaps aided by botanical knowledge of the local Amerindians. The product was sold abroad from 1853, and in 1875 the plant was moved from Ciudad Bolivar to Port of Spain, Trinidad, where it remains. Angostura won a medal at the Weltausstellung 1873 Wien. The medal is still depicted on the oversized label, along with reverse which shows Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in profile.
The exact formula is a closely guarded secret, with only one person knowing the whole recipe, passed hereditarily.
Angostura bitters are extremely concentrated and are an acquired taste; though 44.7% alcohol by volume, bitters are not normally ingested undiluted, but instead are used in small amounts as flavouring.
Angostura bitters are a key ingredient in many cocktails. Originally used to help with upset stomachs of the soldiers in the Simón Bolívar army, it later became popular in soda water and was usually served with gin. The mix stuck in the form of a pink gin, and is also used in many other alcoholic cocktails such as long vodka, consisting of vodka, Angostura bitters, and lemonade. In the United States, it is best known for its use in whiskey cocktails: the Old Fashioned, made with whiskey, bitters, sugar, and water, and the Manhattan, made usually with rye whiskey and sweet vermouth. In a Pisco Sour a few drops are sprinkled on top of the foam, both for aroma and decoration. In a Champagne Cocktail a few drops of bitters are added to a sugar cube.
In Hong Kong, Angostura bitters are included in the local Gunner cocktail. Though not in the classic recipe, bartenders sometimes add more flavour to the Mojito cocktail by sprinkling a few drops of Angostura bitters on top. Bitters can also be used in "soft" drinks; a common drink served in Australian and New Zealand pubs is lemon lime and bitters.
Angostura Bitters Drink Guide, a promotional booklet of 1908, was reprinted in 2008 with a new introduction by Ross Bolton.
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