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Bitter Review(s): Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Bitter(s) Review: Angostura Aromatic Bitters   (96/100)
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka The Rum Howler)
Published January 25, 2019

Angostura Aromatic Bitters were first produced in 1824, in the town of Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela) by Dr. Johann Siegert who created his aromatic bitters as a medicinal treatment to alleviate digestive and stomach ailments. In the 1870’s the brand was moved to Trinidad, where Johann Siegert’s son, Don Carlos established the aromatic bitters as a complementary ingredient for cocktails and in food.

According to the company website:

A cocktail cabinet without Angostura is like a kitchen without salt and pepper.” ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters adds a layer of complexity, intensifies the flavor of other ingredients, counteracts the harshness of acidic contents and decreases the harshness of spirits.

The Aromatic Bitters from Angostura arrive in the bottle to the left. I have seen bottles as small as 25 ml in size and as large as 200 ml (that is the size on my bar shelf). As you can see the label is taller than the cylindrical portion of the bottle which means that when you see the bitters on someone’s bar, the top portion of the label is likely to be compressed or folded down to the shape of the neck, I am not really sure how this style of label became popular for bitters (other companies like Fees Brothers use a similar style) but I have never liked the look which seems messy and unkempt.

As you will see when you read my review though, that is about the only thing about these bitters that I do not like.

If you put a drop of Angostura Aromatic Bitters on your tongue instead of in your cocktail, you will find that they have a very complex, bold and yes, quite bitter, flavour. You can taste cloves and hints of cinnamon, bits of cocoa and what I can only describe as a woody flavour akin to cedar. Frankly, they do not seem tasty at all in the raw form. However, if a few drops are added to a cocktail the dilution of the flavour combined with the flavours within the mixed drink can lead to a remarkable result.

Angostura Aromatic Bitters are in some sense the grand-daddy of the bitters world at least as far as cocktails go. Their creation preceded the introduction of cocktails by about 50 years and they quickly became a key ingredient of perhaps the most famous cocktail in history, the Old Fashioned Cocktail. The recipe has stood the test of time, and today Angostura bitters served within that Old Fashioned Cocktail seems to be as popular as ever.

However, it is not just in the Old Fashioned Cocktail, that the Angostura Aromatic Bitters shine. The bitters are called for by name in most bartending books for the construction of such classic cocktails as the Negroni, the Side Car, and the Manhattan.

And it is not just in classic cocktails that these bitters shine, if you are like me and like to enjoy a Bourbon and Cola, add a few drops of Angostura’s Bitters and you will be surprised at how much better the serving tastes. Or shake up a popular cocktail, Add a drop or two to a Daiquiri, or a Martini (actually pretty much any popular cocktail serving) and the chances are the new serving will be to your liking.

There may be an explosion of bitters on the market now, but Angostura Aromatic Bitters are the standard from which they will all be measured,

My score is 96/100, the only fault being the clumsy label. The Aromatic Bitters are not only delicious in Old Fashioned Cocktails, their versatility brings a bold complementary taste to virtually every style of cocktail.

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Suggested Serving;

This is a serving usually credited to Leo Engels, an American bartender (working in London) who published the recipe in 1978 (recipe number 192 by the way) in his cocktail book, American and Other Drinks. The recipe bears a resemblance to the modern Sidecar, but with a significant difference. Mr. Engels used a huge portion of Angostura Bitters in his mixed drink, and I do mean a huge portion. This is not for the faint of hear, but sometimes it is quite acceptable to be brave and bold.

Alabazam SAM_1052

Alabazam

Half a wine glass of Brandy (about 1 3/4 oz)
2 teaspoons Orange Curacao
1 teaspoon Angostura Aromatic Bitters
1 teaspoon White Sugar
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice

Shake well over fine (crushed ) ice
Strain into a wine glass

Enjoy Responsibly!

I have seen a few modern versions of the recipe, usually with the bitters toned down and the teaspoon of sugar replaced with a teaspoon of simple syrup. However, I recommend the original construction as well as the use of a robust brandy which will stand up to the bitters.

In the photo above I used Miguel Torres 20 Hors d’âge Brandy (see review here), which with its strong oak flavour running throughout works very well with the heavy dose of bitters. I also used the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (see review here) to obtain as close to an original 1878 Curacao flavour as possible. Do not skimp on the sugar, as the lemon juice and bitters are unforgiving if not balanced by the appropriate amount of sweetness.

Note: If  you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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You may (loosely) interpret the scores I provide as follows:

0-50 A concoction which if it doesn’t kill you will make you very ill indeed!
50-59 Not deadly, but not really useful either.
60-69 Limited appeal but useful for some cocktail styles.
70-79 Useful and versatile
80-89 Excellent/bold flavour enhancement for a variety of cocktails
90-94 A must-have addition to your home bar
95+ Turns your cocktail into the Elixir of the Gods!

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal
90 – 95         Gold Medal
95.5+            Platinum Award

 

 

 

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