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A bottle of Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Angostura bitters, often simply referred to as angostura, is a concentrated bitters for food and beverages made of water, alcohol, gentian root, and vegetable flavoring extracts by House of Angostura in the country of Trinidad and Tobagomarker. Despite having an alcohol content of 44.7%, Angostura is not classed as an alcoholic beverage in the U.K. in line with laws on other bitters. The distinctive bottle is easily recognisable due to its oversized label.

The recipe was developed as a tonic by Germanmarker Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, a Surgeon General in Simon Bolivar's army in Venezuelamarker, who began to sell it in 1824. Siegert was based in Ciudad BolĂ­varmarker which was then known as Angostura, and used locally available ingredients. Perhaps he drew on the botanical knowledge of the local Amerindians. The exact formula is a closely guarded secret, with only five people knowing the whole recipe.

As Angostura bitters are extremely concentrated, they are not normally drunk purely, but used to flavour drinks and food; usually only a few drops or dashes are used.

Angostura bitters are a key ingredient in many cocktails. Originally used to mask the flavour of quinine in tonic water along 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; and the Manhattan, made with whiskey and sweet (Italian) 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. Bitters can also be used in soft drinks - a common non-alcoholic drink served in Australian pubs is lemon, lime and bitters. An approximation of ginger ale (as a drink mixer) can be made by filling a glass, almost to the top, with lemon-lime soda, adding a splash or two of cola, and then adding a couple dashes of Angostura bitters.

Angostura bitters are alleged to have restorative properties. It was reported to be a remedy for hiccups, and also can be used as a cure for an upset stomach.

Angostura bitters is often believed to have poisonous qualities because of the use of Angostura bark in the bitters. Angostura bark is itself not toxic but during its use as a medicine it was often tainted by unscrupulous sellers who padded out the sacks of bark with Strychnos nux-vomica or copalchi bark in order to make more profit. Angostura bitters do not actually contain angostura bark.

Angostura bitters will also stain fabrics and many other surfaces. If the stain is left to dry, it cannot be removed.

See also


  2. Raymond, J. "Mysteries in Angostura Museum: Story of founder Dr. Siegert comes to life", Trinidad Guardian January 10, 2000
  3. "Bitters: The World's Best Kept Secret (205)"
  4. "Earthnotes - Herb Library"

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