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What Is Angostura Bitters?

Orange peel, one of the ingredients in Angostura® bitters.
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  • Written By: Laura Evans
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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While bitters was originally developed to be a medicine, today bitters is an alcoholic beverage that people typically drink as a digestif to help the body digest foods after a meal or as an additive to flavor other alcoholic beverages. Angostura® bitters was developed as a medication to treat hiccups and digestive problems, but is more often used today as an ingredient in baking and cooking, or as an ingredient in other alcoholic beverages. The recipe of Angostura® bitters continues to be one of the world's most guarded trade secrets.

In 1820, German medical doctor Johann Siegert moved to Venezuela in hopes of assisting Simon Bolivar to overthrow the Spanish rulers of the South American country. While developing a tonic was not Dr. Siegert's primary motivation for moving to Venezuela, he was concerned about the number of people who came down with severe fevers and stomach problems. These medical problems were having a negative impact on the revolution because so many soldiers became ill. By 1824, Dr. Siegert developed his "Amargo Aromatico" from tropical plants and herbs that he had located. The bitters was successful enough that the product began being exported to England and Trinidad in 1830.

Politics in Venezuela continued to be problematic. As a result, Dr. Siegert eventually moved Angostura® bitters production to Trinidad, where this bitters continues to be made today. In addition to Angostura® bitters, the House of Angostura is known for its rum.

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Bitters may contain ingredients such as quinine, angostura bark, yarrow flowers, cassia and orange peel. Although the same Angostura® bitters recipe that Dr. Siegert developed is still in use and continues to be a secret, it is thought that as many as 40 ingredients or more are used to make the liquor. Some of the ingredients known to be in Angostura® include gentian root, cassia, and cinchona bark. Angostura® bitters also has an alcoholic content of almost 45 percent.

Angostura® bitters can be used in a variety recipes from the beginning of a meal to the very last bite eaten. This bitters works particularly well with poultry. The bitters is often used in puddings for dessert. People also use Angostura® to spice Caribbean dishes.

People do not typically drink Angostura® alone. Angostura® bitters is more often an ingredient in other alcoholic beverages. Rob Roys, Manhattan Drys, Champagne Cocktails and Old Fashioneds are among the drinks that can include Angostura®. Other beverages that use the bitters include the Genuine Singapore Sling, the Moulin Rouge and the Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker.

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Discuss this Article

anon135864
Post 1

is there a "shelf life" to angostura bitters? my bottle seems to have lasted almost forever, but I don't want to poison anyone either.

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