Food & Wine

The secret of Angostura Bitters

The secret of Angostura Bitters

Produced since the 19th century, Angostura Aromatic Bitters have formed a key ingredient in bartender’s toolkit.

But, Angostura Bitters is also a source of national pride for the tiny twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago where it is now made.

Visitors will find its influence everywhere, from drinks to baked goods and traditional dishes. In Trinidadian families, Bitters is added as a flavouring in everything from stews to desserts.

As popular as it is, the recipe has been kept secret since its creation by Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, a German army surgeon, in 1824 while stationed in the Venezualan town of Angostura.

Only a few facts are known about it: that Seigert’s recipe, consisting of a suspension of herbs, barks, and spices, has remained unchanged; and that the alcohol base is close to 50 percent.

Though theories about its ingredients vary and continue to persist, the reality is less exciting.

Nowadays, a team of chemists produce Angostura Bitters at the House of Angostura in Spain, as well as the firm’s other products, including rum, orange bitters, and cocoa bitters.

But, the company is tight-lipped about everything from the ingredients to how much Bitters is shipped worldwide.

The small tidbits the House of Angostura has revealed include that it works as a mosquito repellant and that it stains porous surfaces so thoroughly that it has been used to stain wood by a Seattle bar owner.

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