the appetizer:

Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails by Simon Difford, includes information like Cocktail History and Angostura Bitters and cocktail recipes like East India, The Lady Wears Red, Navy Grog, Negroni, and Pisco Sour.

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Angostura Bitters

by Simon Difford

Angostura Bitters


Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert (1796-1870) was a German doctor who sought adventure and, it would seem, liked a battle. He tended troops in the Napoleonic Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo, and during the independence wars in Venezuela, It was here he chose to settle after being appointed Surgeon-General of a military hospital in the town of Angostura.

Siegert's fellow settlers suffered chronic stomach complaints, partly due to the forced change in diet. So in 1820 the good doctor began experimenting with gentian root and other aromatic herbs, In 1824 he created the now famous bitters, which he originally called Amargo Aromatico and used them to treat stomach disorders and indigestion.

Siegert soon changed the name of his creation to Angostura, after the town where he was working (not, as is often presumed, after Angostura bark, which is not an ingredient), The town (now called Ciudad Bolivar) was in turn named after the native word for narrow, a reference to the nearby Orinoco River, which was reduced to a trickle in summer months, When the doctor died in 1870, production of the bitters was taken over by his sons who, in 1875, due to unrest in Venezuela, moved to Trinidad.

The truth behind Angostura's quirky packaging stems from the Caribbean's laid-back attitude. One day a new batch of labels was ordered and a simple mistake led to them being too big for the bottles. The error was spotted in time but everyone thought somebody else would deal with the problem. No one did, so when the crunch came they simply stuck the labels on the bottles intending to fix the next batch. No one quite got round to it and the oversized label became a trademark of the brand,

Angostura Aromatic Bitters are used in a great number of cocktails and cooking and are even great over vanilla ice cream.


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This page created December 2009