Don’t be bitter, be better.
That’s an old saying that is often used in the world of sports, business and in life in general.
When it comes to our business, bitter is actually better, and for once I’m not talking about a big hoppy, bitter IPA. I’m talking about real bitters.
Bitters are an ingredient used in many different cocktails, but have you ever wondered why bitters make a cocktail better?
Simply put, bitters are like seasoning for cocktails. Just like salt and pepper gives your food an extra kick, bitters do the same for many different cocktails. Their flavour is usually bitter (as the name suggests), sour, or bittersweet.
The history of bitters isn’t known for sure, but the earliest records of them can be traced back to as far as ancient Egyptians who are said to have made wine infused with medicinal herbs.
Bitters as we know them today were originally developed as medicine, but eventually the use of them as medicinal herbs wasn’t such a popular idea and they began to be sold as digestifs with herbal properties and cocktail flavouring.
Bitters are typically made with cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel and cinchona bark and historically have been know for their aromatic herbs, bark, root and fruit flavours.
Bitters can be both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Bitters that have alcohol aren’t used for the effects alcohol creates but rather as an agent to dissolve botanical extracts and as a preservative. For example, in Europe and South America, bitters can often be served after a meal as a digestive, usually enjoyed on the rocks or neat.
In North America, we tend to use bitters more in cocktails, most notably the famous cocktail, The Old Fashioned that’s made by mixing bourbon, ice, orange peel, and bitters.
At Happy Hour, we stock bitters from a variety of companies including Angostura. This particular bitter was originally developed in Venezula in 1830 but is now made in Trinidad and Tobago. Angostura is made up of herbs and spices in the gentian family of plant. We’ll never know what it’s actually made of as the recipe is a close family secret with only one person knowing per generation. Agnostura is often used in whisky or gin based cocktails.
If you’re looking for something citrusy, we also carry Dashfire Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Bitters in our mixology section. These bitters will add a nice fruity touch to any cocktail.
Finally, we also have a selection of bitters from Lucky Bastard Distillers out of Saskatoon. Lacey’s Betta Bitters is made using 11 different botanicals and are great in a Manhattan or Sazerac. Or if you want to get a little wild, try Bowman’s Bacon Bettah Bitters. Lucky Bastard used a single malt whisky base with bacon, Canadian maple syrup, and black peppercorns among other botanicals for a unique taste that is great in Caesars.
So, now that you know a little more about bitters, how will you give them a try?