Bitters are the salt and pepper of the cocktail world. Made by steeping things like herbs, roots, citrus peels, seeds, spices, flowers and barks in high-proof alcohol, the potent, concentrated flavoring agents marry ingredients and bring balance to cocktails. Here, everything you need to know about these cocktail staples.
The History of Bitters
The use of bitters in mixology dates back to one of the first printed mentions of a cocktail from an early 1800s issue of The Balance, and Columbian Repository of Hudson, NY, which defined a cocktail as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” But bitters existed long before cocktails were in vogue.
In the 1700s, bitters were consumed straight for medicinal purposes as a cure-all for everything from headaches to indigestion. They were considered a “patent medicine,” an over-the-counter remedy advertised for medical integrity without regard to actual effectiveness.