Angostura bitters, or simply angostura if you like, are a concentrated bitters for beverages and foods made of spices and herbs, and which have a bittersweet or bitter flavor. In other words, Angostura bitters are distilled alcoholic drinks infused with very strong aromatic roots and herbs. Some of the ingredients used in Angostura include orange peels, quinine, gentian and Angostura bark.
Angostura bitters have an alcohol content of 45%, but are not classified as alcoholic beverages, at least not in the U.K, according to bitters law. Since Angostura bitters are known to be very concentrated, most people only use a few dashes or drops at a time to flavor foods and drinks. They can never be consumed purely on their own; neither can they be used in large quantities. Angostura bitters are believed to possess restorative properties, which help enhance and restore lost appetite, cure hiccups and to also cure stomach upsets.
Angostura bitters recipe dates back to 1824, when a German Surgeon, Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siergert developed it as a tonic, in Simon Bolivar army in Venezuela. It is said that the surgeon took four years to come up with the recipe to perk up the appetite, and improve the general well-being of the soldiers. Siergert was by that time based in Ciudad Bolivar, which was then identified as Angostura - hence the name of the beverage.
Although the original formula of the recipe is unknown, as it remains a strictly guarded secret only known to five people, it is speculated that the recipe contained over 40 ingredients. Angostura bitters was primarily meant to conceal the flavor of quinine in the tonic water but, today, Angostura bitters form a key constituent in many cocktails like Long Vodka (constituting vodka, lemonade, and Angostura bitters) and Manhattan (constituting sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters and whiskey).
Similarly, a few drops of Angostura bitters form a perfect combination with coffee, sauces and soups, ice creams, fruit juices, fresh fruit salads and seasonings and marinades, (particularly for meat recipes). Various brands of Angostura, which were initially sold as medicine, are available today as aperitifs or digestifs to boost the appetite or settle a constipated stomach after a meal or alcoholic intemperance.
Angostura Bitters can be bought in most of the grocery stores, either as beverage mixers like grenadine or as condiments such as the Worcestershire sauce. Just like salt would enhance the sweetness of a fruit like melon, a few dashes of Angostura bitters can enhance the sweetness of ingredients found in many of the common recipes.
On the other hand, angostura aromatic bitters are very concentrated food and beverage unique flavor enhancers used to enhance the flavors, without necessarily masking the taste of either the beverages or the foods used. Angostura bitters are claret in color, with a unique herby smell and taste.
Be advised that Angostura bitters, even though they are classified as non-alcoholic beverages, should never be used by people who have an allergic reaction to any kind alcoholic beverage, regardless of the alcoholic content of the beverage in question.
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