Words by Simon Difford
I've heard it said, "You can tell a newly opened cocktail bar is successful when they need a second bottle of Angostura." Over 500 cocktails on this website include Angostura Aromatic Bitters in their recipe and, whether in the distinctive bottle with its oversized label or decanted into a curvy Japanese bitters bottle, pretty much every cocktail bar in the world has Angostura.
Convention, and indeed UK Customs & Excise, has it that Angostura Aromatic Bitters are only consumed in drops and dashes. Hence, although Angostura Aromatic Bitters have a whopping 44.7% alcohol-by-volume, they are exempt from alcohol duty due to being considered unpotable. Well, not according to Charles H. Baker Jr.'s 1939 travelogue, The Gentleman's Companion, which includes a recipe for "The Angostura Fizz, sometimes called the Trinidad Fizz", a cocktail with "1 pony of Angostura bitters", equivalent to around 30ml or 1 fluid ounce.
As Baker Jr. so eloquently explains, "Angostura was originated as a tonic, a simple to ward off fevers, miasmas, tropical swamp mists, and the general assortment of mauve willies that beset Nordics under the equator–and the content of quinine or cinchona definitely had virtue along this line. However, as is so often the case with truly worth-while ventures, fate stuck her tongue in cheek, and decreed that the bitters invented for health should not only to be one of the best titillaters of the jaded appetite, but by far the best priceless ingredient in all sorts of cocktails and mixed drinks; as well as in many of the tastiest exotic food recipes we have sampled around the world."
Angostura Aromatic Bitters are indeed a tasty addition to many dishes and in Trinidad, the home of Angostura, they douse just about everything, including ice-cream with lashings of bitters. But dear Discerning Drinker, Difford's Guide is about cocktails rather than food recipes and this page is dedicated to those that include Angostura, some with shots than mere dashes...
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, rye whiskey, orgeat syrup and lemon juice.
We say: This deep lurid reddy-brown cocktail won't be to everybody's taste but that's only to be expected with one-and-a-half shots of bitters. However, if you like cough candy then perhaps this cocktail is for you.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, blended and aged 3-5yo med-bodied molassesrum, orgeat syrup, cinnamon syrup, pineapple juice & lime juice
We say: It's not a mistake, this cocktail does indeed contain a whooping 45ml (1½oz) and 30ml (1oz) flavoured sugar syrups. Yet, in a larger-than life way, it is balanced and drinkable, although I wouldn't order a second.
Port of Spain Cocktail
With: Rye whiskey, angostura aromatic bitters, pimento dram liqueur, lemon juice, grenadine syrup & egg white
We say: Unusual in its bold use of a half shot of Angostura Bitters. In Knee High Bar in Seattle, USA I've tried this cocktail made with a massive one-and-a-half shots. However, half a shot seems more than generous.
A Moment of Silence
With: Italian red bitter liqueur, rye whiskey, apricot brandy liqueur, amaro, Angostura Aromatic bitters & apple brandy
We say: With a whopping 15ml of bitters on top of 15ml amaro and a punchy 45ml high proof rye, this cocktail perhaps would have been named "Momentary Lapse of Reason" after the Pink Floyd Track. Rich apricot brandy rounds and mellows to make a surprisingly approachable drink.
Port of Spain (by Dominic Alling)
With: Mezcal, orgeat syrup, lime juice & angostura aromatic bitters
We say: Named after the capital city of Trinidad, the home of Angostura Bitters, and fittingly this cocktail calls for a monster half an ounce of bitters. Despite this, it is incredibly easy to drink, particularly as an after-dinner digestive.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, pisco, orgeat syrup and lime juice.
We say: This deep reddy-brown bittersweet drink is based upon sweet almond syrup balancing bitter notes from the Angostura and lime tartness. With a whole shot of Angostura, this cocktail is most unusual.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, genever, pineapple juice, lemon juice and orgeat syrup.
We say: One of those Angostura heavy (very heavy) cocktails intuition says just shouldn't work (the name's misspelt for starters), but thanks to the rich balancing properties of almond syrup and pineapple it is not only balanced but good. The genever base justifies the name and adds its distinctive character.
You're Not My Real Trinidad
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, Pedro Ximénez sherry, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, and lime juice.
We say: Bittersweet, spicy and fruity – Reggae Tiki in style, if indeed there is such a cocktail style?
Trinidad Colada (Angostura Colada)
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, Overproof aged Jamaican pot-still rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, cream of coconut.
We say: An indulgent use of bitters to produce an equally indulgent and a tad challenging cocktail.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, sugar syrup, grenadine, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, cream, and soda water.
We say: You are either going to love this or view it as some kind or kill or cure hangover cure, as conveyed by Charles H. Baker in his 1939 The Gentleman's Companion volume II from where this recipe originates.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, Speyside single malt Scotch whisky, Islay single malt Scotch whisky, blackcurrant liqueur and Antica Formula.
We say: Scotch malt whisky, and particularly Islay single malt balance and work brilliantly with rich crème de cassis and Antica Formula, helped by a generous dose of Trinidadian bitters.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, sugar cube, cognac, sugar syrup, brut champagne and Green Chartreuse.
We say: A frappé version of the Classic Champagne Cocktail which is given extra interest courtesy of a Chartreuse float.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, Navy rum, light rum, orange cognac liqueur, apricot brandy, orgeat syrup, lime juice, pineapple juice, orange juice and Wood's 100 rum.
We say: The drink breaks the golden rule – simple is beautiful. However, it's tasty and packs a punch.
Queen's Park Swizzle
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, mint leaves, light rum, lime juice and demerara sugar.
We say: This close relation to the Mojito is drier, more complex and tad less minty than its sibling.
Queen's Park Hotel Super Cocktail
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, light rum, sweet vermouth, lime juice and grenadine syrup.
We say: Perhaps best described as being a Trinidadian Daiquiri due to its heavy use of Angostura Bitters.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, dry gin, chilled water and sugar syrup.
We say: Hit the perfect balance and dilution and this is a great drink, but it's an equilibrium that's tricky to attain.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, dark rum, amaro, agave syrup and Orange Bitters by Angostura.
We say: Bittersweet, dark pungent rum is lightly sweetened and aromatised and bittered amaro and bitters duo. A sharpener of an aperitivo.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and cognac.
We say: A twist on the classic Harvard, or brandy-based Manhattan.
Pink Gin & Tonic
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, dry gin and tonic water.
We say: Basically a G&T with an extra pep of flavour from bitters, this has a broader appeal than the original Pink Gin.
With: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, cognac, rye whiskey, amaro and falernum liqueur.
We say: Manhattan-esque, boozy and delicately spiced.
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