This month, 13 May, we celebrate World Cocktail Day, which marks the publication date of the first definition of a cocktail all the way back in 1806.
Defined by New York-based tabloid The Balance and Columbian Repository as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters”
You can’t talk about the history of cocktails without, of course, mentioning Angostura aromatic bitters.
We spoke to some of our favourite spirit enthusiasts to get their thoughts on what it is about ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters that makes it such a vital component of any cocktail.
First taste of Angostura
Any mixologist worth their salt will know the benefits of using bitters and specifically recognise ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters as an essential ingredient for a bar. It is also one of those ingredients that has been with us for our whole lives. For mixologist at cocktail lounge Zioux, Bheki Khumalo aka Jozi’s Dapper Bartender, his first introduction to the magic that is ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters was through his grandmother. “I remember how, from an early age, she would use a few drops in my soda water whenever we had an upset stomach.” Justin Shaw, of Art of Duplicity, who recently took second place at the Diego World Class Western Cape Regionals, too remembers it from his childhood. “A Rock Shandy with a squeeze of lemon juice was my go-to drink from Spur when I was about 7.”
A bartender’s best friend
ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters is truly the salt and pepper of the cocktail world. “Just like spices when you cook,” says Alecs Maai’ke Powrie, mixologist at Art of Duplicity and holder of the number one spot at the Diego World Class Western Cape Regionals. “ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters takes a drink from flat to layered in a few dashes.” Bheki wholeheartedly agrees, “It’s essential not only for aromatizing any drink but it also brings out the hidden notes in a cocktail.”
Award-winning editor and writer specialising in drinks and World’s 50 Best Bars Academy chair Leah van Deventer breaks it down for us, “ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters acts as a balancing agent, adding savoury notes to the sweet and/or sour elements that come from other ingredients, as well as tying the various flavours together. They also add complexity and depth, making a drink much more satisfying.”
But, for hospitality consultant, co-founder of TTB Beverage Solutions and barman at Tobago’s Bar at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, AJ Snetler, it’s about more than its role in creating complex cocktails, “It’s almost the first point of contact that any first-time bartender will have not only to the wonderful world of bitters but with the bar industry as well. In the sense that as a brand, Angostura not only provides flavour and balance but a great sense of community as well.”
Just a few drops changes everything
The recipe behind the world’s most famous bitters remains a secret, and ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters continues to intrigue and inspire bartenders and mixologists. “I really enjoy a good shot of ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters on its own, or in a good ginger beer with fresh lime,” adds AJ. “I have also recently found that it makes a great addition to a peri-peri chicken on the braai.” Bheki though keeps things simple. “It’s perfect in stirred drinks as it allows the ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters to open up spirit-forward drinks.” While Alecs says, “My favourite way to use Ango is in a Trinidad Sour! All out with the Ango!” Justin, however, uses it in the most unlikely of places… his dessert. “A couple splashes on some vanilla ice cream and you elevate the humble dessert.”
Raise a glass
So, how will they be celebrating World Cocktail Day? With ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters of course. “I’m a huge fan of a Manhattan and Old Fashioned, both of which require good quality bitters like ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters,” exclaims Leah. Alecs and Justin say they will be whipping up a Whiskey Sour. Says Alecs, “It complements all kinds of whiskey and just levels it up.” And Justin agrees, “In my opinion, you can’t make a good sours without bitters.”
As Mark Twain once said, “Nothing but Angostura Bitters will do.” And who are we to argue with the Father of American Literature. So, raise a glass this World Cocktail Day with an Angostura aromatic bitters cocktail.
- For more information on the Angostura range and delicious food and cocktail recipes please visit www.angosturabitters.com.