In the 18th century, bitters were advertised as the cure for what ails you. Have a headache?Bitters. Stomach cramps? Bitters. While their usage has shifted, their popularity didn’t boom until recently. (As of 2004 there were only three brands of bitters sold commercially.) In years past, a lonely bottle of Angostura cloaked in its oversized label would hold court on the back bar, but times have changed. The roots, barks, spices, herbs, flowers, botanicals, and fruit peels that were once used as medicine have found a new home, shaken or stirred. Centuries after their cure-all days, bitters have finally gone mainstream.
From Trinidad, with love, Angostura aromatic bitters set the stage for two of the most-ordered cocktails in the world: the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan. Whiskey drinks as subtle and smooth as these deserve a fatty, pungent partner, and don’t be afraid to let the Penicillium roqueforti run wild when pairing.
Drawing inspiration from Regan’s No. 6 Orange Bitters, two women in Portland, Oregon developed a citrus-forward bitter with hints of spice and vanilla. The Bitter Housewife’s Cardamom Bitters are perfect for any cocktail or mocktail that calls for citrus peel. These surprisingly savory bitters yearn for a creamy, salty wedge—look no further than sheep’s milk to complement their complexity.
There’s no shortage of creativity from this Atlanta-based bitters maker. A name inspired by the rise and fall of prohibition in America, 18.21 strives to make bitters for wild cocktails as well as flavorful mocktails. Push the limits of a classic cocktail like a Moscow mule, or invent anew take on a raspberry-lime rickey. Strong heat and a tingly sensation on the tongue require a velvety, soothing cheese.