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All about bitters
A short story of bitters
Bitters were already popular in the 19th century for medicinal purposes when recipes for them began to appear in many publications targeted at pharmacists. While this may sound strange, the reason is that people considered this strongly-flavored liquor a healing tonic. In 1862, the renowned bartender Jerry Thomas mentioned them in his book "How to Mix Drinks," so these aromatic bitters officially entered the world of liquor, not as the main ingredient but as a flavoring agent in cocktails.
Around the end of the 19th century, bitters were popular in what people back then called a dry martini: half gin, half dry vermouth and a few drops of elegant bitters. Needless to say, this drink often ended the party before it had even started! Bitters were the protagonists of many other cocktail recipes, with fancy names such as "bijou" and "opera," which featured different bar mixers and liquors. After the Prohibition era, around the 1930s, bitters started to decline in popularity, and, by the 1960s, nobody seemed to drink them anymore. In the 1990s, bitters became popular once again as a flavorful addition to cocktails.
What are orange bitters?
Orange peel is the main ingredient in orange bitters, and it imparts to the drink most of its flavor. Most producers use oranges from Seville and the West Indies, the same ones used in triple sec, to achieve the best possible taste. Some orange-flavored varieties have sweet and fruity notes, while others tend to be drier. Spicy bitters offer different notes derived from herbs and spices such as gentian, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. In short, each brand of bitters has a slightly different taste.