Mix It Up: A Bitter Opportunity

"Many professionals with whom I've discussed the Angostura shortage see it as I do—an opportunity."

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By now, you've probably heard the news that there is a shortage in Angostura bitters, due to a problem with their bottle supplier—and with such dramatic headlines as "Manhattan Cocktail Faces Bitter End," one could envision a cocktail tragedy of epic proportions. There have been reports of bartenders paying exorbitant sums for Angostura bitters, hoarding the stuff, scouring the city's shelves to find one lonely bottle—general panic in the bartending community.

Bitters are an aptly named bitter-tasting concoction, often flavored with herbs and citrus, originally used for medicinal purposes; these days, they're used in many cocktails to add a subtle hint of flavor. When a cocktail isn't quite working out the way you'd like it, expert bartenders have told me, a few dashes of bitters can bring it all together. Angostura bitters, made by the House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago using the bark of the same name, are among the most widely used bitters out there.

Great replacements, and a cocktail recipe, after the jump.

Truth be told, many professionals with whom I've discussed the Angostura shortage see this as I do—an opportunity. It gives them a chance to branch out from Angostura, taking advantage of the other amazing bitters on the market.

As a home bartender, I'd urge you to do the same. First of all, if you've got a bottle of Angostura on hand, you likely have enough to carry you through the "crisis." (Hell, I have two—let me know if you want one.) Bitters are most often used sparingly in drinks, although from time to time they pop up in larger quantities; the most I've seen in any one drink is 1/4 ounce.

20100128feebros.jpgFee Brothers makes a line of bitters, many of which are available at Kalustyans, including Lemon, Grapefruit, Rhubarb, Peach, Mint, Cherry, Old Fashion, Aztec Chocolate, and Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. While you're there, you can also find Bitter Truth bitters, which recently paired up with Bittermens to bring you the Bittermens Grapefruit Bitters and Xocolatl Mole Bitters in addition to their own line: Celery, Lemon, Orange, and Old Time Aromatic Bitters. And don't forget Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6 and the traditional Creole Peychauds Bitters.

Finally, you can also make your own bitters—limited only by your own creativity. (New Yorkers can learn how at the Brooklyn Kitchen.)

That should give you enough to play with for now, although Angostura's bottling troubles appear to be resolving, and bottles should start re-appearing shortly. A champagne cocktail is a fairly simple drink that will allow the flavor profile of each type of bitters to subtly peek through. If you're looking for an Angostura replacement, Bitter Truth recommends The Bitter Truth's Old Time Aromatic Bitters as an alternative in their Champagne Cocktail recipe—but feel free to experiment.

Champagne Cocktail

Ingredients

Sugar cube
The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters
Champagne
Lemon peel

Procedure

In the bottom of a champagne flute, soak sugar cube with The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters. Top with chilled Champagne. Garnish with lemon peel.

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