Angostura Aromatic Bitters is a household name when it comes to cocktails, but its history stretches back over 200 years. The bitters, which are known for their distinctive flavor and dark brown color, were first created by a German doctor named Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert in the town of Angostura, Venezuela (now Ciudad Bolívar) in the early 19th century.
Siegert was a surgeon general in the army of Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan military and political leader who played a key role in the Spanish American wars of independence. While working in Angostura, Siegert noticed that many of the soldiers under his care were suffering from stomach issues, likely due to the poor quality of the water and food in the region. In an effort to find a cure for these ailments, he began experimenting with various plants and herbs in an attempt to create a medicinal tonic.
After years of experimentation, Siegert finally hit upon a winning formula: a blend of gentian, aromatic plants, and spices that he believed had digestive properties. He named the tonic "Amargo Aromatico," or Aromatic Bitters, and began selling it to local pharmacies as a cure-all for a variety of ailments, including indigestion, fever, and even the common cold.
As word of the tonic's effectiveness spread, Siegert's business began to grow, and he eventually moved his operations to the nearby city of Port of Spain, Trinidad. It was there that he began to focus on the production of bitters exclusively, and in 1830, he founded the House of Angostura to manufacture and sell his product.
Over the years, Angostura Aromatic Bitters has become known for its versatility in the world of cocktails. It is used as a flavor enhancer in a variety of mixed drinks, from classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan to more modern creations like the Zombie and the Southside.
One of the reasons for the bitters' enduring popularity is its unique flavor profile. Its key ingredient, gentian root, is known for its bitterness, while the blend of aromatic plants and spices adds depth and complexity to the flavor. The bitters are also relatively low in alcohol, with an ABV of around 44%, making them easy to use in a variety of cocktails without overpowering the other flavors.
In addition to its use in cocktails, Angostura Aromatic Bitters has a number of other uses in the culinary world. It is often used as a seasoning in savory dishes, such as soups and sauces, and it can also be added to desserts for a hint of complexity and depth of flavor.
Despite its widespread popularity, Angostura Aromatic Bitters remains a family-owned business to this day. It is currently run by the fifth generation of the Siegert family, and the company is still headquartered in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
In conclusion, Angostura Aromatic Bitters has a long and storied history dating back to the early 19th century. Created by a German doctor seeking to cure the stomach issues of soldiers in Venezuela, the bitters have since become a staple in the world of cocktails, known for their unique flavor and versatility. Today, they are still made by the Siegert family in Trinidad, and they continue to be a popular choice among mixologists and home bartenders alike.
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