15 Oct


A bitter is an alcoholic beverage flavored with herbal essences and has a bitter or bittersweet flavor. Numerous brands of bitters were formerly marketed as patent medicines, but are now considered to be digestifs, rather than medicines. They commonly have an alcoholic strength of 45% ABV and are used as digestifs and as flavoring in cocktails. Many are served as aperitifs also.

Best known bitters:

Angosture bitter:

Angostura was the inspiration of German doctor Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert. He served as a surgeon with the Prussian army and a veteran of the Napoleonic war. He went to Venezuela to help Simon Bolivar liberate Bolivia from the Spanish and settled in Venezuelan town of Angostura, where he invented his aromatic medicine in 1824. By 1830 the bitter was being marketed worldwide. In 1846 the town of Angostura was renamed Ciudad Bolivar. With the death of Siegert in 1870 and the worsening political climate in Venezuela, the Siegert sons decided in 1875 to move the house to Trinidad, and Angostura has been made there ever since.. Angostura has a base of rum and is flavoured with gentian and vegetable spice. The alcoholic content is 44.7 %. It is a flavoured ingredient in many cocktails and mixed drinks and is often used to add flavor to soups and sauces.

Amer Picon:

This is a French bitter, an extract of distilled spirit, quinine, oranges and herbs. It was invented in 1835 by a French army officer, Gaston Picon, as an antidote to malaria. It is especially popular in France where it is drunk as an aperitif with gin or with soda and ice.


Campari is a very popular bitters and more pleasant to drink than most other bitters. It is vivid red in colour and usually taken with ice, soda and slice of lemon or orange. You must stir the drink or the ingredients with separate. There are also two classic cocktails made with compare. One is the American which is made up of equal measures of compare and red Italian vermouth with ice and soda water added. The other is Negroni which consist of equal parts of compare, sweet red Italian vermouth and Gin. All the ingredients are stirred well and chilled with ice cubes. Compari is the world’s best selling bitters. It was produced in Milan in 1862 by Gaspere Campari, a famous restaurateur. Alcohol content is 25 percent.

Echt Stonsdorfer

This was created in Germany by the distiller Christian Koerner in 1810. This bitter is made from 43 different ingredients including wood-blueberries. It has a fruity. Bitter taste.

Fernet Branca

This has been made in Milan since 1845, but it is now also made under license in France, Switzerland, the United States and Argentina. The recipe call for 30 different herbs and roots including Chinese rhubarb. Gentian, chamomile, saffron and ginger. These are steeped in white wine and brandy and the infusion is aged in cask for at least a year.

Branca Menta

A more palatable mint-flavoured version of the brand, it is usually drunk as a Highball, that is with soda water or ginger ale. Both styles have an alcoholic strength of 40 percent.

Gammel Dansk Bitter Dram

This is made in Roskilde, Denmark, from 29 ingredients including gentian and brown berries. It is the biggest selling spirit in Denmark.


This Italian bitter was first made in Milan in 1815 by herbalist Ausano Ramazzotti. He infused 33 different roots and herbs in alcohol. The ingredients include gentian, angelica, chinchona bark, anise, iris and fruit peel.
Riga Black Balsam
A popular Latvian bitters, this was first produced In the eighteenth centaury by a pharmacist from Riga called Abraham Kunze. It is made from 16 ingredients which include raspberries, mint, honey, worm-wood, and the blossom of lime trees. It has a high alcohol content of 45 percent and is sold in attractive ceramic bottles.


Underberg is promoted as an aid to digestion, but it is also to be recommended as an aperitif or as an hangover cure. Hubert Underberg formulated this company in Rheinberg, Germany, in 1846. He created his elixir from choice aromatic herbs which are carefully selected from 43 countries. These are blended with brandy and are left to mature in barrels of Slovenian oak for many months. In 1940 the drink was first sold in tiny bottles holding single-nip portions of 2 centilitres. You are meant to swallow the contents in one gulp- or you may prefer to add soda water as Underberg has an alcoholic strength of 45 percent. Underberg is now also produced in Zurich and Vienna.

Zwack Unicum

This famous Hungarian bitters was created by Jozsef Zwack in 1790. Following the takeover of Hungary by the communists the Zwacks went into exile in 1942 in the United States and Unicum was then made in Italy. In 1990 Peter Zwack returned to Hungary where Unicum is made once again from the original recipe using 40 botanicals. The alcohol strength is 42 percent.

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