The sweet side of bitters
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    Photo by John Meguerian / North by Northwestern

    How come drinks always taste better in bars? Maybe it’s just your body trying to convince you that those 14 bucks really were well-spent, or perhaps you still stock your kitchen with Skol. No shame. More likely though, you’re just overlooking some of the smaller stuff, the little touches that make a good drink great.  

    Enter Angostura bitters, an odd little liquid that only really makes sense once you start treating the process of mixing drinks more like gourmet cooking. Bitters are the spices of the drinking world, the pinch of salt that makes or breaks a dish. Accordingly, mixing in more than a dash or two of bitters is tantamount to filling a baked potato with pepper; the taste of the bitters will readily overpower everything else. But in moderation, the cinnamon-y, sour taste of the (rather inaptly named) bitters can accentuate all the other flavors in the mix and leave you with a restaurant quality drink. 

    As if that weren’t reason enough to keep a bottle in your pantry, Angostura bitters supposedly have curative properties. Originally developed in Venezuela to cure soldiers’ stomach disorders, the unique recipe has stayed pretty much the same for nearly 200 years. The bottle rather boldly claims that one may also use bitters in “soups, cereals, salads, gravies, jellies, apple sauce and all similar desserts.”  Herbs steeped in booze: What’s not to love?

    Old-Fashioned

    1½ ounces bourbon, scotch or rye whiskey

    1 sugar cube

    2 dashes Angostura bitters

    1 splash soda water

    1 orange slice

    1 lemon

    2 maraschino cherries

    1. Place sugar cube in glass and saturate with bitter. 

    2. Add a splash of soda water, and stir until the sugar dissolves. 

    3. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add whiskey. 

    4. Garnish with orange slice, lemon twist and two maraschino cherries.

    Singapore Sling

    1½ ounces gin

    2/3 ounce cherry brandy

    1/6 ounce Cointreau

    1/3 ounce grenadine

    1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice

    1 ounce fresh lemon juice

    1 dash Angostura bitters

    1. Pour all ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. 

    2. Shake well. 

    3. Strain into highball glass. 

    4. Garnish with pineapple.

    Manhattan

    1 2/3 ounces rye or Canadian whiskey

    2/3 ounce red vermouth

    1 dash Angostura bitters

    1. Pour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. 

    2. Stir well. 

    3. Strain into chilled martini or cocktail glass. 

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