The bitters suite

illustration by mark stivers

Angostura bitters, a classic alcohol made from gentian root and flavored with various spices, is a necessity for any home bartender. The tonic has the ability to give cocktails depth of flavor and character. However, it’s also indispensable for the home cook and baker.

Angostura’s unique flavor profile can do wonders for any number of dishes. Simple sugar cookies laced with a teaspoon or two of bitters become imbued with fragrant notes of cassia and Seville orange. A tablespoon used in jam recipes enhances the flavors of the fruit and creates intrigue within the possibly one-dimensional preserve. The secret to my upside-down cranberry cake is a hefty shake or two of bitters, as the spicy and herby flavors entice the palate like a warm fire on a chilly night. Chutneys, vinaigrettes and marinades for chicken and pork also benefit from a slight bit of bitters.

If you’re unsure how angostura bitters tastes, simply add a teaspoon to a half cup of room-temperature water. Sip and smell until you have a grasp of the flavor of the bitters. Afterward, feel free to utilize it in every aspect of your cooking.