Serious Eats: Drinks

Cocktail Trend: More Than A Dash of Bitters

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[Photo: Robyn Lee]

When asked about current cocktail trends, Theo Lieberman of Lantern's Keep and Milk & Honey offered a few we expected—the return to a focus on simple, great cocktails, and the end of twelve-ingredient drinks, for one. "I hope people will start to explore the simple things behind the bar more deeply," he said. He also noted the rise of sherry cocktails, particularly cobblers, citing an especially delicious one at The Beagle in New York's East Village. "Sherry is killing it," said Lieberman. But Lieberman also said that he's been seeing a rise of drinks that call for more than just a dash of bitters. Cocktails with bitters so prominent they can be measured in ounces are starting to pop up around the country.

Bitters are often thought of as the salt and pepper of the cocktail world, adding just a touch of spice to focus and deepen the flavors of a drink. It makes sense to use them sparingly—a 4-ounce bottle of Angostura can sell for $9 or more, and it's potent stuff, so a drop or two goes a long way. "But we're living in an age of extreme ingredients," says Lieberman, "everywhere you look, there's pork belly." So perhaps the time for the extreme use of bitters has come.

Like most trends in the cocktail world today, there's a historical precedent for bitters-centric cocktails. Charles H. Baker included an Angostura Fizz in his Gentleman's Companion (according to Brad Thomas Parsons, the cocktail also appeared in the 1908 Dr. Siegert's Angostura Bitters Recipe Booklet.) And the Angostura Fizz sounds pretty good: an ounce each of Angostura and fresh lime, a quarter ounce each of simple syrup and grenadine, half an ounce of cream, shaken with an eggwhite until frothy and topped off with seltzer.

Drinks based on bitters need something to balance their intensity: in the case of Giuseppe Gonzales of Clover Club's Trinidad Sour, 1.5 ounces of Angostura are offset by an equal amount of orgeat, an ounce of lemon, and a half-ounce of rye. Kirk Estopinal of Cure in New Orleans makes a Peychaud's-based cocktail called the Gunshop Fizz, which tames the bitters with lemon, simple syrup, orange and grapefruit peel, plus muddled strawberries and cucumber.

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[Photograph: Alice Gao]

Theo Lieberman's been playing around with the idea, too. The result: The Dutchess, an Angostura based drink made rich with malty genever, orgeat, and pineapple, with freshly squeezed lemon for brightness. The flavors come together beautifully, and it's deceptively rich—upon first sip, you'll guess that there's eggwhite involved.

Get the Recipe

The Dutchess »

Have you tried any drinks with serious doses of bitters? Tell us about them!


Related:

All About Bitters: History and a Comeback
All About Bitters, Part 2: Angostura an Peychaud's
All About Orange Bitters
Serious Reads: Bitters, A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All by Brad Thomas Parsons
How to Make Your Own Cocktail Bitters: Krangostura
How to Make Your Own Orange Bitters

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