Go Bold With Bitters in the Trinidad Spell


Photographs: Elana Lepkowski

Get the Recipe

Back in the early 2000s a few bartenders expanded our use of bitters from a few spare dashes to upwards of a whole ounce in cocktails such as the Trinidad Especial and the Trinidad Sour (Trinidad being the origin country of Angostura, the bitters of choice in these drinks). But using bitters as a base instead of an accent goes back much further—look at the 1939 recipe for Charles H. Baker's Angostura Fizz and you'll also find bitters being measured out to a full ounce.


That big a dose of bitters may have you nervous, but the amount of alcohol in those tiny bottles is not as high as you'd think: Angostura clocks in at 44.7% ABV. I have whiskey on my shelf with a higher proof than that. It's really the bitter ingredients that give Angostura its punch, not the alcohol content. Still anxious about the idea? I assure this recipe will change your mind.

Tiki drinks are well-suited to the spicy flavors of Angostura. The Trinidad Spell is a riff on the Polynesian Spell, a concoction from Sixties-era Columbus, Ohio Polynesian restaurant Kahiki (found in the Grog Log from Jeff "Beachbum" Berry.) The original calls for grape juice, triple sec, peach brandy, and gin. Here, the grape juice and peach brandy are swapped out for Angostura and high-quality apricot liqueur. Passionfruit syrup, lemon, and orange add a bit more fresh fruit flavor for balance. The recipe's request for gin remains untouched.

Yes, the flavor is strongly bittered, but there's also a cascade of cherry and clove, fruit and sweetness. The aroma is fiery from the Angostura with strong hints of passionfruit and orange. The slight numbing of your tongue may serve to remind you: you're drinking a heck of a lot of bitters.

About the Author: Elana Lepkowski is a Los Angeles based mixologist who photographs and shares her cocktail recipes at StirAndStrain.com. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter as @stirandstrain documenting what she drank last night and occasionally a picture of her dog.