The Secret Elixir from Trinidad | The Well

Welcome to the latest edition of The Well—a 4-minute breakdown of the stories behind your favorite alcohol brands. In your cocktail this week: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, a tiny bottle with an oversized influence.

The Story of Angostura Aromatic Bitters

In 1824, a German army surgeon named Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert concocted a mysterious elixir. Little did he know, his stomach tonic for soldiers in Venezuela would become a cornerstone of global cocktail culture. The recipe, a blend of herbs, barks, and spices, remains one of the culinary world’s best-kept secrets, guarded fiercely for nearly two centuries.

Fast-forward to today, and this legendary concoction is produced in Trinidad & Tobago, a place where Angostura Bitters is not just a drink additive, but a national treasure. It’s a staple in Trinbagonian kitchens, flavoring everything from stews to desserts, and a common ingredient even in alcohol-abstaining households for its medicinal qualities.

The House of Angostura, shrouded in mystery, has become a symbol of national pride. The company’s secrecy extends to its production and business figures, with the recipe known to only a select few. Myths abound: some say the English monarch is a keeper of the recipe, others that its creators must unite to concoct it.

But the story of Angostura Bitters isn’t just about secrecy; it’s about the journey. From Seigert’s early distribution in wooden casks to British soldiers, to its status as a medicinal tonic during the American Prohibition, Angostura has woven its way through history. It’s even claimed the title of the largest seller at Nelsen’s Bitters Club, where it’s consumed as a tonic by card-carrying members.

The intrigue doesn’t stop there. Angostura Bitters has won acclaim for its unique flavor and versatility. The Trinidad Sour, a cocktail born from a bartending competition, showcases its remarkable properties, with a foamy head that leaves drinkers asking: what’s in it?

Yet, despite attempts to replicate it, Angostura remains unmatched. As bartender Giuseppe Gonzalez puts it, “Ango has already won the game.” It’s more than a product; it’s a legend, steeped in mystery and history.

So, the next time you add a dash of Angostura to your cocktail, remember: you’re not just mixing a drink. You’re partaking in a tradition that has captivated the world for nearly two hundred years.

Why I Love Angostura Aromatic Bitters

  • Its versatility is unmatched – a dash can transform any drink.
  • The lore behind it adds an extra layer of intrigue.
  • That distinctive flavor – somehow familiar yet impossible to pinpoint.

Ryan McCann
Growth & Marketing, Saucey

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