I often ask for a Pink Gin in other people’s houses. Recently my host instantly flourished a new bottle of Angostura bitters but more often there is faffing around.

“Definitely got a bottle, hang on a moment while I look for it. No, not there, I think it’s in the kitchen cupboard. Sorry, must have put it under the stairs. No, not there, can’t imagine where it’s got to.” By now I’m jolly thirsty and regretting not asking for something readily available. As you can see, above, I keep six bottles of bitters in my kitchen cupboard. The lemon, grapefruit and Boston bitters can all be used as a substitute for Angostura or as an ingredient in gin and tonic. There are two bottles of Angostura: one for everyday drinking and the other (100 ml) for taking on ‘planes as hand luggage.

When flying out of Shanghai in 2013, airport security were suspicious. I reassured them, saying it was medicine. Then I panicked as I thought they might ask me to drink a teaspoonful. They smelt it and didn’t. It is a top tip to write on a bottle of Angostura where and when it was bought. My big bottle is inscribed Sainsbury, London, 13th October 1990; the small one, Bon Marche, Paris, Novembre 2010. I got this excellent tip from my late father-in-law who also appended the date he anticipated finishing it. I have only emptied one bottle, that I bought in St Anton in the 1970s.

While researching this scholarly post I unearthed a bottle that I don’t often have recourse to. Angostura is 44.7% alc/vol but this weighs in at an impressive 71%. It looks like a small hand grenade but is deadlier.

Elderly ladies in France put a few drops on a lump of sugar and suck it. You want to know more – et pourquoi non – ?

Made by the Chartreuse Monks since 1737 according to the instructions set out in the secret manuscript given to them by Maréchal d’Estrées in 1605.
The Herbal Elixir gets its unique flavour from 130 medicinal and aromatic plants and flowers. It is a cordial, a liqueur and a very effective tonic.

One thought on “Bitters”

  1. Bravo! I had the good fortune two years ago to spend a week on Christmas Island/Kirimas (capital London other centres of population Paris, Poland and Bananas. I think the later must have been named after the British left). Anticipating that tonic would be in short supply, I packed a bottle of bitters. My fishing companions were very suspicious thinking that this was another sin of public school boys. By the end of the week everyone was tucking in which included a tree surgeon from Northern Queensland, his Lutheran minister uncle and a social worker from Paisley. The bottle was finished.
    I am not sure that your grapefruit and lemon versions are entirely the thing though.

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