Bitters is an herbal drink. Historically it was concocted as herbal remedies for illness. Angostura (a brand) bitters was popular during the world wars and the song, "Just a teaspoon of sugar," was originally intended to help the Angostura go down, but was changed to medicine in order to be more child appropriate. Even though Angostura bitters is 44%, you can buy it in grocery stores around Ontario. All you under
age drinkers, you don't need ID to buy Angostura and
it's probably safer than drinking Benadryl (but I only encourage responsible drinking).
I read a GQ magazine years ago that had an article on the best drinks in the U.S. (The 20 Best Cocktails in America) and I wish I had kept it. One of the tricks of these bartenders was to use bitters in their drinks. Most had their own recipes when it came to bitters. This is where you can have some fun! Mixing your own flavoured alcohol is creative and can result in the most unique drinks you may ever try. A friend of mine, Tyler from Auberge du Pommier made a Strawberry and Black Pepper Corn TeQuila mix (which would be nicely served with a bit of lemon juice and a candied lemon twist). Nonetheless, you can make your own signature bitters using Vodka or Gin as your base. Then add a bit of flavour by adding herbs and or spices that you favour (cloves, coriander seedlings, cinnamon, ginger root).
I enjoy a dash of bitters in my manhattans. I find it just gives it a good kick. Classical Manhattan's always had a dash of bitters. I once went to a Casey's at Kennedy Commons and asked the bartender there for a Bourbon Manhattan (click for recipe), and the restaurant must have been going through a large staff turnover, because the bartender returned to me asking me how to make a manhattan. Then he told me that they had no Bourbon... and he didn't think they had bitters either... I ended up with a rum a coke that night. Since then the staff has turned-over again and the bartender there now serves Bloody Caesars (click for creative recipes) in wine glasses, which is visually appealing, but a little feminine for a sports bar... I keep going back to Casey's for t
he Nachos. They're the best in town.
Anyhow, if any of you make fantastic bitters or flavour your own liquor and have stumbled across an amazing discovery, I'd love to hear about it. Don't worry, I wont steal and commercialize your recipes.
Here's a frew to start you off.
Cucumber and Cellery Vodka with Pepper Corns - great for caesars.
Orange Peel and Green Tea Vodka
Cinamon, Cardimum, and Cloves with Brandy