Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thirsty Thursdays: Bitterness Edition

Some time ago, the husband and I were shopping Balducci's and he impulsively threw a bottle of Angostura Bitters into our cart. It seemed like a good idea at the time, though neither of us had any idea what to do with it. The husband took an immediate shine to it, after adding a few drops to a gin martini. It has been making its way into a variety of beverages, Chez Diva, ever since. Today's offering is no exception.

For those unfamiliar with bitters - a little history. Angostura Bitters was first developed as a digestive tonic by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert in 1824. At that time, Dr. Siegert was the Surgeon General of a military hospital in Angostura, Venezuela - the bitters are named after the town. A long and convoluted history follows, all of which you can read on the Angostura site, if you're so inclined. The tonic is made from a proprietary mix of gentian and aromatic herbs and spices. Legend has it that the recipe is known only to five individuals at any given time. I don't know how true that is, but it is reported to be one of the few "trade secrets" left. Quite romantic, no?

Once we got our little bottle home, I went Googling and found scads of cocktails that include aromatic bitters. For some reason we settled on a Moscow Mule that night ...

The Moscow Mule:
  • some cubes of ice
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • ginger beer or ginger ale*
Place the ice cubes into a tall glass. Pour the vodka and lime juice over the ice and add the Angostura Bitters. Top the drink with ginger beer or ginger ale to fill the glass. Stir gently, garnish with a section of lime, serve and enjoy! Repeat as necessary.

*Note - ginger beer and ginger ale are not the same thing. Ginger beer is a carbonated soft drink more commonly found in the UK and the British Isles. It is less sweet and more gingerly flavored than American ginger ale. For the sake of ease, I'm offering the option here. If you can find real ginger beer, by all means go for it. I've found it at Fairway on occasion, but rather than hunt and forage, I often default to good 'ole Canada Dry!

This drink is light, refreshing and perfectly balanced. While I'm not generally a fan of soda, or drinks made with soda, the bitters acts as a unifying element; creating a perfect harmony between the sweet notes of the ginger ale and the tangy notes of lime.

I can't think of a better drink to usher in the first official days of Spring. It may not feel like Spring just yet ... but mix yourself up a batch of these and it will most certainly taste like it!



Tracy said...

Diva, as soon as I can drink again, I'll have to name you my honorary bartender! This drink does sound tasty and refreshing.

Melissa Good Taste said...

That drink sounds way refreshing! Yum!

doggybloggy said...

its a digestive - oh wait you said that...I have never tasted it.

words words words said...

I have a bottle of bitters that I got once because I heard they help settle the stomach. I have no idea what else to do with them though. Good idea!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Tracy - you're on! Drinks on me when you're ready. :)

Melissa - it was! And it would be good with a spicy dish too.

doggybloggy - word of caution, don't try the bitters on their own ... far too bitter. They add something special to almost any beverage though and apparently you can cook with them too. Will explore that concept further at some point and report back.

WWW - if you take a spin around the Angostura site there are tons of recipes there. This one is a favorite though, and would be especially nice for warm weather refreshment.

Veriance said...

wow! this took me back. when I was a kid my dad always had campari (a form of bitters) and soda with a twist.

Sass said...

I'd like to taste this...but hate to buy a whole bottle! I'll ask the bartender BFF to whip me up one. ;)

pixelgal said...

I'll be demanding one of these at our Easter celebration. Sounds like something I might actually like if it's heavy on the soda and light on the booze.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I came by for a drink and you didn't disappoint!

Looks delish - I've never had a Moscow Mule but I think it might be my kinda thing.

BTW, here in Toronto Ginger Beer is found in most Caribbean/Jamaican grocery stores. You might want to try them in other cities, too.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Veri - mmm, I like Campari and soda too. Nicely astringent!

Sass - I'm sure your bartender BFF would be happy to do so. Let me know what you think. :)

pixelgal - I think you'd really like this one, its not terribly strong and so refreshing. Good idea to add it to the Easter menu ... will do!

Dana - I surely do not want to disappoint a fellow cocktail lover. This round's on me! Very good point about the Jamaican grocery stores, thanks!

Cookie Brochette said...

And I thought bitters were just for collecting dust in the liquor cabinet. Who knew?! Looks like another winner, Diva. I'll drink darn near anything with vodka!

Daily Spud said...

I've always wondered what Angostura Bitters were like. Guess I'll just have to go get some and try this out, now won't I? :)

The Diva on a Diet said...

Cookie B. - Funny! Bitters, they're not just for collecting dust anymore. :) I agree about the vodka too.

Daily Spud - you may want to do just that ... and check out the food recipes too, apparently bitters has all sorts of applications. Cheers! :)

Juliet said...

I've never heard of bitters! What a funny name for something. :)

stephchows said...

thanks for the fun trivia! I'll leave the bitters to you though :) I don't think I'd be able to hang lol

Anonymous said...

Interesting post Diva, I have used bitters a lot in drinks, many cocktails call for them, including the Pisco Sour, national drink of Peru, which features sometime back on my blog Fizz. I had no idea of the history.

As for ginger beer, the difference between ginger ale and ginger beer is the the ginger ale is a soda, ginger beer is a fermented drink. We used to make it from a "bug" as kids in the summer. Horrible messy thing, yeast, ginger root and stuff, but that did not reflect on the pleasure of drinking it on a hot summer's day.


The Diva on a Diet said...

Steph - LOL!

Agentum - wow, thanks for that info on the ginger beer. I'm impressed that you made your own. I'll bet it was fantastic. :)

Tangled Noodle said...

I just yelled out to Mr. Noodle about this drink and his response is, "We need vodka". We're off to the liquor store!

The sun is shining on a beautiful Saturday morning. This calls for a refreshing cocktail!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Tangled Noodle - LOL and I hope you liked it. Def. worth a trip to the liquor store! :)