Not too long ago, Angostura bitters were that little bottle with a yellow cap sitting behind your buddy’s bar. It never got mentioned. It never moved. Fast forward to today, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t know what cocktail bitters are and what they do. Just as a chef uses different herbs and spices to add flavor to a dish, home and professional bartenders use bitters to add complexity to a cocktail, with Angostura bitters arguably the most iconic.
So what’s actually in a bottle of Angostura bitters? The only ingredient listed on the label is bitter gentian root. However, bitters experts say Angostura likely adds cloves, cinnamon, and black licorice spice (via BBC). Angostura bitters are so versatile that their use can extend far beyond the realm of cocktails. Although it may be fashionable these days for chefs to utilize Angostura bitters, their culinary use has been quite common on the island where they were first developed: Trinidad. In fact, the company that makes the bitters — The House of Angostura — has hosted an annual cooking competition for chefs and home cooks that requires the use of the company’s flagship product. Taking our cues from that competition, consider the following ways you can employ Angostura bitters in ways that go far beyond cocktails.
Give sweet and savory breads a bit of spice
Adding spice to any baked good can change the way you look at a classic treat or comfort food. For example, adding a bit of cayenne to chocolate chip cookie dough batter helps to bring out the earthy, nutty flavors of the chocolate. Likewise, adding Angostura bitters to chocolate chip cookie dough brings coffee and pecan flavors that play well with chocolate. The key to elevating the cookies is to be judicious with the spice. Too much, and your cookies will be more savory than sweet.
To the typical American palate, the clove and cinnamon flavors in Angostura bitters tend to give cookies a holiday season vibe. But just like in an old fashioned, adding a bit of citrus zest can offset the bitters’ savory qualities to provide a more balanced flavor profile.
Angostura can also bring a bit of spice to savory breads. The House of Angostura recommends adding it to the simplest fluffy biscuit recipe. Adding some currants and a bit of orange zest can help to further emphasize all the bitters’ different aromatics. Be sure to use a biscuit cutter for perfectly cut biscuits.
Add an extra dimension to your next marinade
Savory and containing alcohol, Angostura bitters are a great addition to any marinade, as they both add flavor and tenderize meat. In fact, adding a bit of booze will elevate any marinade by helping to break down proteins in tougher cuts of meat.
When it comes to adding alcohol to your marinades, the risk is allowing the flavors of that alcohol to overpower the dish you’re trying to make. If you are using vodka, which is tasteless, you don’t have to be concerned. If you are using wine, rum, or bitters, you should be very concerned. Therefore, many marinade recipes that include bitters will also include other ingredients like citrus juice, garlic, or soy sauce to create a comprehensive flavor profile.
Be sure to avoid over-marinating your meat, as this can lead to undesirable textures and colors. Also, be sure to fully cook out the alcohol to avoid any alcohol-associated off-flavors.
Make more complex soups
A number of high-profile chefs have been embracing Angostura bitters as an ingredient, and one prominent example is David Baudek, from The Kerryman Bar & Restaurant in Chicago. Allowing the bitters to play a prominent role, Baudek’s winter squash soup adds them along with leeks, chicken stock, and brown sugar.
The process of seasoning soup is usually one of trial and error. If you are going to add angostura aromatic bitters to your soup, do so early in the cooking process, and don’t taste the soup right after seasoning it. It takes time for seasonings and spices to completely infuse a soup with their flavor. Allow your soup to simmer for at least 15 minutes after adding any spices or seasonings. Tasting it after this time has passed will allow you to get a better sense of the flavors you have developed. In the case of Angostura bitters, it’s also important to allow the alcohol to cook off before tasting it. Although the bitters don’t add a significant amount of alcohol, residual alcohol flavors tend to be undesirable.
Balance out sweet jellies, jams, and preserves
If you grew up eating PB&J sandwiches with store-bought jelly, you might think of jellies, jams, and preserves as essentially the same thing — sweet and fruity spreads. First, it’s important to point out that there is a difference between jelly, jam, and preserves. Jelly is a clarified fruit syrup that does not contain any pieces of fruit. Jam contains broken-down pieces of fruit suspended and sugary gelatin. Preserves contain large pieces of fruit that are suspended in sugar.
While all three tend to be on the sweeter side, some jams come close to being savory by including vegetables and herbs. This wider world of jellies, jams, and preserves has plenty of room for Angostura bitters. The addition of bitters to sweet jams or jellies can bring some balance and also extract some deeper fruit flavors, especially from berries. If you are using perfectly ripe fruit for homemade jam, as you should be, the subtle use of bitters is a great way to bring out multiple layers of flavor, elevating your fruit spread far beyond the realm of peanut butter and bread.
Give whipped cream some spice
We can already hear you saying it: Don’t mess with whipped cream. Yes, we love whipped cream for its texture, and it’s pretty much perfect as it is. But if we’re going to be picky, the flavor of whipped cream is pretty one-dimensional. There, it’s been said. A few dashes of Angostura bitters to heavy cream before whipping can add a lot of complexity and evoke a craft cocktail vibe without affecting the texture.
While it’s not as easy as ripping a plastic cap off an aerosol can, making your own whipped cream isn’t very difficult and you gain the ability to modify your whipped cream in any way you like. Start by making sure your ingredients, container, and whisk are all cold. Next, whip the cream on its own just until it has a bit of structure. Then, add a dash or two of Angostura bitters, or any other flavorings you’d like to add. If you are going to include a bitter ingredient like Angostura bitters, be sure to even it out with a little bit of extra sugar.
Elevate eggs with just a dash of bitters
One of the best ways to feature the signature flavor profile of angostura bitters is in the Trinidad Sour cocktail. Invented at the Clover Club in New York City in 2008, the Trinidad Sour has Angostura bitters as its main component (via The Washington Post). It might sound unappealing — even undrinkable — but this drink became a cult classic in the highly-discerning craft cocktail world of the 2000s.
Like any traditional sour, the Trinidad Sour incorporates egg whites, and this combination also works well in the culinary world. In fact, Angostura bitters are capable of elevating egg dishes in a way that is simple yet transformative. Adding the bitters to scrambled eggs give them an instant and highly craveable herbal quality, with a slight hint of bitterness. If you’re looking to compliment these scrambled eggs with restaurant-quality texture, be sure to cook them over low heat over the course of several minutes. Angostura bitters also work to elevate an easy deviled eggs recipe.
Coffee goes cocktail with a dash of bitters
Adding spices to coffee grounds is a simple way to add flavor to your coffee. If you grind your own coffee, adding an allspice berry or a little piece of a cinnamon stick can infuse your brew with the taste of freshly ground spice.
With this knowledge in hand, you may be tempted to embrace the pinnacle of spiced coffee: pumpkin spice. But if we may be so bold, forget pumpkin spice. Also, forget holiday spice. The spice you ought to be putting in your coffee is, you guessed it, Angostura bitters. Adding a dash of aromatic bitters to your morning cup of joe can be both a spicy wake-up call, and a little mental throwback to the last time you had a good craft cocktail (via Men’s Journal).
The resulting flavor profile of your cup of coffee will partly depend on the brand of coffee you brew, whether it’s Folgers, Peet’s Coffee, Intelligensia, or Starbucks. In a recent coffee drinker survey conducted by Tasting Table, 33% of respondents said they prefer Starbucks coffee at home. Other major vote-getters included coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts (24%), Folgers (22%), and Peet’s Coffee (10%).
Give ice cream and milkshakes a Caribbean twist
Trinidadians put Angostura bitters on a lot of things, and one of those things is ice cream (via Trinigourmet). It might sound like an odd combination, but adding a few dashes to vanilla or citrus-flavored ice cream infuses it with uplifting flavors. If you have some vanilla ice cream in your freezer and a bottle of angostura bitters, go ahead and try it. It’s like being able to make a gourmet ice cream sundae with just a few shakes of your wrist.
If you’re into adding Angostura bitters to ice cream, you can take it one step closer to cocktail territory by using the combination in a milkshake. As mentioned earlier, cinnamon and clove flavors from both the bitters and the aromatic syrup can evoke the holiday season, which can make for a great seasonal shake.
While good flavor is essential to creating a great milkshake, it’s also important to get the texture just right. Compared to a blender, a food processor is often the better option when making a milkshake. A food processor incorporates more air into the shake making it frothier, and it also heats up more, creating a more fluid shake that can be easily sipped through a straw.
Make better (possibly boozy) hot chocolate
While Angostura bitters in your mug of hot chocolate is good any time of year, it’s a really great idea in a boozy hot chocolate on Black Friday when you’re feeling the funk of overindulgence from the day before. One of our favorite boozy hot chocolate recipes has Fernet Branca, Angostura bitters, and three types of chocolate. Simply combine chocolate, a bit of salt, some sugar, and milk in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir until it is just about up to boil, and then take the pot off the heat. Then, add your Fernet Branca and Angostura bitters.
To be clear, Fernet Branca is an acquired taste and one you may not have acquired yet. If this is the case, you can still add Angostura bitters on their own to your favorite hot chocolate recipe. While the Fernet hot chocolate comes very close to being a cocktail, just adding a dash of bitters brings some complexity without the booze.
Adding booze or Angostura bitters is just one way to upgrade your hot chocolate. You could also add flavored marshmallows, Nutella, spicy chili peppers, or coffee.
Take your next game day dip to the tropics
Once the dog days of the NFL season roll around, you’ve probably tried just about every type of dip, from the chicken wing dips of Bills Mafia country to the hot crab dip of the Ravens Flock. But one dip you may not have tried is Angostura bitters-infused caramelized onion dip. A few tablespoons of Angostura bitters and a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar elevate a simple onion dip and give it a tropical flair.
Our caramelized onion dip recipe skips that trusty packet of onion soup mix. It calls for several types of alliums: shallot, yellow onion, red onion, and garlic. We also go a bit extra with the inclusion of crème fraîche, smoked sea salt, and dried porcini mushroom powder, so naturally, bitters will fit right in. If you bring this dip to your next game day party and people roll their eyes at you for getting all fancy, it just means more amazing dip for you to enjoy.