Not Bitter on Bitters

Are they too cheap to get a label maker that makes the right-sized labels?

What are bitters? And why is the label for the one I see most often in bars, Angostura, too big for the bottle?

Bitters are a mysterious concoction of herbs and spices used in many cocktails, a mystery far more interesting and intriguing than the Colonel’s blend of seven spices. Sugar and gentian are the only two acknowledged ingredients in Angostura Bitters. The secret recipe was developed in 1824 by Dr. J G B Siegert, a Surgeon General in Simon Bolivar’s Venezuelan army.

Maduro, my favorite bar in Madison has a line of different bottles of bitters, including one with blood oranges and another with peaches. We’ve sometimes ordered one of the specialty cocktails that called for bitters just so we could try one of these unique flavored bitters–all of which also had mysterious origins and ingredients, too. The bottles also mentioned using bitters on food. Food?

Of course, I had to try it.

Despite subscribing to every food magazine and newsletter available, I had never seen a recipe calling for bitters. Angostura’s website has a whole section of recipes, including a pumpkin soup. Being inundated with squash as we are in the fall and winter, soup seemed like the perfect choice.  So I boiled and pureed and then added a few dashes of bitters to the finished soup. To be honest, I’m not sure I could exactly taste the bitters. There was a slight herbal flavor to the soup that may have come from the bitters, but it may also have come from my imagination. I’m highly suggestible. I like the idea of using bitters, though. Besides, it makes everything much more mysterious when you can say it calls for a secret ingredient.

I still don’t know about that label, though.

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