Bitters are essential part of any good cocktail. Originally used as a stomach tonic, bitters made the leap to recreational beverages a couple of centuries ago when tipplers realized that just a few drops made a merely potable liquor far more interesting. Then came Prohibition, and bitters all but disappeared.
With the advent of the cocktail revival, though, small-batch producers started ginning up an array of bitters. (They’re made by infusing sharp-tasting roots and barks, along with spices, citrus peels, and other exotica, in alcohol.) Doubt their effectiveness? Mix up two Manhattans; add bitters to taste, and you’ll never go back. Below are the best examples found — but first, a few drinks that allow this elixir to shine.
THE ANGOSTURA SOUR
Kirk Estopinal of Cure in New Orleans pops off the shaker top on his bottle of Angostura for this surprisingly refreshing bitters-based concoction.
Shake in cocktail shaker (without ice) until frothy, then add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into cocktail glass. Serve up.
Cocktail guru Jonathan Pogash pours this vintage drink for the Empire Room at New York’s Empire State Building.
Rinse glass with teaspoon of absinthe. Stir remaining ingredients with cracked ice in a stirring glass, then strain into absinthe-rinsed glass. Garnish with long lemon peel.
THE LOOP TONIC
Celery bitters and tequila know how to work together, as Phil Ward of Mayahuel in New York proves in this complex cocktail.
Shake and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a celery stick.