Angostura bitters, often simply referred to as angostura, is a concentrated bitters for food and beverages made of water, 44.7% of alcohol, gentian root, and vegetable flavoring extracts by House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago. The bitters were first produced in the town of Angostura (hence the name), and do not contain angostura bark. The bottle is easily recognisable by its distinctive over-sized label.
The recipe was developed as a tonic by German Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, a Surgeon General in Simon Bolivar's army in Venezuela, who began to sell it in 1824. Siegert was based in the town of Angostura, now Ciudad Bolívar, and used locally available ingredients. Perhaps he drew on the botanical knowledge of the local Amerindians. The exact formula is a closely guarded secret, with only five people knowing the whole recipe as reported by The Rachel Maddow Show on April 15, 2010 with official representatives from House of Angostura: Genevieve Jodhan and Giselle Laronde-West.
Angostura bitters are extremely concentrated and not normally drunk pure, but small amounts are used to flavour drinks and, less commonly, food.
Angostura bitters are a key ingredient in many cocktails. Originally used to mask the flavour of quinine in tonic water, itself usually served with gin, the mix stuck in the form of a Pink Gin, and is also used in many other alcoholic cocktails such as Long vodka, consisting of vodka, Angostura bitters, and lemonade; and the Old Fashioned, made with whiskey, bitters, sugar, and soda water. In a Pisco Sour a few drops are sprinkled on top of the foam, both for aroma and decoration. In a Champagne Cocktail a few drops of bitters are added to a sugar cube. Bitters can also be used in soft drinks; a common non-alcoholic drink served in Australian pubs is lemon, lime and bitters. An approximation of ginger ale (as a drink mixer) can be made by filling a glass, almost to the top, with lemon-lime soda, adding a splash or two of cola, and then adding a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters.
Angostura bitters are alleged to have restorative properties. It was reported to be a remedy for hiccups, and also can be used as a cure for an upset stomach.
Despite its alcohol content of 44.7%, Angostura is not classed as an alcoholic beverage in the U.K., in line with other bitters normally used in small quantities as flavouring.[8