BRAD THOMAS PARSONS
At cocktail lounges, it’s often the case that a series of non-descript glass bottles filled with assorted liquids will decorate the bar, giving it mystique and intrigue. A well-trained bartender will be grabbing for one of these potions the way a witch grabs for “eye of newt” or “toe of frog” to add to her brew. There are many possibilities as to what could be filling these bottles: flavored syrups, infused spirits, fresh juices… But what’s becoming more and more likely is that some contain house-made bitters.
In the much talked about history of cocktails, bitters play an interesting side-role. They were traditionally used as early as the eighteenth century for medicinal purposes, a sort of herbal cure-all. Until recently it seemed the only type of bitters that existed was Angostura, with its constantly oversized label. Now, however, there are hundreds of producers and flavors ranging everywhere from blueberry, to chocolate, to lavender. It’s hard to imagine modern mixology without the help of these potent little flavor providers.