Bitters: A Spirited History Of A Classic Cure-All (Book review)

What’s a cocktail without bitters? They are the seasoning, the ingredient that can turn good libations into killer ones. You may or may not be able to pinpoint the taste, but without it, everything has a certain flatness.

Bitters has alway been part of the foundation of a cocktail. The first published definition of the Cocktail appeared in an editorial response in The Balance and Columbian Repository of 1806. This read: “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and Bitters“.

Gone are the days when a lonely bottle of Angostura bitters held court behind the bar. If you’re just starting to research on bitters or don’t know where to begin, Brad Thomas Parson’s book, Bitters: A Spirited History Of A Classic Cure-All, combines a lot of material in one place. He includes recipes for thirteen bitters such as apple, orange, rhubarb, coffee-pecan, and root beer bitters.


1. History of bitters as cure-all medicines.

2.History of some classic bitters brands including Angostura, and Peychaud’s.

3. Making your own bitters.

4. Recipes for more than 80 cocktails (Classic and modern libations)

To purchase book click here.

From Brad Thomas Parsons’ Bitters

Cherry-Hazelnut Bitters

Makes about 20 ounces

½ cup lightly toasted and skinned hazelnuts
½ cup dried tart or sour cherries
2 tablespoons devil’s club root
½ tsp schizandra berries
½ tsp wild cherry bark
½ tsp cinchona bark
½ tsp cassia chips
¼ tsp chopped dried orange peel
3 star anise
2 cups 101-proof bourbon, or more as needed
1 cup water
2 tablespoons rich [2:1] syrup

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