Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Bitters are modern descendents of medicinal herbal brews that were first made with wine. Purely bitter ingredients include angostura (Galipea cusparia), a South American relative of the citrus family, Chinese rhubarb root, and gentian (Gentiana species); plant materials that are both bitter and aromatic include wormwood, chamomile, bitter orange peel, saffron, bitter almond, and myrrh (Commifera molmol). Most bitter alcohols are complex mixtures.They may be made by macerating the plant material or by distilling it along with the source of alcohol. Among the bitters commonly used today are Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters, condiment-like 19th-century formulations that are added to mixed drinks and foods as a flavor accent, and such drinkable aperitifs and digestifs as Campari (unusually sweet) and Fernet Branca.