The global supply of angostura bitters, a unique-tasting herbal additive to cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned, is drying up after its manufacturer's financial woes caused a production shutdown at the sole plant that makes it in Trinidad and Tobago, the Guardian reports.
Patrick Sepe, chief executive of the US distributor, Angostura USA, told the Guardian that production halted in June and is just now getting back on track. "There has been a shortage," Sepe told the newspaper. "You can't just turn on and off supply of bitters. It's not like producing bottled water; it's a very delicate, intricate process."
Mixologist Scott Beattie, author of the cocktail how-to "Artisanal Cocktails," told Slashfood that for most bars, the angostura variety, invented in 1924, is the only type of bitters stocked and that a shortage will have an impact on cocktail drinkers everywhere. "It has a very distinct flavor that you can't replicate with another product," Beattie said. "For your average bar, that's a staple product."
Angostura bitters are a top-secret combination of herbs, barks, roots, spices and rum, made by Trinidad's House of Angostura.
Beattie believes bartenders and mixologists, whom he calls a "pretty adaptable bunch," will be able to figure out a way around the bitters dificiency, although it will be hard to replicate angostura's "cardamom edge."
"There's been a big trend lately of people making their own bitters," Beattie told Slashfood. He said he foresees people adapting and using some of the product that they've been experimenting with for the past few years in place of angostura bitters, if it comes to that.
But Mark Ludmon, editor of Bar magazine told the Guardian many bars are, well, bitter.
"Any bar that's trying to do cocktails seriously will feel it's wrong not to use the right bitters," he said.
German doctor Johann Siegert invented angostura bitters to ease stomach ailments in soldiers in 1824, naming it for a town in Venezuela.
Have you faced the bitter truth of the shortage, or have you found a suitable substitution? Vote and let us know in the comments below.
|Fee Bros.||234 (29.7%)|
|I'll make my own.||90 (11.4%)|
|I don't use bitters.||270 (34.3%)|
|Bitter Truth||58 (7.4%)|
|Other (share below)||86 (10.9%)|