With the holidays upon us I want to look at some libations that can be used to stimulate your appetite, perk up holiday cocktails, and settle down your stomach after a little overindulgence at the groaning banquet boards.
Bitters, Digestifs, and Apéritifs (BD&A's) are similar to Liqueurs, but much bitterer in taste and usually without the extra sweetness to them. Like Liqueurs, BD&A's were originally created as medicines made from herbs, roots, twigs, vegetables, fruits, and berries. To lessen the harsh taste they were sweetened, just not as much as their cousins, liqueurs. There is not always a hard and fine line between Bitters, Digestifs, Apéritifs, and Liqueurs, and some can be classified in one, two, three, or all four categories.
Bitters come in several styles and many were formerly sold as patent medicines. There are the ones like Angostura Bitters from Trinidad, and New Orleans's Regan's Orange Bitters and Peychaud's Bitters which are used in small amounts, added to a cocktail to bring together the flavors and cut the sweetness. Then you have ones that are sold in tiny, 2/3 oz bottles such as Underberg from Germany, which you knock back in a quick gulp after a meal to settle your quaking belly. Many others I also classify under apéritifs and digestifs when you cut them with seltzer and ice.