Angostura aromatic bitters comes in a tall, thin, brown glass bottle, engulfed by its paper wrapper, like Worcestershire sauce. Produced in Trinidad, West Indies, it is 45% alcohol by volume, and consists of
An aromatic preparation
of water, alcohol,
gentian and vegetable
That helps a lot, doesn’t it? Check out Webster’s entries for gentian or bitterwort for a little more information.
Angostura bitters smell slightly metallic. The liquid is dark brown, and the top of the bottle is equipped with the type of opening that allows only a drop or two—a dash—to escape at a time. The taste is also dark brown—not quite burned, not sour, but pungent; a little like cola without the sugar. A single serving is listed as a half teaspoon, which contains 0 mg of fat or protein, and only .16 mg of sodium. This flavoring agent
. . .has long been known as a pleasant and dependable stomachic. As a stimulant for the appetite, one to four teaspoonfuls before meals is suggested; for flatulence, one to four teaspoonfuls after meals. Because of its delightful flavour and aroma it has become popular for use in soft drinks, cocktails, and other alcoholic beverages and it imparts an exquisite flavour to soups, cereals, salads, vegetables, gravies, fish, grapefruit, fresh, stewed, or preserved fruits, jellies, sherbets, ice cream, many sauces, puddings, mince pies, apple sauce and all similar desserts, regulating the quantity according to taste.
The wrapper also contains more detailed instructions for mixing Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, Trinidad and or Tobago Rum Punch, Rangoon Typhoons, and (non-alcoholic) Southamptons. Catchpole says Angostura bitters is also the vital ingredient in a long vodka, and Heschelian adds that bitters makes the perfect veggie alternative to worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies) in Bloody Marys.
Now, I have not tried splashing this stuff on everything I eat, (ice cream? No way!) but I can vouch for its powers at settling one’s stomach. I mix about a teaspoonful with twice as much Coke (or Pepsi, whichever) and drink it from a shot glass. Like the fizzy lifting drinks in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, this stuff will make you burp. Which is, sometimes, exactly what you need to do. Chancel says bitters cure hiccups as well--"apparently by shocking them out of your body (who knows)--put several drops on a lime wedge and suck the wedge...it works almost instantly." This is valuable information. Anyone with other known uses for the stuff, please let me know, and you, too, can be part of this writeup.
A friend of mine was with a friend of hers one time, in a bar, and he wasn't feeling so good. She offered to get the bartender to mix up some bitters for him, and he didn't believe the bartender would do it--he thought it was just some sort of home remedy. The kindly bartender did mix him up a shot, however--a healthy dose of bitters, mixed with cola--and he was feeling better in no time.
There. Ingredients, suggestions for use, and testimony. What more could you want? Go try it!
Unfortunately, all is not fun and games. StrawberryFrog warns "stains are difficult to remove". And for goodness sake, DON'T feed it to kids. In additon to the fact that it's 45% alcohol, gbulmer informs me that it contains cyanide and arsenic (although in minute quantities).