Bitters: The What and The Why

There’s an awful lot to know about the curious and storied world of bitters. We’re excited to do the research and sampling for you in the coming weeks and share what we’ve learned, a dash at a time. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the countless ways that bitters can spice up all that flows from your pantry—beyond the world of original cocktail recipes, we’ll also introduce you to incorporating bitters in your sweets and savories from chocolate truffles to soups. Stay tuned!

Let’s start our bitters journey with a brief and piquant history . . .

Tantalizing Tastes: In The Savory Pantry, good taste always comes first. Bitters result from infusing high octane spirits with an array of barks, roots, herbs, botanicals, fruits, and spices. The result is a concentrated and pleasantly pungent rush to the tongue, which is why they are meant to be used in splashes and dashes. For a sauce corollary, think of the rich result of making a reduction and how that adds depth and intrigue to your dish. With only five basic taste sensations in the human palate (bitter, sour, sweet, salty, and umami), it sure would be a shame to live without fully appreciating one! Perhaps bitter has gotten an unfairly bad rap—we certainly seek to avoid “bitter” individuals—but we think you’ll see after some exploration of this underappreciated taste sensation, bitter can be better!

Healing Elixir or Snake Oil? Bitters got their start being touted as cure-all elixirs, said especially to promote healthy digestion (a benefit that some still claim today, and about which there is abundant reading online). They could be spotted at soda fountains, where they would be combined with soda water by a soda jerk and used to disguise the liquid medicines dispensed by the often adjoining pharmacy. Prohibition nearly wiped out bitters, save a few commercial brands, but as the interest in classic cocktails has experienced resurgence, makers are crafting splashy twists on the bitters of yore. Many bitters still salute their colorful past with their apothecary-reminiscent wrappings. 

Thanks to its growing popularity, there are bitters to interest every palate, since of course what creates the best tastes is a complex and individual answer. Here at The Savory Pantry, we have a dozen available flavors ranging from whiskey-barrel aged to rhubarb to sarsaparilla, so you can select those most appealing to you.

Queue up your bitter buds and prepare to join us on a bitter adventure!

Shop this article > Bar 40 Bitters, Fee Brothers, Classic Old Fashioned Kit, Hudson Standard, Pink House Alchemy

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