Can You (Ever) Use Too Much Angostura Bitters?

“Hey Matt, I think I found a bug in your book,” began a recent message from my friend, Mike. ”The Trinidadi Issues recipes calls for 1.5 ounces of Angostura bitters…seems like that can’t be right (?)”

I chuckled. Mike wasn’t the first person who’d messaged me about this recipe, certain they’d found a typo.

If you’ve ever tasted Angostura bitters all by itself, you know that its intensely flavored, very dry, and quite… well…. Bitter! Pungent, in fact. Just two dashes in a classic Old Fashioned makes their presence loudly known.

You may also see some bartenders garnish their crushed-ice laden cocktails with several healthy dashes to give it a picturesque red “crown”.  Sure, they might use eight or ten dashes, but still, such applications come nowhere near using a full 1.5 ounces.

That much Angostura is insane. Or is it?

Seeing how many comments I got about my Angostura-related “typos,” I reviewed all 100 recipes in my recently released book, Minimalist Tiki, and came across three recipes that use 1.5 oz of Angostura:

  • Trinidadi issues – Chad Austin
  • You’re Not My Real Trinidad – Kevin Beary
  • Angostura Colada – Zac Overman

A fourth recipe, the Jamaican Spiced Swizzle #3, by Oriol Elias, uses half an ounce — still a substantial amount.

Just one recipe using that much Angostura might be a fluke, or a stunt. But four recipes indicate a trend. Every bartender listed above is recognized as being on the cutting edge of modern cocktail trends. To see what we can learn from them, let’s take a closer look at exactly how that much Angostura factors into their compositions.

An example is helpful, so let’s use Zac Overman’s Angostura Colada (pictured at the top of page):

Angostura Colada Recipe (Zac Overman)

  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1.5 oz cream of coconut
  • 1.5 oz Angostura bitters
  • 0.5 oz aged Jamaican overproof rum (Smith & Cross)

Build ingredients in shaker. Shake with crushed ice, pour into a snifter glass. Fill with fresh crushed ice.

Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg, an orange slice, and pineapple fronds.

There are important but non-obvious aspects to this recipe common seen across nearly all Angostura heavy recipes.

First, most or all of the alcoholic content comes from the Angostura bitters themselves. Surprised? Grab your nearest bottle and check out the alcohol content: 44.7 percent ABV, or 89.4 proof. That puts them solidly within the ABV range of most spirits used in cocktails.

In essence Angostura bitter can be considered a very heavily flavored base spirit, ala bourbon, Scotch whisky, rum, or tequila. We shall not speak of vodka here.

However, if you mindlessly substituted Angostura bitters for the rum in a daiquiri or the tequila in a margarita, you’d immediately spit out the first sip. The bitter flavors are just too intense in those quantities and overwhelm everything else.

Busting the Bitter

That brings us to the second non-obvious aspect of Angostura-heavy drinks; the need to temper the extreme bitterness. To wrap it up in something that shields your palate from the worst of the bittery burn.

But how do you accomplish this? The answer is another ingredient that’s lush, oily or fatty – something that envelopes the bitters’ sharp edges; a velvet glove so to speak.

In the Angostura Colada, the cream of coconut fulfills that role. The intense bitterness of the Angostura runs headlong into the pillowy softness of the rich coconut. Cream of coconut performs the same task in Kevin Beary’s You’re Not My Real Trinidad, which brings rich, sweet PX sherry to the table in place of the Jamaican rum in the Angostura Colada.

Now, coconut isn’t everybody’s thing. Luckily, there’s another common cocktail ingredient that’s up to the task Orgeat. A syrup of French origin, Orgeat is typically made from almonds or other nuts, giving it an oily, nutty flavor that also works to temper the Angostura. Orgeat is one of the key ingredients in the Minimalist Tiki Classic Thirty (see the book) and well worth having on your bar shelves.

Trinidadi Issues Tiki Recipe, featuring angostura bitters.

Chad Austin’s Trinidadi Issues from Minimalist Tiki is one such recipe that takes the orgeat route. Other well-known Angostura/Orgeat recipes include the Trinidad Sour (perhaps the originator of the Angostura heavy trend) and Dominic Alling’s Port of Spain, which cleverly brings mezcal to the mix:

Port Of Spain Recipe (Dominic Alling)

  • 1 oz Small Hand Foods Orgeat
  • 1.5 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
  • 0.75 oz Lime Juice
  • 0.5 oz Angostura Bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice. Double strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a floating lime wheel.

If you’ve gotten this far and are intrigued by the concept of using this much Angostura, you still may have a concern: Just how much will this cost if you’re using an entire bottle of Angostura to make two or three cocktails?

Chapter Four of Minimalist Tiki (“Creating your Minimalist Setup”) addresses this concern:

While Angostura is available in four ounce bottles, any serious tikitender buys them in the sixteen ounce size, cutting the per ounce price in half. Angostura is also available in a fifty-five-gallon drum, should you go through an extreme amount.

Purchased in sixteen ounce bottles, Angostura Bitters costs at the low end around $20 per bottle, or less if you buy several at once. Extrapolating that cost to a standard 750 ml size, a bottle would cost $32, which is on the upper end of what most cocktail bars would use for a menu drink, but not cost prohibitive.

As you can probably guess, I’m a big fan of Angostura bitters, and enjoy showing off Angostura-heavy recipes to my friends. Hopefully the above has encouraged you to try them out as well.

Minimalist Tiki Drink Book

For all the recipes listed above, as well as a recipe for vanilla Angostura bitters(“vango”), the Minimalist Tiki Classic Thirty ingredient set, and much, much more, see the book, Minimalist Tiki, available for order on the Minimalist Tiki web site.

7 thoughts on “Can You (Ever) Use Too Much Angostura Bitters?

  1. I have to admit, I like Angostura bitters but Trinidadi Issues was a bit heavy on them for my palate. I’m not sure that I can handle 1.5 oz in a standard cocktail. I’ve yet to try the Jamaican Spiced Swizzle #3 but I have a feeling that that will be within my wheelhouse.
    My wife didn’t mind the strong presence, she thought the second sip was more pleasing than the first. She’s admittedly a ‘bitter woman’ when it comes to some cocktails and beer.
    Love the book, my friends like it as well and some have purchased it. Keep up the great work Matt, we love all the great info and behind the scenes articles you provide. Cheers.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Jay. I completely accept that copious amounts of Angostura may not be to everybody’s taste.

    2. Forgot to add: Thank you for buying the book. Please share your thoughts widely. We have no dedicated PR team to help spread the word, so we’re depending on fans like you to help us spread the Minimalist Tiki love!

      1. You Bet! Loving the neo-Tiki movement that is taking place. Anytime anyone has questions that I can’t answer off hand I either send them to this site or look for info here and get back to them. I’ve referred many to your wonderful and informative articles.
        In our little Ohio town we’ve been soliciting the State outlets to get in more and more quality rum for the shelves. Ohio has it’s issues in getting great product because it is a control state but we’re trying!
        I have a photo I’d love to send you so hopefully I can get it to you. Cheers!

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