Elevate Your Labor Day Barbecue with Angostura Bitters

Bitters & Spiced Grilled Ribs featuring Angostura Aromatic Bitters.

Take guests from cocktails to dessert with the classic Trinidadian export in the dashing little bottle.

Labor Day may not be the official end of summer, but with kids headed back to school and the sun setting a little bit earlier every day, it sure feels like it. But before you pack away the shorts and tees and start pulling out those jeans and sweaters, celebrate with one final toast to the season. And just to keep guests talking long after the weekend is over, serve elevated barbecue fare with a surprise secret ingredient: bitters. What’s that? Yup, Angostura may seem more at home in a Manhattan than slathered on ribs, but hear us out. Similarly to how they boost flavor and dimension in cocktails, bitters have an uncanny knack for making your dishes taste very complex. But since we’re all trying to soak up the last rays and revel in those lazy days of summer, a backyard party with Angostura will only taste like it took a long time to prepare. Glean tips for using bitters in the kitchen, then set up that picnic table and fire up the grill.

Why use bitters in cooking?

A little history lesson: Angostura Bitters date back more than two hundred years, and were originally used for medicinal purposes. In 1854 though, a cholera epidemic in the Caribbean caused an uptick in their culinary usage (both in dishes and drinks), as locals hoped the elixir would ease their ailments. Today, we consume bitters because just a few drops can add so much multi-layered flavor. (Think of it as the difference between using regular mustard and Dijon mustard.)

What do Angostura Bitters add to dishes?

Angostura Aromatic Bitters have a deep, concentrated, herby flavor, says Rita Held, Angostura culinary ambassador, who adds that the bitterness is similar to what you would get with bittersweet chocolate, dark roast coffee, toasted nuts, and the pith of lemon or lime peel. “[It] is not used for its singular ‘taste,’ but rather its ability to boost and enhance other flavors, in the same way chefs use miso, soy or anchovy paste.”

In what dishes do Angostura Aromatic Bitters work best?

“[They] are ideal for robust, earthy and umami-centric foods such as meat, seafood, legumes, eggplant, and more,” says Held. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Proteins: add it to gravies, meatballs, black bean chili or beef stew.
  • Condiments: Jazz up ketchup, barbecue sauce, baked beans, tomato-based pasta sauces, cocktail sauce, hummus or mayonnaise.
  • Grains: Add it to biscuit and cornbread batter.
  • Desserts: Use it in chocolate sauces, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, crème caramel, chocolate panna cotta or peanut brittle.

What about orange bitters?

Since they are made with orange peel, herbs and spices, they aren’t quite as potent as Angostura’s aromatic variety, and are great with lighter fare. Try them in breakfast or dessert dishes, too.

  • Swirl into honey, then drizzle on bleu cheese crostini.
  • Stir into yogurt along with honey, then serve over fruit.
  • Add a teaspoon to a half-cup of maple syrup and pour over pancakes or waffles.
  • Add two teaspoons to canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie.

Rangoon Gimlet cocktail recipe - Angostura Bitters food and drink recipes

Rangoon Gimlet

Recipe courtesy of House of Angostura

This twist on the classic Gimlet from the 1960s uses a few dashes of bitters, which make it decidedly more complex and tempers the acidity of the lime juice. “It is a perfect demonstration of the idea that you can fundamentally change a cocktail with the simple addition of...bitters,” says David Delaney, Jr., House of Angostura brand ambassador.

  • 3 oz. vodka or gin
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz. simple syrup
  • 4 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • 16 oz. crushed ice
  • Fresh mint or basil, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a blender, and pulse to achieve desired consistency. Pour blended mix into rocks glasses, and garnish with mint or basil.

Bitters & Spiced Grilled Ribs food recipe - Angostura Bitters food and drink recipes

Bitters & Spiced Grilled Ribs

Recipe courtesy of House of Angostura

Held knew that since bitters work well with ketchup and baked beans, a bitters barbecue sauce would be perfect. Feel free to adjust the amount of ancho and chipotle chilies depending on your tolerance for heat.

  • Angostura Spice Rub (see Note)
  • 2 tsp. Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • 1 slab baby-back pork ribs (3 to 3 ½ lbs.), cut into 3 or 4 sections
  • Angostura Barbecue Sauce (See Note)

Drizzle bitters over spice mixture, stir to combine, and rub over meaty side of ribs. Preheat grill to medium, and arrange coals or gas burners so ribs cook over indirect heat, cover, and cook ribs 30 minutes. Baste ribs with half of the barbecue sauce, reserving the rest; cover and cook 15 minutes more. Turn ribs over and brush underside with sauce. Cover and cook 15 minutes more or until cooked through. Brush with reserved sauce before removing the ribs from the grill.

For the Angostura Spice Rub:

Combine 2 Tbsp. ground ancho chilies, 1 rounded tsp. brown sugar, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. ground cumin and ½ tsp. ground chipotle chiles, stirring to break up clumps.

For the Angostura Barbecue Sauce:

Combine 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce, ¼ cup packed brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. Angostura Aromatic Bitters, 1 Tbsp. ground ancho chiles, 1 tsp. ground chipotle chiles (optional), 1 tsp. garlic powder and ½ tsp. ground cumin.

Quinoa Arugula Summer Salad food recipe - Angostura Bitters food and drink recipes

Quinoa Arugula Summer Salad

Recipe courtesy of House of Angostura

“Salads are so summertime, especially those that use quinoa and arugula,” says Held. A few drops of orange bitters – which aren’t quite as intense or bitter as their Aromatic cousin – add zest.

  • 3-4 cups cooked quinoa, chilled
  • a cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. safflower or canola oil
  • 1 tsp. Angostura Orange Bitters
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • a cup crumbled feta cheese
  • a cup chopped basil
  • 3 tbsp. chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp. sliced green onion
  • 2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3-4 generous cups baby arugula

Stir together rice vinegar, oil, bitters, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, stir together quinoa, feta, basil, mint and green onion. Add tomatoes and arugula, drizzle with dressing, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with additional seasonal rice vinegar to taste, if desired.

Roasted Vegetables with Angostura Mayonnaise Drizzle food recipe - Angostura Bitters food and drink recipes

Roasted Vegetables with Angostura Mayonnaise Drizzle

Recipe courtesy of House of Angostura

Any combination of vegetables will work for this dish, and you can prep them in advance and serve them warm or at room temperature. Use leftover mayonnaise on sandwiches or for salad dressing, thinned with a little more oil and vinegar if you wish.

  • 1-2 lbs. asparagus spears, green beans, broccoli rabe, rapini and/or Chinese broccoli
  • ¼ cup olive olive
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • Angostura Mayonnaise Drizzle (see Note)

Rinse and drain vegetables, remove woody stalks from asparagus, and trim green beans. Whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice and bitters. Brush liberally on vegetables and let stand 15 minutes. Heat a large iron fry pan over medium heat, cook vegetables in a single layer for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn and cook 3-5 minutes more or until tender (Alternately, grill vegetables until lightly browned.) Drizzle slightly warmed mayonnaise over vegetables, and serve.

For the Angostura Mayonnaise Drizzle:

Whisk together ½ cup mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp. grated lemon peel and ½ to 1 tsp. Angostura Aromatic Bitters.

Mango Tango Ice Pops dessert recipe - Angostura Bitters food and drink recipes

Mango Tango Ice Pops

Recipe courtesy of House of Angostura

Grown-up popsicles? Yes, please! The key to these boozy frozen treats is the irresistible combination of aged rum, orange bitters and fresh fruit. Experiment with other combinations, including pineapple and coconut, and papaya and guava. You can purchase Zipzicle bags on Amazon.

  • ½ cup Angostura 7 Year Caribbean Rum
  • ¼ tsp. Angostura Orange Bitters
  • 3 cups diced ripe mango
  • 3 cups diced fresh pineapple
  • 12 Zipzicle ice pop bags

Combine rum and bitters and set aside. Place diced mango in blender, add half the rum mixture, cover, and blend until smooth. Pour into a pitcher with a spout, and repeat with the pineapple and remaining rum mix. Add to pureed mango, stirring well. Open ice pop bags. Using a funnel, fill bags one at a time, stopping at the fill line. Seal bags, place upright in a tall container, and freeze for 2 to 3 hours or until frozen. To serve, place frozen pops with ice in an ice bucket or cooler. 

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on  Twitter  and  Instagram  @kmagyarics.


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