Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas” as Want to Read:
Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  720 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Gone are the days when a lonely bottle of Angostura bitters held court behind the bar.A cocktail renaissance has swept across the country, inspiring in bartenders and their thirsty patrons a new fascination with the ingredients, techniques, and traditions that make the American cocktail so special. And few ingredients have as rich a history or serve as fundamental a role i ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Ten Speed Press (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bitters, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Bitters

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 06, 2012 Rooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so on the one hand, while I love to read cookbooks and the like, I expected this book to have more history and fewer recipes; it has sections on history and lots of lovely li'l anecdotes, but it's really more of a practical guide than a history, and my head was all prepped for a history. In a good way. I mean, I love me some random history of a niche subject. Actually, there's this great book on the Mann Act . . .

Ahem. Back on track.

Now, on the other hand, it has recipes and advice for maki
This was a bit disappointing for me. I hoped for some in-depth history on the subject of bitters; a few cocktail recipes with bitters as a focus; such as in the magnificent Trinidad Sour; and a lot of recipes and formulas for making bitters, including a thorough discussion of the flavors, aromas, bitterness level, and other qualities of the various ingredients that go into different bitters.

Instead, the book provides quite a brief history; merely a baker's dozen formulas for house-made bitters,
Aug 26, 2016 MiLi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gastronomia
Al comprarlo pensé que el enfoque iba a estar más en la parte teórica, pero resultó ser mucho más completo, ya que la mitad del libros una compilación muy buena de recetas para hacer bitters caseros, para la realización de algunos tragos, tanto clásicos como modernos, y hasta de algunas comidas que utilizan estos ingredientes.

Buenas fotografías, recetas claras, bien escrito... Creo que este libro es fundamental en la biblioteca (física o virtual) de cualquier aficionado a la coctelería. Vale la
Dec 25, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a lot of good info here on contemporary cocktail culture, as well as a great collection of drink (and food) recipes. It's also a beautifully designed book--it's lovely just to leaf through. This is great volume if you're looking for new things to try in your home bar or kitchen or if you're a craft cocktail fan/avid DIYer. If you are looking for the history of the usage of bitters, though, you'd be better off looking elsewhere.
Niki Ganong
Sep 06, 2013 Niki Ganong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is worth a purchase as a recipe book. But I have heard the stories elsewhere before.
Jan 24, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
If this is a culmination of the bitters knowledge of the world, then I guess there just isn't that much to know.

But that's fine. Honestly, unless there was a rousing back-story of evil chemists and immortal sex pirates, I'm not sure a long and detailed history of bitters would have been much fun to read anyway.

I certainly learned all I need to know about the creation of bitters as medicinal elixirs and their fundamental importance in the genesis of the cocktail.

Really, the bulk of the book turns
Kimberly Ann
Feb 14, 2016 Kimberly Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book on the use of "Bitters" with cocktails, recipes & formulas. Bitters are an aromatic flavoring agent made fro infusing spices, herbs, flowers, barks, roots & other botanicals in a high-proof alcohol or glycerin. They were long ago used for medicinal reasons: indigestion, cramps, headaches or constipation (Castoria?).

Most animals & humans shy away from bitters as historically BITTER usually signaled the presence of toxins, which could very possibly lead to death.

This is a fantastic reference for anyone interested in well-crafted cocktails with quality ingredients. There's an entire section on making your own bitters, which I can't wait to try, I've been making my own flavored liqueurs for years. There's also a section on the craft of bartending itself, essential tools and what spirits and ingredients are recommended to build up your home bar with, along with brand recommendations. The writer's experience shines through here. Trying to remember that the ...more
Nov 08, 2015 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To be fair, I'm not sure that bitters really merit their own book; large swaths of the book feel fairly redundant, especially given that most of the bitters and drink recipes are identical processes with different ingredients.

But, the book is beautiful, and Parsons makes me wish that I had the time, opportunity, and palate to walk in his footsteps. And that's really the bittersweet truth of the matter; I'm never going to try most of the bitters that he describes, and even if I did, I'm not so su
Anne Brockhoff
Jun 27, 2014 Anne Brockhoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drink
Parsons admits he got a bit obsessive about bitters while researching this book, and we definitely benefit. Not only does he provide a well-researched background on familiar brands like Angostura and Peychaud's and a good selection of cocktails to use them in, he introduces new additions to the commercial market and plenty of straightforward recipes for making your own (although I would have liked a bit more guidance in how to use these house-made efforts). There are also recipes for syrups and ...more
Apr 25, 2014 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Bitters" is an all-in-one book. It features history, travel, reviews, and recipes. Travel with author, Brad Thomas Parsons, across the US to find the best hand-crafted cocktails. Learn about the history of bitters and how the industry has changed over the last 150 years. My favorite part of the book is the instructions and recipes for making your own bitters. There are many bitters recipes offered in the book, and the author encourages experimentation with his basic bitters-making process. The ...more
Jul 28, 2014 Melody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Filled with beautiful photographs and recipes for bitters and classic cocktails, Brad Thomas Parsons weaves together the history and current affairs of bitters. While boutique bitters are now practically ubiquitous, many recipes were near extinction after prohibition, with only two or three companies maintaining production.
Even during this current bitters revival, Angostura is arguably the most recognizable of all bitter bottles behind the bar. If you are questioning that oversized Angostura la
Wow, so this book is serious. Seriously in depth. Seriously chock full of historical everything you need to know about Bitters. I didn't even know what bitters were when I picked it up. I must say though, if you're like me and knew nothing of bitters, nor intend to start making some, this book might be a "skim" and "look at pictures" book. More amusing than it was educating I bored of it 1/4 of the way through and began skimming at warp speed. But I'd highly recommend it to others who know about ...more
Jan 21, 2015 Chelsea rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, nonfiction
The title is misleading. I was expecting mostly history with a dash of cocktail recipes. It turned out to be about 35 pages of history, 5 pages of current bitters manufacturers and descriptions of their products, 10 pages of descriptions of various bar gadgets and doodads and about 150 pages of cocktail recipes that there is zero probability that I will ever make. They contain such obscure ingredients that I could never be fussed to track down the ingredients let alone the multi-step preparation ...more
Sep 07, 2016 Maisey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book at the restaurant I work at. It was really interesting
Mar 30, 2012 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful book. Very good information on the history of bitters, though I could have used more. About half the book is recipes: bitters recipes for the DIYers out there; and cocktail recipes using bitters. Well the latter are well-sourced, I don't personally need a book on the shelf that's half recipes. A fine selection for checking out of the library, but not really necessary for your home cocktail library.
Liz Simmons
Sep 01, 2015 Liz Simmons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book to flip through if you're interested in the history of cocktails, especially as related to bitters. I got this for the recipes so that i could try making my own bitters. I haven't made any yet, but I plan to try the Meyer lemon recipe. I was disappointed there weren't more recipes (there are about 15). I was also not at all interested in the chapter on cooking with butters. Overall a solid book though, with good writing. It's not all fluff, like books like this often are.
May 04, 2012 Rebeca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book, but limited in its history of bitters. What the book lacks in history it makes up for in recipes, practical advice and geekyness. The book feels like a little in-joke between the tiny vest and suspenders wearing bartender set, with lots of name dropping and navel gazing, but I guess the world is pretty small.
Kristin Lundberg
Already made orange bitters and grapefruit bitters from this book. Came out great! working on the key lime ones now. Finally read this all the way through. Really liked the brief history of bitter as well as the tips on how to stock you bar and the drink recipes. Excellent read/recipe book. Makes me want to create a craft bittered cocktail right now!
May 03, 2015 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, own_it, ebook
Very interesting and chatty book on the history of bitters, with some cocktail recipes at the end showcasing how you can use some of the specialty bitters discussed in the book. Also includes instructions for making your own bitters of various types, though I think sourcing some of the ingredients would be a challenge for some folks (especially given the small quantities needed).
A very interesting book on an unusual subject. Having looked at the yellow capped bottle of bitters in the cabinet many a time and having no clue what to do with it, I finally have the answer. The best way this book sums up bitters is that they are as indispensable to a bartender as salt and pepper are to a chef. This book is going to be added to my home collection.
Jan 22, 2015 Deniz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough history of bitters that had many more cocktail recipes than bitters recipes, which I was fine with. If you've been bitten by the cocktail bug and have gotten into making drinks at home this is a great book to have on hand for recipes, and general light reading. Overall pleased that I got it.
B. Rule
May 05, 2013 B. Rule rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is mostly a recipe book. I thought it would be more interesting because the first couple chapters had some good historical info about bitters. After that, it's mostly typical cocktail recipes. He advocates adding bitters to some unexpected drinks, but overall it wasn't what I was hoping for in a book that first and foremost calls itself a history.
Dec 30, 2011 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting bits about bitters, and also interesting cocktail recipes. Even the ones that are classic cocktails you've heard of have a little bit of a tweak here and there, in ways that make me want to give them another try. Seems like if you make a batch or three of the bitters recipes, you'd get a handle on it enough to concoct your own, which is also cool.
Feb 14, 2015 Manuel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for those interested in craft cocktails! It has great recipes for old school cocktails and everything you want to know about bitters. It even has recipes so you can concoct your own bitters! Really enjoyed it!
Jul 26, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting book that really makes me want to explore the fascinating, creative world of bitters. I'm going to push my husband (my in-house chef) to experiment with bitters in his cooking. I would recommend this book to anyone who is at all interested in reading about the art of imbibing.
Apr 03, 2013 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely photos and nice short histories on certain bitters (and why we should care). I enjoyed the recipes very much, but seem to reference the standard classic cocktail recipes more than the other cocktail ones and even the bitters recipes. The tone of the author is fun to read.
Jul 27, 2012 Dale rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cooking-food
Good brief history of bitters - the author uses every conceivable "bitters" word pun along the way.
Great recipes for classic and mixed drinks, how to make your own bitters, and interestingly, cooking recipes featuring bitters.
Found this at the library, will likely buy a copy soon.
Jan 21, 2012 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
did not have as much history as I expected or would have liked.

the bitters recipes are great, however most of the cocktail recipes are retreads of things that most people reading this book probably already have
Anna Edwards
Oct 08, 2012 Anna Edwards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recent years I have become obsessed w/ Bitters. Parsons' book explains this history and resurgence of bitters. . . which to me, was fascinating. The book also recipes for DIY bitters, cocktails, ice cream, etc. Who knew bitters could be so versatile.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum Cocktail to the Zombie {80 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories behind Them}
  • Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar
  • The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy
  • Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined
  • The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender's Craft
  • The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, with 500 Recipes
  • Absinthe: History in a Bottle
  • The Bartender's Guide: How to Mix Drinks: A Bon Vivant's Companion
  • Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol
  • Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits
  • Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today
  • The Savoy Cocktail Book
  • The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique
  • Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province
  • A History of Food in 100 Recipes
  • DIY Cocktails: A simple guide to creating your own signature drinks
  • Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces
  • The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi
Brad Thomas Parsons is the author of "Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All," which was the winner of the James Beard and IACP Cookbook Awards, and a finalist for the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Parsons received an MFA in writing from Columbia University, and his work has appeared in "Bon Appétit," "Food & Wine," "Travel + Leisure," "Lucky Peach," "Punch," and more. He l ...more
More about Brad Thomas Parsons...

Share This Book