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

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  488 ratings  ·  60 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)
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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,
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
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.

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.
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
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
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
"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
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.
I was hoping for a few more recipes for bitters themselves rather than drinks made with bitters. But overall it was very well informed and he provided much inspirado for making my own concoctions.
Gorgeous publication with photos, background to the most famous bitters and tons of recipes to make your own, as well as cocktails and other things to put them in.
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
Jason Young
Not as much how-to bitters writing as I was looking for, but lots of great resources and recipes.
Anyone who was disappointed by the cocktails in Tequila Mockingbird (like I was) should check this out.
Great book - really interesting. Love the history and the recipes!
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
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
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.
I love bitters, and I love this book. More cocktail recipes than info here, and I want to try every single one of them.

Update: The drink recipes are a bit fussy for me, and I'm not sure about this "bitters nerd" or "geeking out on bitters" stuff.
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.
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.
B. Rule
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.
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!
B Kevin
Fascinating history of Bitters. Also has some great cocktail recipes containing bitters. If you like classic cocktails, you will love this book.
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.
Fascinating; best of all, my boyfriend is determined to make me every drink in this book that I desire. Beautifully illustrated and just enough history to keep your interest piqued. Not a definitive history, but good enough to make your imbibing more sophisticated and your conversation erudite.
I really enjoyed this book. A smattering of a lot of bitters-related content: history, how to make your own, resources, cocktail recipes, food recipes. Good stuff. If you're looking for a hard core, deep research book - this isn't it. But it is a great introduction. Very easy to read. Great pics.
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.
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Brad Thomas Parsons is a writer and cocktail enthusiast. His first book, "Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All," won both a James Beard Foundation Book Award and an IACP Cookbook Award, and was a finalist for a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award. A former senior editor at, he received an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and his writing has appeared in "Bon Appétit, ...more
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