We've all heard of Angostura—the world's best-known bitters that come in that funky bottle with the oversized white wrapper.
But what is Angostura, really? If you taste it on its own, you'll find all sorts of warm spice notes—cinnamon, allspice, definitely clove—with a strong bitter, bark-y backbone. Most drinks benefit from just a dash, given that the flavors of Angostura are so densely packed. Do a shot of it, and it tastes awesome for a second and then parches your mouth dry, it's so intense. But when properly mixed, some drinks can be delicious with a ton of Angostura—not just the dash-or-two you're accustomed to. (The vivid red color is definitely a bonus.)
Easy: Ango and Soda
The bartenders call it “Ango” so we will too. Here's the best way to get to know it: splash a ton in a glass of soda water. Its interesting bitter-spicy flavors all come out, and while Ango is as high-proof as any spirit (in fact higher than most, at around 45%), it's so concentrated that just a little bit can satisfy. While this drink isn't technically non-alcoholic, it's so low-proof that it's a great still-tastes-like-a-cocktail option to sub in between, say, your third and fourth "real" drinks. Tastes like a cocktail but won't get you smashed like one.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, pour 1/4 ounce of Angostura (that's 20 dashes, should you prefer to dash) and then 5 ounces soda. (It'll foam up into a pretty aggressive head, so watch out.) Garnish with a lemon wedge.
NOTE: If you squeeze the lemon in, it'll kill some of that head.
Intermediate: Angostura Sour
The classic Angostura bitters cocktail. To make it, you've got to take the dropper off the bottle—it'd take a long time to dash out an ounce and a half. Because the Angostura is so dry, you need a pretty decent amount of sugar to balance it out. We find this one also doubles as a hangover remedy.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces Angostura bitters (yes, that much, really), 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/2 ounce lime juice, and 3/4 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and hot water). Add one egg white. Shake all that up hard without ice—this is called a "dry shake"—and then add ice and shake again (the "wet shake”). Strain into a cocktail glass without ice. Garnish with brandied cherries and an orange wedge.
Advanced: West Indian Old Fashioned
Here, we're taking Caribbean rum, pairing it with Caribbean bitters and Caribbean sugar. Nothing has an affinity for Angostura like rum, and a teeny bit of Angostura Orange—available just about anywhere you can find Ango original— brightens the whole thing up.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 1 ounce Jamaican rum (we use Appleton Estate Reserve 12-year), 1 ounce of Ango, 1/2 ounce demerara syrup (equal part raw sugar dissolved in hot water), and 1/4 ounce Angostura orange. Stir that all up until well-chilled and then strain into a glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange wedge.