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Could there be a stranger product?

Essential cocktail additive, bitters, is described by Wikipedia as “an alcoholic beverage that contains herbal essences, has a bitter or bittersweet flavor, and is typically flavored with citrus.” It is a key ingredient in Manhattans, Old Fashions, and many other old-fashioned sounding rum and bourbon drinks.

Recently, it’s come to market, mainly from one company–Angostura. But it is different from the way Google, Kleenex, and Coke have come to dominate the internet search, tissue, and soda, markets.  When you think bitters, you’re really thinking Angostura, even though you didn’t realize it.

So, in the past few months when the manufacturer experienced some financial troubles, there was a shortage of bitters…sort of.  A small bottle of bitters can last years.  Additionally, the drinks that tend to use bitters (mentioned above) — while currently coming back in to vogue thanks in part to Mad Men — tend to be niche cocktails.

While there are over 20 brands of bitters, almost none are available as widely as Angostura.  Finding one of  “the oldest and rarest of antique bottles [that] command prices of tens of thousands of dollars” in your corner liquor store is like trying to find a 58 Borgogno Barolo Riserva in a Wal-Mart.

So, what does that mean?  Drinking establishments, likely, didn’t feel a pinch (provided they aren’t serving over 1000 Old Fashions a night, every night).  However,  Danny Boyle, in Western Michigan is probably not going to be making any home made Manhattans if he’s currently out of bitters.

Bitters, the oddest good?


4 Responses

  1. i do what don draper say and i what don draper drinks, keep the bitters dashing!!

  2. So demand is elastic for private use and inelastic for restaurant consumption. What about ordering online shy didn’t they think of that?

  3. The problem with bitters is that recipes only call for a dash, so when like you say it can last for years the syrupy bottle can get nasty and gross.

  4. […] Kid Rock to team up on digital downloading.  Additionally, the bitters shortage we wrote about here appears to be […]

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