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Book Review: Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons

This is a review of the new book Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons. 

It contains pretty much just what you want out of a bitters book - the history of bitters, recipes for bitters, and recipes for cocktails that use bitters. 


It first delves into the history of bitters as cure-all medicines before the were regulated by the Pure Food & Drug act of 1906. It's not a huge discussion and I'm fairly up on my history of bitters so I can't say I learned much that I didn't already know here.

The book then describes the history of some classic bitters brands including Abbott's, Angostura, and Peychaud's, before moving into the modern era. It has an excellent list of about 20 new bitters brands launched since Regans' Orange Bitters in 2005.  I've found myself referreing to this section more than once already. The book describes each brand, who makes it, and what flavors are available.

The next section is on making your own bitters. It has a list of bittering agents - the first time I've seen that list in one place - along with information on where to buy ingredients and tips on drying your own citrus peels for later infusions. There are recipes for about 15 types of bitters ranging from Apple to Root Beer.

There are then recipes for more than 80 cocktails split between vintage ones and modern creations by well-known bartenders. There are a few food recipes too. 

The book finishes with a resource guide of books to read and the websites of bitters makers, retailers, and "spirited sites" including Alcademics. Hey, thanks for the shout-out!