If you’re like most people, the first thing you think of when you hear the word “bitter” is someone who’s miserable, angry, and generally not very happy. While all of that may be true by definition, aromatic bitters can introduce you to a whole new world of unique, complex flavors that enliven drinks and dishes of all kinds. Having recently come back into the spotlight thanks to the surge of interest in craft cocktails, aromatic bitters actually have a number of health benefits and culinary uses just waiting to be explored.
What Are Aromatic Bitters?
Aromatic bitters are flavored extracts made from infusing herbs, bark, roots, fruits, and flowers in flavorless alcohol to create a concentrated formula. Because it’s made from ingredients that are incredibly bitter by themselves, it only takes a few dashes at most to have the complex flavor profiles fully infused into your beverage or dish.
Believe it or not, aromatic bitters have actually been around since the ancient times where they were traditionally used as a digestive aid and to treat all kinds of ailments. In fact, traces of aromatic bitters have even been found along the insides of pots and jugs throughout Roman and ancient Egyptian history.
Though they’re still widely used for holistic purposes around the world, in the United States, bitter flavors have all but disappeared from the modern diet. Sadly, the natural bitter flavors found in many foods have become replaced with salt and sugar as the demand for these kinds of cuisines continues to drive unhealthy products onto shelves.
How to Use Aromatic Bitters
While almost any Google search on aromatic bitters will turn up countless results for various alcoholic beverages that use this powerful flavoring agent, they can also be used for their health benefits and to spice up your favorite dishes. That’s right, it turns out the powerful herbal and botanical ingredients used to make aromatic bitters can actually be used as a remedy for digestive problems of all kinds.
When taken, the strong flavor profiles of aromatic bitters are known to stimulate saliva production and increase the secretions of gastric juices and bile to help your body digest better. Though there is little evidence to back it up, some doctors and homeopathic experts suggest that the obesity problem in the United States stems from widespread poor digestive health and the lack of naturally bitter foods in our diets.
To take advantage of the many health benefits aromatic bitters offer, simply take a teaspoon before or after each meal to help with problems such as poor appetite, sluggishness, and bloating. Because they’re so potent, you can also mix a teaspoon of aromatic bitters with soda water to make it more palatable. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, try out different mixtures to come up with your own digestive health boosting beverage.
Of course, aromatic bitters have so much more to offer aside from digestive aid thanks to their incredibly diverse flavor profiles. Below, we’ve covered a few fun and exciting recipes you can try out that incorporate bitters.
Aromatic Bitters Recipes
1. Salad Dressing With a Bitter Twist
Whether you’re a salad fanatic or the occasional herbivore, aromatic bitters work exceptionally well in dressings. The healthy mixture of greens – some of which may be naturally bitter, such as kale – are are the perfect pallet for introducing all kinds of flavors ranging from sweet and spicy to salty and bold. Simply adding a few dashes of aromatic bitters to your favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing will instantly elevate your salad to a whole new level of tasty.
2. Not Your Average Bowl of Ice Cream
While you’re welcome to try this one out with any ice cream flavor, we find that it works best when sticking with the timeless classic – vanilla. Acting like a blank canvas, the natural sweetness of ice cream and its creamy texture are perfect for experimenting with different flavors. Put a few scoops of ice cream in a bowl followed by some sliced fruit to set the stage. Next, add a few dashes of bitters and mix if you’d like to get a pleasantly tasty surprise.
3. Soup for the Adventurous
Soups are an excellent dish for enhancing with aromatic bitters simply because they can be as simple or complex as you would like. Whether working with store bought cans or your own recipe, bitters blend exceptionally well with creamy and vegetable based soups. Start out with just a dash or two and mix well to see how the flavors are blending before adding more. Then, simply adjust accordingly to create a soup with new levels of depth and complexity.