The Health Benefits of Bitters

By James Madeiros


Better Bitters Benefits

Aside from bartenders and a handful of alcohol connoisseurs it’s hard to find a person who even knows what bitters are. Quick: What are bitters?

A lot of people think bitters are just something you add to an alcoholic drink to make it bitter, which is partly true, but the real scoop is that bitters is an alcoholic beverage in itself, although it’s so freakin’ strong – usually around 45% alcohol, or 90 proof – only a little is added to food or drink to put a pinch of pizzazz into it.

Bitters get their bite from a mixture of spices and it is these spices that give the tippler’s tonic its health benefits. Once (and sometimes still) used as a digestive, bitters contains many herbs and roots that are believed to ease stomach pain. The spices and herbs found in bitters today include:

- Gentia Root
- Devil’s Club Root
- Black Walnut Leaf
- Cinchona Bark
- Cassia Chips
- Sarsaparilla
- Wild Cherry Bark
- Orange Peel

Many of these flavors are known to contain curative properties. Cinchona bark, for example, is the natural source of the anti-malarial drug quinine and is used by many as a cold and flu remedy, to ease stomach problems and to treat blood vessel disorders.

Those who haven’t heard of cinchona – or of bitters, for that matter – shouldn’t feel too bad. The U.S. Food and Drug Act of 1906 outlawed many types of bitters, and that combined with the lapse in favor of the classic cocktail all but wiped it from the barroom. Now, however, classic cocktails and craft cocktail making are gaining in popularity and bitters are along for the ride.

Drinks with bitters most likely found at your local watering hole include Manhattans, Metropolitans and the Old Fashioned, although you may want to test the maker’s skill before you order up – a little bitters goes a long way.

Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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