Bitter spirits, herbal or stomach bitter are spirits mixed with different herbs, which must contain at least 15% alcohol. A characteristic feature of these spirits is their predominantly bitter taste, which is also a prerequisite for the designation "bitter". But the subjective sense of taste allows a certain leeway for this designation. Bitter spirits are flavored by natural ingredients - such as herbs - or other flavorings.
The origin of bitter spirits goes back to pharmacies and also distilleries of monasteries. Formerly used as medicine - herbal bitters are today often used in bars, as well as in upscale kitchens and of course in private households.
Contents of bitter spirits
Agricultural alcohol - or spirit of wine - forms the basis for bitter spirits. In addition, herbal extracts, citrus notes, berries, angostura, aniseed or cinchona bark are used for the production of, among other things, herbal bitters.
Digestive effect - Just a myth?
Herbal bitters are often offered after a meal as a spirit to aid digestion. The herbal essences contained are supposed to stimulate the secretion of digestive organs. Meanwhile, there are studies that indicate that high-percentage drinks are rather not conducive to digestion. Despite the generally felt feeling of relaxation - which suppresses the feeling of fullness - the digestive work is decelerated.
Categories of bitter spirits
There is a wide range of herbal bitters in terms of both taste and color.
- bitter-tasting Absinthe varieties.
- Angostura, a cocktail bitter with gentian roots, bitter oranges, cinchona bark, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon.
- Anise(e), spirits flavored with aniseed (also unsweetened liqueurs).
- Fruity bitter tasting Italian aperol, distilled from cinchona bark, gentian, bitter oranges, herbs and rhubarb.
- Sicilian Averna made from herbs, essential oils, bitter oranges, roots and lemons.
- Becherovka, green-yellow herbal bitter invented in the Czech Republic with 38% vol. alcohol.
- Campari, a trademarked, red, Italian bitter-tasting liqueur.
- Lucano, made from bitter orange, gentian, aloe and herbs like wormwood, Pontic mugwort, sage, yarrow and cinnamon oil.
- Traditional Italian Ramazotti made from herbs with 30% alcohol content, also called Amaro.
- Suze a bitter-sweet gentian liqueur with the countries of origin France and Switzerland.
- Stomach bitter or herbal bitters like Fernet Branca, Gammel Dansk, Meyer's Bitter, Pelinkovac, Underberg, Unicum. These are often drunk as "digestive liquor".