BITTERS AND SPIRITS IN THE WORLD OF VINHOOD

Francesco Guida

amari caratteri vinhood

HISTORY OF BITTERS AND LIQUORS

The first origin of bitters and infused spirits in general, is related to the medieval Arab world, with the birth of the so-called Alchemy for medical purposes, that was developed in Baghdad by followers of the Hippocratic school such as Avicenna and Rhazes. With the word “chimos” the Greeks used to define the sap of plants, but also any kind of vegetable extraction in order to create infusions or decoctions.

The first official news of a drink more similar to a bitter comes from the 1300s. The Catalan alchemist Arnaldo da Villanova, professor at the prestigious University of Montpellier, used an infusion of alcohol and herbs to treat an attack of colitis that had struck Pope Boniface VIII during the Jubilee, and the news quickly became “viral”, given the renowned patient. Arnaldo codified the recipe, together with other writings, in the De Aquis Medicinalibus collection.

From that moment on, the search for this type of infusion spread to many monasteries and convents, always for pure medicinal purposes, until the use of “bitter” drinks for other purposes began to be considered.

It took more than 100 years of study and the passion of Brother Jerome Maubec to give birth to the first “recreational” bitter liqueur in history, Chartreuse Vert, in 1737.

In the following years the secret for the creation of liqueur leaves the convent walls to become more and more a drink of domestic creation and consumption; and later reach the development of various recipes, some of which are still present today on the market.

Italy is currently the home of bitters and liqueurs in general, it seems that there is at least one officially recognized recipe in every important city.

WHAT IS A BITTER, HOW AND WHEN TO DRINK IT?

A drink can be called a bitter liqueur when the product is obtained from agricultural distillate of cereal, fruit or oenological origin, called solvent, with infusion or flavouring of herbs and edible substances such as bark, berries and roots, called solute.

By law, bitters must have a minimum alcohol content of 15°, and sugar per litre must be below 10%, otherwise we are talking about liqueurs.

The production methods of bitters and liqueurs are diverse and all or part of them can be used to obtain the finished product:

  • Cold infusion or maceration: herbs and spices are soaked in alcohol for a certain period of time depending on the recipe. The infusion can be unique (all herbs are put together) or separate (each ingredient is infused separately). 
  • Hot infusion: the solvent, alcohol or water, is heated to extract the aromatic and gustatory substances of the solute in the best possible way.
  • Flavouring: made by mixing and sweetening infusions already produced within an alcoholic base.
  • Distillation: used in the presence of herbs containing alkaloids or to stabilize and obtain maximum aromaticity from a specific plant, fruit or other ingredients.

The best advice for consumption of liqueurs and bitters is always to do so in small quantities, preferably at the end of a meal. Serving temperatures may vary according to personal taste, the manufacturer’s instructions and the context in which they are consumed.

THE VARIETIES AND CHARACTERS OF BITTERS

According to Italian law, bitters are classified based on sugar content and the ratio of bitterness to aroma, so they are divided into very very bitter, very bitter, aromatic, medium aromatic and very aromatic bitters.

For us at Vinhood bitters, as well as wines, can have different #characters, each one made unique by its own specific characteristics. 

#DARING

#Daring bitters are those with the most acute bitterness and structured and complex aromas. They can captivate the drinker thanks to their extreme and decisive flavour of medicinal herbs, which goes beyond the boundaries of many people’s taste. To be consumed at the end of a particularly “abundant” meal, and after a nice cup of coffee. Labels such as Braulio, Cynar or Unicum belong to this category.

Because of their strong propensity for extreme tasting notes, they can recall an adventurous and self-confident person with a #daring spirit.

#REFINED

The #refined bitters are soft ones. They are very elegant on the nose and taste, but they never lack a pinch of pleasant and spicy pungency. Perfect as a digestive but also as a ” meditation” drink. In this category we find bitters like Averna or Montenegro.

For their elegance, they recall a #refined and discreet person with an always pleasant and composed presence.

#SOCIAL

The #social liqueurs are sweet and very soft infusions, not bitter at all. In them, in addition to the very distinct sugary note, the aromas of the main ingredient used to produce them can be clearly distinguished. They are best enjoyed when you want to give a sweet pampering to your palate, not to be disdained even in combination with some desserts. The category includes products such as Nocino, Coffee Cream and Amaretto.

They are reminiscent of people with an extremely #social demeanor and a sincere and genuine attitude, who know how to win you over for their outspoken friendliness.

#IRONIC

The #ironic bitters are characterized by extremely recognizable menthol and liquorice notes; while retaining the freshness and bitterness typical of these drinks, they are also sweet and pleasant to the palate. This is why they are often considered classic bitter-refreshing “shots”. Drinks such as Jagermeister or Branca Mint belong to this category.

They can resemble a particularly #ironic person, always able to dispense some jokes or puns at the most suitable time.

#CAREFREE

The #carefree category includes all those liqueurs based on ingredients such as citrus, berries or other fruit that in addition to the typical sweet note also develop a good freshness and a bitter pungency in the finish, due not only to the main ingredient used in the infusion but also to the high alcoholic volume. To be drunk on any occasion but absolutely better if consumed in company and always sparingly. They include classic liqueurs such as limoncello, sardinian mirto and sambuca.

They remind us of a person with a #carefree, hassle-free, optimistic and festive character.

#CRAFTY

The #crafty bitters stand out for their ease of drinking and for being suitable to everyone’s taste, thanks to an excellent balance of acidity, sweetness, bitterness and very pleasant aromatic notes on the nose. A good idea is to have a bottle of them left on the restaurant table at the end of a lunch with friends. This category includes bitters such as Lucano or Amaro del Capo.

They can remember a #crafty person, capable of adapting easily to every situation and always paying attention to every detail.

What bitter or liquor are you? Soon the Amari Test will be available!