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The "Bitter" Truth

The smallness of my world.
Angostura Bitters.  Produced in Trinidad.  Found in most every household.
My “Wikipedia” entry?  First used as an ingredient in whiskey cocktails my parents served that were “trendy” in the ‘60s.   Later my Dad taught me that the best cure for heart-burn and indigestion was a teaspoon of Baking Soda in a glass of water with a dash of Bitters.

I moved to Trinidad in 1978, one hundred years after the company was moved to Port of Spain, Trinidad.   A few short years before my arrival, the company was noted as the country’s largest exporter, behind crude oil, (my reason for being there).  

The real “Wikipedia” entry?  The recipe was developed as a tonic by German Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert (died 1870), a Surgeon General in Simon Bolivar’s army in Venezuela, who began to sell it in 1824 and established a distillery for the purpose in 1830.  Siegert was based in the town of Angostura, now Ciudad Bolívar, and used locally available ingredients, perhaps aided by botanical knowledge of the local Amerindians.  The product was sold abroad from 1853 and in 1875 the plant was moved from Ciudad Bolivar to Port of Spain, Trinidad, where it remains.  Angostura won a medal at the Weltausstellung 1873 Wien. The medal is still depicted on the over sized label, along with reverse which shows Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in profile.

The exact formula is a closely guarded secret, with only five people knowing the whole recipe.

Why the over sized label? According to the website: ” Many stories surround why the label ended up being too large for the bottle but probably the most well known is that it was simply a result of the laid back Caribbean attitude. When someone ordered the wrong size of label and the mistake was spotted, everyone thought someone else would correct it. When no one did, they decided to stick with the over sized label rather than change it and so it became the trade mark of the brand.

Another label story‚ is that one guy went out to buy the bottle and another guy was sent to buy a label. When they met back at the office they realized that the label was too big but time was running out so they decided to just make it work.”
How ironic that a transforming part of my life, I lived in Trinidad and as recently as this evening I was administering my Dad’s cure to a friend…

An unabashed plug for my upcoming, some day, maybe, “I’m working on it, OK!!” – book. 

The whole story will be in the book, provided I hit the proverbial literary lottery and make my way to published stardom.  And just imagine, YOU can then say “Oh her?  I read her way back when her blog was so “template boring” and unknown.”

“ If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”
                        Lord Byron

One comment on “The "Bitter" Truth

  1. Intersting bit of history


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