The original recipe, which is still used in Trinidad, comes from an adventurous German from Heidelberg, Dr. J. Siegert, who created Angostura in the early 19th century while experimenting with a cure for malaria.
THE STORY OF ANGOSTURA® BITTERS
The legend begins with Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert.
Originally from Germany, Johann Siegert, a doctor of medicine, left his homeland in 1820, the call of adventure ringing in his ears. He was bound for Venezuela, to join with Simon Bolivar in his fight against the Spanish throne. Bolivar then appointed him Surgeon-General of the Military Hospital in the town of Angostura.
Dr. Siegert was above all a scientist. A scientist with a keen enquiring mind. He had seen soldiers battered by the enemy from without and within, by severe fevers and internal stomach disorders.
From the beginning Dr. Siegert was determined to wrest a cure from nature itself and after four years of trial and error, researching and analysing the qualities of tropical herbs and plants, he finally arrived at a unique blend of herbs which he called “Amargo Aromatico” or aromatic bitters. The year was 1824.
Dr. Siegert hoped to use the bitters to bring relief to his patients, his small circle of family and friends, but these events were to prove otherwise. From these humble beginnings an international industry was soon to rise. It was a period of great maritime activity in the Caribbean.
The town of Angostura on the banks of the Orinoco River was an important trading post. Ships came into this port from all over the world, their sailors often complaining of sea-sickness. From the residents, they soon learned of the
restorative qualities of Dr. Siegert’s remedies and of Angostura® aromatic bitters began its continuing trip around the world. Dr. Siegert was encouraged to think of producing his bitters on a commercial scale.
In 1830, Dr. Siegert exported his unique aromatic bitters to England and Trinidad. By 1850, he had resigned his commission in the Venezuelan army, to concentrate on the manufacture of his bitters, since by then demand had leapt ahead of supply.
By the time Dr. Siegert died in 1870, his reputation and that of his Angostura® aromatic bitters were internationally established.
Dr. J.G.B. Siegert& Hijo, a partnership with his son, Carlos, was established in 1867 by Dr. Siegert. Two years after the death of Dr. Siegert, the name was changed to Dr. J.G.B. Siegert& Hijos, to include younger brother, Alfredo Siegert.
Don Carlos, as Carlos became known, recognised that he was in possession of the secret to a unique product. Bon vivant, impeccable in his dress and manners, he was among the first advertisers.
He exhibited in London in 1862 and sampled his product. It was applauded with gin, the monotony of which was forever altered. It became the magic ingredient, to be used in exotic concoctions. He exhibited in Paris in 1867 and in Vienna in 1873. He visited Philadelphia in the united States in 1876 and Australia in 1879. The hallmark of Angostura® aromatic bitters was firmly established.
HOME TO TRINIDAD
Venezuela was not as politically stable as Simon Bolivar had promised. There was internal strife and dictator followed dictator. Carlos and Alfredo decided to leave and chose the nearby island of Trinidad as their country of adoption. In Trinidad, Carlos and Alfredo were joined by their youngest brother, Luis, and together they set up business once again.
Angostura® aromatic bitters made the brothers remarkably prosperous.
In 1903 Carlos Siegert died followed in two years by Luis, making Alfredo the sole owner of the secret formula for Angostura® aromatic bitters.
In 1904, Alfredo was appointed purveyor of Angostura® aromatic bitters to the King of Prussia and in 1907 to King Alfonso XIII of Spain. He went public with the company and named it Angostura Bitters (Dr. J.G.B. Siegert & Sons) Limited. Three years later the Company was appointed purveyor of Angostura® aromatic bitters to King George V.
Alfredo speculated in several business projects and lost heavily, great sums of money, and the House of Angostura passed into the hands of its creditors.
The company survived some hard times, a bid from a US distributor and another from a Canadian business man, both of who would have transplanted the industry outside of Trinidad.
They were unsuccessful. Some forty years later, the company was back in the hands of the Siegert family.
THE HOUSE OF ANGOSTURA GROUP
By the turn of the century, the Company ventured into the rum market,
at first just in bottling bulk rum from other distillers. After years of intensive research in fermentation and distillation processes, the Company installed a state-of-the-art distillery in 1945 heralding its entry into the production of rum on a major scale.
By the end of 1960, the Company had extended distribution of its products to over 140 countries across the world, becoming well known internationally for its high quality rums in addition to the now world famous Angostura® aromatic bitters.
In 1985 Angostura Limited became the proud recipient of a National Award, the Humming Bird Gold Medal, for its contribution to industry in Trinidad and Tobago, the first company to be so honoured.
On November 1st of the same year, the Company was extremely honoured when Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II visited the plant on her state visit to Trinidad and Tobago. She unveiled a plaque marking the completion of yet another distillery expansion. This unveiling was especially significant to the Company as it is the proud holder of a Royal Warrant of appointment to the Queen. The Royal Warrant to provide Angostura® aromatic bitters to the Royal household has been held by the Company during several reigns. The distinction is a prestigious one that is granted by royal grace and favour to firms that have achieved excellence and have maintained the highest standard of quality.
Within the past few years, Angostura has doubled its overall distillation and storage capacity in Trinidad with average production levels rising from 1.3 million litres in 1960 to 20 million litres in 1998. At the turn of the century, rectification capacity increased to 50 million litres. More than 95% is exported to consumers all over the world.
The core business of the House of Angostura is now located on a 20 acre complex in Trinidad and includes its administration facility, a museum, art gallery, auditorium, merchandising shop, wine and spirits retail outlet, dining room and hospitality suites which facilitate visitor tours. In 1997, the Company installed a new manufacturing facility for its line of sauces which was previously packaged in
the United States of America.
Increasing sales of Angostura® aromatic bitters have continue to define the taste of international and Caribbean cuisine.
Distilled in Trinidad, using the secret recipe from 1824, and the same natural blend of herbs and spices, Angostura® aromatic bitters is versatile beyond belief. It has retained its original formulation, one of the few remaining true trade secrets, an international brand that over the centuries has continued to flavour the world. Read the label, which is itself perfect.It will give you an insight to the product, with suggestions from savoury sauces to cakes,through crispy vegetables, meats and cocktails.
You will soon find Angostura® aromatic bitters indispensable, subtly marrying flavours, enhancing and enriching, turning every meal into an unexpected experience. A bottle of Angostura® aromatic bitters in the kitchen is the hallmark of a good Caribbean cook.