Have you ever seen a bottle of Angostura bitters? You know that small bottle that sits on the counter of the bar patiently waiting to add a world of flavour to your cocktail? If you haven’t seen one then we can bet that by the end of this article you will be very familiar with it.
Angostura is one of the Caribbean’s leading rum producers with a superb collection of rum brands and is the world’s market leader for bitters. These include rum brands like Angostura® 5-year-old, Angostura® Reserva and the Angostura® aromatic bitters are currently available in the Kenyan Market. Angostura® aromatic bitters have not been changed since the first bottle was introduced to the world in 1824.
Many of their brands have been around for generations in Trinidad and Tobago, their core rum market. Angostura’s international rums have won gold medals at many international competitions in the past decade and have been named ‘the world’s most awarded rum range’ by the Rum Masters.
Now that their rum is making its way into the Kenyan market, brand ambassador Pedro Martinez showed up to make sure it’s introduction to our palates was a flavourful affair. Pedro Martinez has worked as a Mixologist for 6 years in some of the top cocktail bars in Paris, France.
Originally from Madrid, Spain Pedro has worked in some of the cocktail bars which include Dirty Dick, Moonshiner, Bluebird. Since 2018 he has collaborated with The House of Angostura bartenders most recognised brand for bitters. Travelling to many exotic countries in the world such as Miami, Florida, Trinidad & Tobago, all across Europe and now Africa where he will represent the brand on a tour throughout the continent.
Pedro’s passion for the brand and bartending can be seen through his dedication to the industry being involved in many different campaigns such as AGCC Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge across Europe supporting bartenders to enter and encourage them through the stages.
Pedro, qualified with a degree in Public Relations from CEU San Pablo, Madrid, Spain. He now joins the House of
Angostura to develop new young bartenders across the emerging cocktail scene in Africa. Where he will be
travelling to Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania to promote AGCC.
Dressed in a dapper Angostura apron and standing confidently behind the stunning bar at Honey & Dough, Pedro delivered a combination of rum and bitters that had patrons swarming the bar trying to get a better angle to watch.
Three alcoholic cocktail and one mocktail later, we were ready to buy a bottle of Angostura rum just to recreate what we tasted. Before he flew out, we had the opportunity to sit down and learn all we could about the House of Angostura and rum-based cocktails.
Let’s start off with finding out what your preferred rum between the Angostura® 5-year-old, Angostura® Reserva is. What food would you pair it with?
I prefer the Reserva. Those tropical coconut and pineapple flavours really go well with white chocolate. However, if I had to pick the 5-year-old, I would say it would go well with dark chocolate or salted roasted almonds.
It’s your first time in Kenya along with the Angostura® rum. How has the reception been?
To both I and the rum it has been great. I find that Kenyans like quality so when you present a brand like that that has a history and story behind it then they appreciate and welcome it very warmly.
You mentioned that you have been a mixologist for 6 years now. Why did you pick it?
I could have ended up working with food or wine but it ended up being cocktails because I found it more fun and more creative but mainly it was the hospitality that drew me to it. I would say the most important part of bartending is the hospitality and I have always been a very hospitable person. I like to have people over and make sure they have a good time as I host. When you are at a bar, it’s like inviting people into your home, you want them to be comfortable and have the best experience. It breaks my heart when I see bartenders and mixologists who are uppity or are so proud that they look down on everyone. At the end of the day we are not surgeons, we’re not saving lives, we’re just mixing drinks for people to enjoy and have a good time so it’s good to be humble.
We’ve had Angostura bitters in Kenya for a while but what are the different ways you use them?
For cocktails, it depends on the ingredients you have. You won’t necessarily use the bitters in a different way with different ingredients but instead what you try to do is enhance the flavours in the bitters. A couple of years back you had people even using bitters as a main ingredient such as in the Trinidad Sour. These cocktails had 1 ounce and a half of bitters in them! It was a magnificent way of using bitters and a great way to enhance the flavours. Another example is in Malaysia you have this thing called a Bartender’s Handshake where you get a shot of pure Angostura bitters. So even if the main way to use it is in food or cocktails where you add in a dash or two, there are plenty of ways to use Angostura bitters.
Can you use it in food?
Yes, you can. Let’s not forget that it started off as a medicine for stomach ailments and appetite stimulator for sailors and soldiers. But in the Caribbean, for a long time, it has been used as a food ingredient so you can marinate your meat or fish in it, you can add it to your BBQ, chilli con carne, Caillou sauces. It works very well in pancakes and pastries.
Now that we’re breaking it down parts of a cocktail, tell us more about ice.
People tend to forget that ice is also an ingredient in cocktails. You need good ice to make a good cocktail. If you want a cocktail that’s going to be cold almost super frozen or cooled you can use crushed ice, if you want to maintain temperature in a stirred drink with minimal dilution you will use craft ice such as a block or ice or a ball of ice or if you want to shake and emulsify all the ingredients you will use big regular ice cubes then have a special movement when you shake.
And what about cocktails that don’t have ice in them?
When you make a cocktail that doesn’t have any ice in it, you don’t want the glass to warm up and change the way the cocktail tastes you chill the glass before. In fact, you can think of glassware as another ingredient of a cocktail. It may not affect the taste but is part of your visual consumption. It affects your access to the cocktail as well as dictating which sense you use first to consume your cocktail (smell or taste).
Do you make your own syrups?
Of course. Lately, I am loving tonka bean syrup. Syrups are the easiest way to add sweetness to a cocktail and the easiest ones you can make at home are a vanilla syrup or cinnamon syrup.
Once you make the syrups you use them to create different cocktails, right?
Yes, I experiment a lot. A big percentage of my job (and the part I love the most) is to go the lab and experiment with different juices and spirits, new ways of infusion, how to mix rum with different flavours and how to present these cocktails when I have a guest shift at a bar.
So you’ve got the glass, ice and you bitters so you’re cocktail tastes great. What about the garnishes? Do you prefer over the top or simple ones?
It depends on the type of cocktail to be served. If I’m going for a tiki vibe I will go over the top with the garnishes using fruits and flowers, however, when presenting Angostura in cocktails I like to go for simplicity with beautiful and functional garnishes that are going to enhance the flavours and aromas of the cocktail as well as making it more visually appealing.
Bartenders from Ghana, Kenya & Tanzania who are interested in entering AGCC should submit their recipes
online at www.angosturaglobalcocktailchallenge.com. Successful entrants will then compete in the regional
heats in Cyprus for a chance to reach the grand final in Trinidad and Tobago, which takes place in February next
While in Trinidad and Tobago, competing bartenders will experience all the island has to offer, including a tour
of the Angostura distillery and museum, visits to local pan yards to see the island’s steel drum players, attend
Carnival in full costume and more.
Those taking part in the contest will be vying for the title of Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge Champion, as
well as a US$10,000 cash prize and a two-year contract as Angostura’s global brand ambassador.
Last year, New Zealand bartender Ray Letoa was crowned the winner of the competition after impressing the judges
with his rum-based Old Flame, which used Angostura 1824, Angostura Aromatic Bitters and Angostura Orange
For more information on the House of Angostura in Kenya, or information on working with the brand, please