Bitter & twisted: Classic cocktails with a shake of the unexpected

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  With its oversize label and yellow cap, the Angostura bitters bottle is familiar presence on the drinks tray. In the same way that a dash of Worcestershire sauce can turn plain old vodka-and-tomato-juice into a magnificent Bloody Mary or the right cufflinks can make a beautiful suit really sing, it’s fairly well known that just two or three drops of Angostura can have a transformative effect on a gin and tonic. There are, however, all sorts of other bitters that have an equally dramatic influence on a range of familiar cocktails. You don’t have to take it from us, though; we spoke to an expert gentleman from Amathus on the Brompton Road. (If ever you’re looking for a bottle of something – anything - we strongly suggest you pay them a visit.) Rhubarb bitters go wonderfully with anything Campari based. The Fee Brothers recipe is actually quite sweet - more like a tincture than actual bitters – and adds an undeniable yet indefinable layer of sophistication to a negroni. Peychaud’s bitters are up there with Angostura in popularity: they’re the definitive ingredient in a Sazerac, the classic New Orleans concoction involving absinthe and a chilled blend of Peychaud’s and brandy (or bourbon). We’d also highly recommend celery bitters, which not only add a deliciously savoury edge to a martini but can elevate a Bloody Mary to heights approaching the sublime: Vodka, a fifty-fifty mix of tomato juice and Clamato, Lea & Perrins, Tabasco and – of course – three or four shakes of the bitters bottle. Chin-chin!