The Surprising Reason The Angostura Bitters Label Is Bigger Than The Bottle

Bustling past the bottles of aromatic bitters, vermouths, and other cocktail additives, an oddity might have managed to hold momentarily your attention. A small bottle, expensive for its size, with a label that rises round past the body and up a good portion of the neck. The name Angostura may come to mind.

While one might assume this unique label design was a purposeful choice, VinePair disabuses such notions by stating the whole thing was a mistake. In 1870, after over four decades of the brand's existence, the second generation of Siegerts, the family behind the bottled bitters, entered a competition to gain some press and rebrand their product. One brother designed the bottle, the other the label. However, they failed to communicate their designs at an early enough point to change them. A judge apparently suggested they keep the design as it was submitted, as such a mishap would set Angostura's brand visually apart from any other competently designed product.

Behind the label

Unless you are a confident cocktail mixer or from Wisconsin, it is unlikely you have reached out for a bottle of Angostura bitters before.

In Wisconsin, as Punch reported in 2018, people drink Angostura bitters as shots. Chris Marty of Chicago cocktail bar Best Intentions explains that this came about because everyone enjoyed the cocktails in which the bitter appeared, so why not try the bitter as a shot in its own right?

These bitters are so prevalent that even non-cocktail aficionados have probably at least heard of a drink or two. The most obvious are Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. You do not need the Angostura brand in particular, though it (or at least another type of aromatic bitters) is generally recommended, especially for a Manhattan. Chances are, then, you have at least had the oddly labeled drink before. A bit of Angostura bitters mixed into plain seltzer is even a common bar order for people who don't drink. So, why not reach out for it next time the brilliant yet terrible and terrible yet brilliant design catches your eye?