BITTERS, the name given to aromatized (generally alcoholic) beverages containing a bitter substance or substances, used as tonics, appetizers or digestives.
Some bitters are prepared by simple maceration and subsequent filtration (see Liqueurs), others by the more complicated distillation process.
Bitters are usually sold under the name of the substance which has been used to give them the predominant flavour, such as orange, angostura or peach bitters, &c. The alcoholic strength of bitters varies, but is generally in the neighbourhood of 40% of alcohol.
Some bitters, although possessing tonic properties, may be regarded as beverages pure and simple, notwithstanding the fact that they are seldom consumed in an undiluted state; others again, are obviously medicinal preparations and should be treated as such.
A clinical or therapeutical classification into such divisions as anaesthetics, expectorants, bitters, and so on, according to their practical applications, also leads to difficulties, as many drugs are employed for numerous purposes.
Those which act upon the alimentary canal: Simple bitters such as quassia wood, columbo root, taraxacum, gentian, chiretta, and many others, irritate gently the mucous membrane of the stomach and bowels, and by increasing the secretions improve the appetite and digestion.
The aromatic bitters such as chamomile flowers, cascarilla bark, hops, orange peel and others contain in addition small quantities of essential oils which increase their local action.
The active principles in some of these bitters have been isolated pure, and have been found to be alkaloids or neutral compounds.
,pw j a, spice) or Bitters increase the flow of the gastric juice.