Here’s how four top bartenders reinvented an icon, the Angostura Lemon Lime & Bitters

The October issue cover of Australian Bartender.

We’re drinking better these days. Never before have we had so many great bars to visit, and the standard is higher than ever — it’s what the customer wants. The modern drinker is out and about looking for an experience, and often visiting more than one bar in a night. With that comes the need for no-alcohol drinks.

That’s the idea behind the House of Angostura’s Reinvent An Icon competition, which sought to uncover what the iconic Lemon Lime & Bitters might look like when the creative talents of the country’s best bartenders were unleashed upon the recipe.

The House of Angostura challenged bartenders across the country to come up with a refreshing, non-alcoholic take on the drink, and in the end found three bartenders they flew to Sydney to be photographed for the cover of Australian Bartender with House of Angostura brand ambassador, the award-winning Daniel Gregory.

From left: Bobby Carey, Daniel Gregory, Ellery Low, and Dean Buchanan.

The winners were Bobby Carey of Bentley Restaurant, Sydney; Ellery Low from Brisbane’s Maker; and Dean Buchanan from Long Chim Perth, and all of them spoke about the importance of providing these no-alcohol options for the modern drinker.

“It’s a cultural revolution where consumers are drinking less, but better,” says Buchanan. “And I agree, I’ll refuse shots so I can be out longer and drink multiple drinks and not be messed up the next morning. It’s exciting times for our industry.”

Low says that Maker often has people looking for a no-alc option that doesn’t skimp on flavour.

“We have a lot of families come through, a lot of people driving,” Low says. “They know they can have a cocktail, or something [non-alcoholic] that’s as good as a cocktail.”

But how do they deliver the flavour of a cocktail without the alcohol?

“Syrups, bitters as well, and make more in [terms of] quantity — a problem a lot of people will face is that it’s delicious but there’s not enough of it there [in the glass],” he says.

It’s a trend that Gregory doesn’t see going away anytime soon, and a way to ensure that everyone in your bar is in on the good times.

“Instead of just being pushed to the wayside and having a soda water or a juice,” says Gregory, “they want something with a bit more complexity so they can be part of the group; they don’t mind paying a bit extra to get something a little more interesting. People aren’t pressured as much into drinking as they used to be.”

And, if it results in drinks like these that push the boundaries — and taste this good — we’re all for it. Take a look at the specs, and adapt the drinks at will.

Ellery Low’s drink.

Ellery Low
Maker, Brisbane

  • 5 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 10ml orgeat
  • top with (blood) orange soda
  • Garnish with (Blood) Orange wedge and fresh lime

Build in a highball glass.

“It’s simple,” says Low of his drink. “The way I thought about it was I chose my two favourite tiki drinks — a Trinidad Sour, with heaps of Angostura aromatic bitters in that — and the Jungle Bird. It’s refreshing, similar to a Lemon Lime & Bitters, just a bit fruitier — made for drinking on a hot summer’s day.”

Bobby Carey’s concoction.

Bobby Carey
Bentley Restaurant, Sydney

  • 7 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 25ml 4-citrus cordial*
  • Top with soda water

In a chilled highball glass, add 4 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters, 25ml 4-citrus cordial, then add ice to glass.  Add 3 dashes of bitters over the ice, top with soda water. Garnish with finger lime shells, no straw.

*For the 4-citrus cordial recipe:
All juiced lemon, lime and orange husks are collected daily from the bar, along with finger lime shells from the kitchen.  Fruit is weighed and an amount of sugar equal to 2/3 of the fruit’s weight is combined all together in a glass jar. This is left to mix together for 72 hours, agitated daily. After 72 hours the liquid is drained from the jar, strained through a coffee filter and bottled. This will keep for up to 10 days in a fridge.

“I wanted to stay as true as possible to the original Lemon Lime & Bitters, the iconic drink that’s been across Australia for many generations,” says Carey. “It’s replicable, all about sustainability and taking a lead from Trash Tiki I suppose; it’s something I’ve been doing myself at work. You can make it at home as well, it’s quite replicable.”

Dean Buchanan’s creation.

Dean Buchanan
Long Chim, Perth

  • 1 barspoon Angostura aromatic bitters (clarified)
  • 90ml petrichor rain
  • 10ml stone and liquid
  • 20ml natural citrus soda

Add ingredients to a glass either on good block ice or up, garnish with a Geraldton wax sprig sprayed with Angostura aromatic bitters paste.

“Have you ever wondered what that smell is when it starts to rain? Have you ever realised how good it smells?” says Buchanan. “This peculiar and characteristic odour is called petrichor and this reinvention on the famous angostura LLB takes inspiration from that distinct aroma which is an oil created by plants and stones and released into the air when it rains. Inside the earthy elements of Geraldton wax, patchouli and kaolin clay I have combined these with geosmin a metabolic by-product of bacteria omitted by wet soil.

“Angostura aromatic bitters have been clarified in a centrifuge at 14,000 rpm span twice for 4 mins; with the left over ‘paste’ I made a spray and sprayed some Geraldton wax buds with Angostura aromatic bitters spray paint which is all edible.

“The natural lemon soda is a first fermentation soda made with all the leftover citrus husks from juicing. This is ready in roughly two to three days but I never run out.”

Daniel Gregory’s take.
Daniel Gregory
House of Angostura

  • 5 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 1/2 lime, cut into quarters
  • 2-3 bar spoons panela sugar
  • 60ml ruby grapefruit juice
  • 20ml beetroot juice
  • 75ml soda

Add lime and panela sugar to a Hi-Ball glass and muddle till sugar is dissolved. Add all the other ingredients, fill with ice and give a lite swizzle to mix all the ingredients together. Garnish with a paper or metal straw, grapefruit wedge and a sprig of chervil.

“I just wanted to use something a little vegetal to bring out the heavier ingredients in Angostura aromatic bitters,” says Gregory, “so a little beetroot for that, grapefruit for that slight bitterness from the oils, but it’s something that’s refreshing and light with some complexity on the palate. It’s something you could easily reproduce at home, using beetroot juice from the can, or you could make a stock; or you could go all out and make a beetroot and grapefruit soda if you wanted to with a yeast fermentation. If you want to do fancy, you can, if you want to do easy, you can as well.”