Twenty years ago when we left England we brought with us a pretty large bottle of Angostura Bitters, an essential component of any gentleman’s armamentarium.
It isn’t used that often, when it is used it’s only a splash at a time but when you need a Pink Gin, a Manhatten or an Old Fashioned then nothing else will do … even when you are the designated driver a dash of AB in a bottle of chilled tonic water creates a refreshingly grown up drink for those of us who just don’t want the usual offerings of alcohol-free fruit juices.
So – our imported bottle is now very close to being empty. This morning I popped into the local branch of the SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec, our government booze monopoly) in search of a replacement. Couldn’t find one anywhere and had to resort to asking one of the staff …
“Ou se trouve des bouteilles d’Angostura Bitters?”
“Ah. Bitters! Nous avons le Campari”
… and so it went on. Soon became clear the girl had never heard of the stuff, but she was quite young (she’d have been on Babycham back in the day) so I gave her the benefit of the doubt and asked for the manager. Efficient looking lady in her mid-forties – but no, she had no idea what I was talking about either. Big Gallic shrug and a pursing of the lips. Désollé.
“What do you do with it?”
“Make Pink Gins and Manhattens”
“I don’t think we have those either … let’s look on the computer”
Tap, tap, tap … “There you are, Angostura. I can get some in if you like”
I looked over her shoulder at the screen – she had found Angostura RUM”
I departed. Grumbling.
** It turns out that the bitters are available but in supermarkets (and not many of those, I am still searching) where it is stocked alongside flavourings such as chocolate sauce for ice-cream.
There are times when this continent worries me.