Steel drums and Angostura Bitters
04 September 2007 | Trinidad
We spent the today in the pursuit of tourism. We visited a steel drum "factory" and toured the Angostura Bitters and Rum factory.
The drum factory was a small business that afforded us an up close and personal view of the art and science of making steel drums. Trinidad is known for steel or pan drums, but this tradition started only after World War II when oil drums became available. The drum process starts with an oil drum that is cut to size. A larger drum yields a deeper note. A five pound hammer is used to beat the top of the drum into a concave shape. The drum is then tempered and chromed. A professional tuner will hammer deeper concave shapes to create notes and fine tune the drum. The drum is then ready for a steel band.
We also visited the Angostura Bitters and Fernando Rum factory. Rum factories are always fun and educational. Here is a bit of trivia. Most rum is aged in oak barrels that were first used for bourbon. Apparently bourbon must be aged in new oak casks so the used casks are dismantled and shipped to rum distilleries throughout the Caribbean.
Angostura Bitters formula was first compounded in 1824 by Dr. Johann Siegert, Surgeon-General in the army of the great liberator of South America, Simón Bolivar. Dr. Seigert's headquarters were in the port of Angostura, Venezuela, a city now known as Ciudad Bolivar. The doctor experimented for four years before finding the exact formula he was after to improve the appetites and well-being of his troops. Sailors putting into the port discovered the bitters and bought bottles to carry away with them. Soon the fame of "Angostura" bitters spread around the world.
The formula for the "bitters" is a big secret that is held by five individuals. The botanicals, (plant material) are combined in the "Secret Room" and then go through a grinder before the mix arrives into the factory. The plants materials are "shampooed" in alcohol and allowed to age for a few months. Angostura Bitters are said to be very good for upset stomachs and other ailments as well as a spice added to drinks and many foods.
Of course the tour ended with free samples of rum.