By now, most of us are well acquainted with Angostura bitters’ signature tiny bottle and oversized label. The anatomy of this bottle is purposeful: The “dash” is a perplexing, hard-to-quantify increment, but it’s exactly the measurement bitters are suited for. Existing outside the metric system and the subversive U.S. customary measurement system, the dash is more akin to a vague “pinch” or “smidge.” While there is no standardized dash, there are a few tools in place to help provide some sort of consistency when it comes to dispensing bitters — one of which carries a questionable moniker.
This common tool is already built into every bottle of Angostura, Peychaud’s, and orange bitters: the clear plastic insert at the very top of the bottle. Unfortunately named the “orifice reducer,” these handy caps can be found on hot sauce bottles, massage oils, and, yes, bitters. The name is as literal and to-the-point as it gets, but it’s especially suggestive considering the powers that be could have just as easily went with “dash dispenser” or “micro-funnel.” But alas, orifice reducer it is.
And God bless ‘em! Orifice reducers allow bartenders to accurately dispense a somewhat controlled amount of bitters at a time, making the liquid squirt out little by little rather than pouring out willy-nilly. Of course, not all orifice reducers come in one standardized size — that would be too easy. Luckily, the big brands like Peychaud’s and Angostura do. So, if one wants to better control their dash measurements, they can easily remove the orifice reducers from spent Ango bottles and pop them into others. The 5-ounce glass vessels, by the way, are called woozy bottles.
The amount of liquid in a woozy bottle will also dictate how big or small of a dash will come out. If it’s full, it might yield micro-sized dashes. On the flip side, if it’s running on empty, more liquid might dribble out than desired. In this case, an orifice reducer won’t do the trick, but Sother Teague, writer and beverage director of NYC bitters bar Amor y Amargo, has found that filling every woozy bottle on his back bar to the same level before a shift helps control dash consistency.
Even then, the precise nature of a dash is still up for general interpretation, and will vary depending on the bar and bartender. Orifice reducers, though, provide a substantial way of combating that dilemma. They’re even available for purchase online for under a dollar apiece. Just be careful when typing “orifice reducer” into Google, and maybe turn SafeSearch on.