This phrase is extremely old, going as far back 725 AD. It's meaning seems obvious, foul tasting and bitter !
However, there is a nautical meaning to this phrase associated with a certain Captain Smith. In the early 1600s he published a booked entitled 'Seaman's Grammar' and he mentions The Bitter End in this. Below he explains that the bitter end is the end of rope that stays on board.
"A Bitter is but the turne of a Cable about the Bits, and veare it out by little and little. And the Bitters end is that part of the Cable doth stay within boord."
A 'Bitt' post can be found fastened in the deck of a ship. Various ropes and other fastenings could be fed round the post, until it reached it's very end ………. hence the bitter end.
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