Cocktail bitters offer a balance of flavors that elevate a drink from good to great. It can also bring out vibrant accents of herbs and spices previously hidden by an overpowering spirit.
Unlike fresh ingredients, bitters hold their flavor and medicinal potency indefinitely due to the preservative nature of alcohol. They are shelf-stable and can be purchased from reputable online suppliers.
What Are Bitters?
Regarding the arsenal of ingredients behind a bar, bitters are right up there with a good selection of spirits and a solid spice rack. But that’s not to say they deserve a place only on the bar cart, as these aromatic flavor infusions have plenty of culinary applications.
Bitters are a mixture of herbs, bark, roots, and spices in a neutral alcohol base. The neutral spirit acts as a blank canvas that allows the botanical infusions to shine, and bartenders often choose a specific gin or whiskey as their base for their own bitters’ recipes.
For enthusiasts looking to elevate their cocktail-making experience, a common question is, where to buy bitters for cocktails? Exploring local liquor stores, specialty beverage shops, or online retailers offers a range of options to discover and purchase diverse bitters flavors for crafting unique and flavorful drinks.
Whether mixed in the drink or used as a garnish, a few drops of bitters can intensify, balance, or compliment flavors and notes in cocktails. They can push out the citrus notes of gin, bring out the baking spices in tequila, or complement the woody flavors from barrel-aging rum.
The great thing is that you can even add a dash of bitters to nonalcoholic beverages like soda water or seltzer. In addition to cocktails, bitters can enhance everything from fruit jellies and jams to marinades and salad dressings.
A few dashes of aromatic bitters can elevate your simple, nonalcoholic cocktails into sophisticated, well-rounded creations. Add a few drops to your favorite seltzer, tonic water, or flavored soda, and watch the flavors come alive. Aromatic bitters are typically made with a mixture of tannins, spices, and other botanical herbs that can add the same balance and complexity to drinks like alcohol without the hangover.
While most bitters are alcoholic, digestive bitters use a lower-proof base and contain only 35 to 40% alcohol by volume. That makes them perfect for a mixed drink, mocktail, or even for those who are more strict about their alcohol avoidance.
Digestive bitters stimulate the bitter receptors in our tongue, stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas to increase digestive secretions, helping us to absorb more nutrients and fight inflammation and stress. They can also help ease indigestion, heartburn, nausea and bloating. Try dropping a dose on your tongue about 10 minutes before eating or if you have overeat and feel bloated or gassy.
Bitters are the salt & pepper of cocktails, but they do much more than balance sweetness and sourness. They can illuminate delicate flavors, add a hint of herbiness or spice, and even create a new drink.
Citrus bitters are a great way to add a citrus zing to any cocktail. The brighter flavors of citrus bitters will help lift the spirits in your drinks while adding freshness and lightness.
Citrus Bitters are made with nine different types of citrus pith (Naval, blood, valencia, satsumas, temple, tangerine, pummelo, and grapefruit) combined with aromatic spices and botanicals like whole star anise, green cardamom, fennel, Saigon cinnamon sticks, and gentian root. The mix is steeped for a month and filtered and sweetened with caramelized sugar.
You can easily make your citrus bitters at home by blending orange peels, aromatic spices, grain alcohol, or high-proof whiskey. The higher the proof/ABV of the grain alcohol, the faster the flavor will extract. You can also use a lower-proof/ABV alcohol such as vodka if you don’t mind the extra wait time.
Bitters add a depth of flavor to cocktails that you can’t achieve with other ingredients. The right blend can change a drink’s entire personality. For example, a recipe for orange or grapefruit bitters can make an Old Fashioned taste zesty and bright. Or a spicy bitter, such as one made from gentian root or wormwood, can amplify the intensity of a cocktail.
Digestive bitters awaken your gut like an alarm clock or aerobics instructor — they prompt the body to produce hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes, and bile for better digestion of food. They also help alleviate gas and bloating by relaxing intestinal contractions.
You can also use digestive bitters to enhance nonalcoholic drinks. Adding a few drops to water can wake up the palate and bring out the natural flavors of herbs and fruits. To make your herbal bitters, combine a mixture of botanicals in a high-proof alcohol, seal it in a jar, and let it steep. Then, strain out the solids, and you’ll have homemade bitters ready.
Reach for spiced bitters to turn a simple cocktail into a symphony of flavors. From cinnamon and clove-focused varieties to orange or lavender-focused options, these bitters add depth, texture, and complexity to drinks without overwhelming them.
Spicy bitters can also play with the sensation of heat, adding a little spice to your cocktails in new and exciting ways. Most spicy bitters are made with various ingredients that provide different heat levels. Gentian root, cascarilla herb, and cinchona bark (source of quinine, the key ingredient in tonic water) deliver a more astringent heat level. At the same time, orange peel and jasmine flower lend a lighter touch of heat.
To start making your bitters, mix equal parts of roots, herbs, and spices with a high-proof alcohol or a nonalcoholic alternative like glycerin. Then, infuse the mixture for five days or up to three weeks, depending on your desired flavor intensity. The best alcohols for bitters are bourbon, rum, and rye, but vodka also works well. Once your bitters are infused, strain them, then bottle them in clean glass jars with tight-fitting lids.