Bitters: Not so bitter

Ever wonder why all elevated cocktail recipes call for a few drops of bitters?

What does this elixir really do for my drink?

Some may see it as a fancy additive that does nothing for the cocktail but simply impresses the average Joe. But Bitters do a lot more than you think. 

When I first started my journey crafting cocktails at home, I thought, what could a bitter do that a fruit zest couldn’t? How do I know which bottle to pick? Can this go in more than one cocktail? As I learned more, I discovered a few answers and tips that I’d like to share with you.

When creating a cocktail, the end goal is to create a balanced beverage.

Not too sweet, not too sour and not too strong. Have you ever thought about the aroma and where it really comes from? Most assume it specifically comes from the spirit. This is partly true, but depending on how diluted the cocktail is with another liquid, such as juice or a hefty garnish, it could be the bitters. If you really look into, say, a whiskey or pisco sour, you of course get citrus from the lemon juice and a bit of smoke or oak from the whiskey, but there’s always a hint of cherry or orange, that’s where the bitter is showing. Why not use orange zest as a garnish instead?

You could, but the scent will dissipate too quickly compared to a few drops of bitters.

The best way to really understand bitters is to use your imagination and play with different cocktails. Most bitters will complement the spirit. I’ve created a few combos to start you off.

Orange Bitters

Great for whiskey, tequila, rum and brandy drinks. Anything with a strong kick that could use a refreshing but sweet finish.

Cherry Bitters

Complements sour and sweet beverages. Goes great with aromas such as liquorish, vanilla and citrus. This bitter is really open to interpretation and a great starter to pair with any spirit.

Aromatic Bitters

Goes with any beverage that you want to add a bit of spice to. Not spice as in heat, more like citrus and baking spices. All wrapped into a few drops.  

The beauty of bitters is they’re not limited to cocktails.

They can be added to any beverage, or even marinades. Originally a digestive, they can not only settle the stomach but can also spice up a simple soda water.

Be creative, play this year with bitters, whether it be in an alcoholic beverage, non-alcoholic beverage, or even in a salad dressing. The world is your oyster when you have Pinterest.

Can’t wait to hear about all your exciting creations.

Please share with @BeniciaMagazine on Instagram.


Cheers to the New Year!