Liqueurs, spirits, wines: you’ve probably heard of all of them. There’s not much in the world of alcohol that you don’t know right? Enter: bitters. Bitters are one the lesser known sides to mixology, but an ingredient that’s essential to achieving many of the greatest drinks of all time. From the Old Fashioned to Manhattans, learn what bitters are and how to use them to elevate some of your favourite drinks.
The best way to think about bitters is as a liquid spice. Just as you’d add turmeric and cumin to create a flavourful curry, you add bitters to a drink to create depth and new dimensions. Spicy, herbal, and sometimes fruity, they’re a great addition to a huge array of drinks! Traditional bitters are alcoholic, though you can also find non-alcoholic versions that are wonderful for virgin drinks.
Bitters have been made and used for thousands of years, dating all the way back to ancient Egypt. Typically, they’re made by adding spices and herbs to spirits and leaving them to infuse before straining, adding a lot of flavour to small amounts of alcohol.
There are three main types of bitters; Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and flavoured bitters.
When talking about bitters, most mixologists will think of Angostura Bitters, which are the classic version of this alcoholic ingredient. Aromatic with notes of clove and cinnamon, they’re fairly bitter (hence the name!) and add a more herbal, spicy note to drinks.
Peychaud’s Bitters are less common but are a must in the Sazerac cocktail. These are sweeter than Angostura Bitters and have notes of cherry and orange, making for a fruitier overall flavour.
Flavoured bitters aren’t traditional, but are super fun to work with. Less aromatic, they’re made with a huge variety of profiles that’ll suit different cocktails. You can find chocolate, vanilla, grapefruit, and ginger bitters, amongst many more!
When exploring the world of mixology, the first time you find bitters will be an exciting one! They create a whole new level of cocktails and are incredibly fun, adding new and unique flavours to old classics.
There are some drinks that rely on bitters. It’s a good idea to start with these first, introducing you to bitters in a way that we know works. For example, an Old Fashioned uses Angostura Bitters to add herbal, warm notes to the drink.
Once you’ve created a few cocktail recipes that rely on bitters, you can start to become more adventurous. Add chocolate bitters to Vermouth and cherry bitters to vodka, experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. Have fun with it! After all, that’s what mixology is all about.
Our mixologists at UrbanBar love using bitters to spice up our drinks, and we’ve hand-selected a premium range to bring to you. From fruity notes to seasonally-inspired infusions, browse the full range of high-quality bitters and be inspired for your next drinks.