Bitters: What To Know

With Christmas right around the corner, you might be hosting a party or you may just want to treat yourself. To help optimise the festive vibes, here is our handy guide to Bitters and how to use them!

What Are Bitters?

Bitters are any type of spirit made with natural plant and herb flavours. Bitters create a more complete and well-balanced flavour profile by liquefying natural herbs and adding them to alcoholic beverages.

Bitters were first created and used to aid in human digestion problems before becoming a staple ingredient in cocktails. In 1824, a German physician in Venezuela was looking for a cure for stomach ailments and malaria. He began making Angostura bitters after conducting several tests and research.

This first type of bitter was named after the Venezuelan town of Angostura (Angostura Bitters). When people became more interested in cocktails, bitters were already being used in every bar in the city.

Aromatic herbs, bark roots, cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel, and cinchona bark are used to make cocktail bitters. Bitters are typically made with water and alcohol, with the latter acting as a solvent for the ingredients. Meanwhile, the alcohol intensifies the flavour of the ingredients.

The flavour of your bitters will be determined by the ingredients you use to make them. Bitters come in a variety of flavours, including cinnamon, clove, cherry, coffee, chocolate, and others. You can even find bitters flavours that are a little sweet but have some fruity notes.

Bitters are so-called because of their flavour profile. However, this does not necessarily imply that they taste bitter. Because of the tannin levels in the herbs and barks, they gave off a strong and sharp taste. As a result, bitters are commonly used to balance the flavours in cocktails with sweet and sour notes. Their ABV can range from 35%-45%, but since they are used as droplets or dashes in cocktails, their addition won’t make a huge difference to anything other than the flavour.

Types of Bitters:

Although bitters have a strong flavour, there are a variety of flavours to choose from that can take your beverages to the next level. The following are the most common types of bitters, as distinguished by the ingredients used.

Orange / Citrus Bitters: Orange bitters are made with orange peels, cardamom, caraway seed, coriander, anise, and burnt sugar. These type of bitters has a marmalade scent with hints of bitter and sweet flavour from the orange peel and alcohol combination.

Aromatic Bitters: Aromatic bitters, as the name implies, are made from botanical ingredients that, when crushed or mixed, emit various smells. Cinnamon, mint, peppermint, hibiscus, lavender, valerian, lemongrass, and sage are some aromatics that have been used.

Nut Bitters: Nut bitters are a newer addition to the market. But, because mixologists and bartenders are so daring behind the bar, they created nut-flavored bitters made from coffee and chocolate.

Digestive Bitters: Digestive bitters help to keep the gut healthy. These are made by infusing medicinal plants and herbs such as gentian root, goldenseal, burdock, dandelion, and angelica. Bitters work by stimulating digestive juices, bile, and enzymes, allowing food to be broken down naturally and easily.

How to Use Bitters

The key is to begin slowly. Mix in one to two drops, then taste. Depending on your preferences, the process is mostly trial and error. If you have to dash, take care not to make a splash, especially if the bottle is nearly empty. Using a dropper is your best bet.

When you add a few drops of bitters to any drink, it becomes even more delicious. It does not only serve cocktails but also non-alcoholic beverages.

On their own, soda water and tonics are refreshing. Because soda water is so plain, this is the best drink for experimenting with bitters. When you mix bitters with soda water, you can fully appreciate the zesty or strong hints of herbs and roots.

To add a citrusy and complex flavour, squeeze some lemon or lime into the soda water and bitter combination.

The classic Manhattan, Martini, Old Fashioned, Negroni, and Sazerac all taste better with a few dashes of bitters added. Because most cocktails are sweet or sour, the strong flavour of bitters balances out the overwhelming taste of the drink.

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