Any aspiring or professional mixologist is well-acquainted with bitters and how they can elevate a drink to new heights. Classic drinks like the Manhattan, the Negroni, and the Aperol spritz all feature bitters as key components in their recipes. However, those of us who are still refining our palates might have more to learn about this exciting ingredient.
While we may associate bitters with a few classic drinks like the ones listed above, they can enliven any number of cocktails. Throughout the history of mixology, different types of bitters have been used with countless liquors and liqueurs, from top-shelf tequila to bitey rye whiskey and dry vermouth.
What’s more, adding bitters to your beverage can add a new sense of balance or deliver unique flavor notes that keep you coming back for more.
Bitters are made from botanicals, one of our favorite ingredients that also show up in our Flying Embers brews. Because bitters and botanicals are so closely linked, bitters are the perfect addition to our already-delicious beverages.
Bitters have so much to offer outside of a typical old fashioned or Sazerac. Sometimes, we crave something new and invigorating. On those occasions, we can use bitters to make a beloved drink even more unforgettable.
Mixology Lesson: What Are Bitters?
Before delving into cocktail recipes, we first have to understand what exactly bitters are. After all, how can we use them to refine a beverage without knowing their history?
As we mentioned earlier, bitters are made using botanicals. However, that’s far from the end of the story. Bitters were not originally meant to be used as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages, but they found their true purpose soon after their creation.
Bitters were invented in Angostura, Venezuela, during the early 1800s, and they were meant to act as a digestive aid. Although the city of Angostura has since been renamed, this is where “Angostura Bitters” get their name.
Although bitters were created to help soothe stomachs, people quickly realized that bitters had potential outside of medicine.
To make bitters, you have to liquefy botanicals or herbs to cultivate the right blend. There are a plethora of different kinds of bitters, all of which enhance a cocktail or mixed drink in a new way.
As the name suggests, bitters can taste bitter — but they can also provide a flavor profile containing cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and any number of fruity tastes.
It’s worth noting that bitters do contain a fair amount of alcohol, typically ranging from about 35% to 45% ABV. However, most cocktail recipes that call for this ingredient will only need a few dashes. After all, the taste of bitters is quite bold, and a little can go a long way.
What Essential Bitters Does Every Mixologist Need?
Perfecting your bar cart is a point of pride for any mixologist. You’ll need these essential bitters to get you on your way.
Blood Orange Bitters: A Bittersweet Classic
With a deeper taste and color than other kinds of orange bitters, blood orange bitters add a different kind of depth to drink recipes.
Aromatic Bitters: For a Zesty Spice-Infused Cocktail
If you’re looking for bitters that bring notes of cinnamon, allspice, anise, and more, aromatic bitters are for you. These scents might bring to mind a winter wonderland, but you can enjoy them all year.
Cranberry Bitters: A Mix Made in Heaven
Those in search of a simultaneously fruity and invigorating taste will be delighted to discover cranberry bitters. Since cranberries already have some bitter notes, they make an intuitive addition to this drink-enhancer.
Mole Bitters: Bring on the Spicy Flavors
A spicier take on chocolate bitters, mole bitters contribute a Mexican flair to drinks in need of a kick. If you’re using a sweet mixer like ginger beer or Campari, some mole bitters can offset the sweetness with some much-needed spice.
Chocolate Bitters: Add a Warm Note to Your Cocktails
Chocolate bitters complement all sorts of cocktails with ease, providing a dark yet comforting element.
Our Five Favorite Cocktails With Bitters To Sip All Year Long
When used correctly, bitters add complexity and dynamic flavors to a cocktail.
Many people incorrectly assume bitters can only be used by particularly experienced bartenders and mixologists, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In reality, bitters are fairly easy to use by professionals and amateurs alike to spice up any number of drinks.
Even though creating a drink using bitters is quite simple, their addition is sure to impress your guests.
No well-stocked bar cart is complete without a few different kinds of cocktail bitters on hand, alongside flavor enhancers like lemon juice and lime juice. Spend time getting to know your palate, and you’ll be able to experiment with unique beverage combinations like a pro.
Below, you’ll discover a few of our favorite cocktails that use bitters to take their flavor profiles to the next level. If you love the taste of bitters already but don’t want to break out the shaker, liqueurs, and soda water to make your own concoction, these ready-to-drink seltzers are about to become your new best friends.
Cranberry Raspberry Hard Seltzer: A Refreshing Twist on the Cosmo
The Cosmopolitan, lovingly referred to by its friends as the Cosmo, is a drink that’s as elegant as it is exciting. We adapted this classic into our Cranberry Raspberry Hard Seltzer, and the unique flavors and naturally derived carbonation add a new sense of pep.
Featured in our Botanicals & Bitters Hard Seltzer collection, this ready-to-drink twist on a classic cocktail gives you the refreshing flavors of bright citrus fruits alongside the familiar taste of cranberry. Jammy red raspberry adds an even more unique twist to the classic Cosmo recipe, making an old favorite brand new.
For even more sophistication and citrus notes, you can garnish this beverage with an orange peel or lemon peel.
Blood Orange Hard Seltzer: A Cali Spin on an Italian Aperitivo
An Italian aperitivo is a pre-meal drink that’s meant to prepare you for delicacies yet to come. As such, this beverage is generally light and airy since it’s meant to lift you up and get you excited to eat.
Inspired by the Italian apertivo you already know, our bittersweet Blood Orange Hard Seltzer has its own distinct set of flavors to savor before a meal — or at any other time of the day. With hints of rhubarb and orange zest, this is a California spin on the apertivo that you won’t want to miss.
As a bonus, there’s no added sugar in this citrusy hard seltzer. The drink derives its sweetness from orange juice, monk fruit juice, and a few other simple ingredients — no sugar cubes or simple syrup required.
Black Lime Juniper Hard Seltzer: Bursting With Botanical Flavors
Few drinks are as classic as a gin and tonic, but we think it’s time to spice things up. Our Black Lime Juniper Hard Seltzer is reminiscent of the classic gin cocktail, but it’s a lighter, zestier take on the standard recipe.
Featuring hints of elderflower and black lime peel, the Black Lime Juniper Hard Seltzer is refreshingly unique, and it’s a lower-calorie way to enjoy our favorite G&T-inspired flavor combinations. We highly recommend enjoying this one in the can or in a glass with some ice cubes after a meal to top off your evening.
Feel free to top it off with a lime wedge or any other favorite garnish to elevate the drink’s presentation even more.
This ingredient lends itself to experimentation, and Flying Embers provides a plethora of delicious Hard Kombuchas, Hard Seltzers, and Canned Cocktails to do it with. Enjoy them with or without bitters — they’ll taste delicious either way.
Let your imagination guide you into new flavor combinations, and you just might find a new favorite.
The secret history of Angostura Bitters | BBC Travel
What Is Aperitivo: Definition and Meaning | La Cucina Italiana