Published on March 15, 2023.
Balance is everything.
Bitters are a paramount part of a bartenders cocktail kit. Think of bitters as the salt and pepper for a cocktail; the seasoning to balance the drink and bring out all delicate flavours that may be hidden without it. By adding bitters, a drink changes. It will dry out ever so slightly, allowing the nuances of other flavour elements blossom. Your cocktail will have a complete flavour, a well-rounded and cohesive experience, rather than a stop-start mix of components. A few drops is all you need, but is crucial to cocktail making.
Mote defines aromatic bitters as ‘high-proof infusions made with thoughtful ingredients’; however, styles of bitters will vary. They are generally a blend of botanicals and spices with complex, layered flavour profiles with herbs and spices that are aged together to create a unique taste. Aromatic bitters were first patented in 1712, when doctors would prescribe them to treat stomach ailments. Some started to use them as handover cures, as they would add a few dashes to wine or brandy to soothe aches and pains. As time went on, bitters transitioned from a remedy to a staple cocktail ingredient (though modern-day health food store will stock bitters as a digestive aid).
Mote explains that ‘Angostura and Peychaud’s are the granddaddies of bitters, they’re the brands that have effectively created the category as we know it today’. Bitters have come leaps and bounds with a variety of flavours and styles, perfect for any cocktail imaginable.
There are two popular flavoured bitters that are a great staple for any bar. Orange bitters are zesty and come from a blend of oranges (of course), typically the dried zest of orange peels from Seville, and spices, such as Gentian root, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and coriander. Orange bitters are great for white spirits, like gin, as they bring out the flavours beautifully. Exceptional in a dry martini or tropical-leaning drinks.
Chocolate bitters are commonly made with cacao nibs and spices, and bring a subtle nuttiness to cocktails. Don’t be fooled by the name, these bitters are not just for the sweet-toothed customer. They play very well with a sweet vermouth or aged spirits, like whiskey or rum.
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About the author
Chloe looks after all copywriting and proof-reading for Drink Warehouse UK, working with the Marketing team to deliver educational content to all our customers. She has spent many years in the hospitality sector, moving from behind the bar to now helping venues to stock their own. You can find more from Chloe about beer, cider, spirits, wine, non-alcoholic, soft drinks and RTDs all over our blogs, website, social media and Set The Bar magazine.