What Are Bitters? Why Are They Mixologists’ Secret Weapon? Their Types And Role In Cocktails

Bitters in cocktail
by Tejashee Kashyap

Bitters, those small yet mighty bottles found behind the bar, have long been a staple in the world of mixology. Bartenders wield these potent elixirs to elevate cocktails and add depth of flavour. They are the unsung heroes of the bartending world, infusing cocktails with complexity and intrigue.

Types Of Bitters In Mixology

Bitters in cocktail

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Bitters can trace their roots back centuries. Over time, they have transcended their medicinal origins and found their way into the world of spirits. The most famous example is Angostura Bitters, created in the early 19th century. Today, an array of bitters is available, each with its own unique blend of herbs, spices, roots, and fruit extracts.

Bartenders often craft their own house-made bitters, experimenting with different ingredients and ratios to create personalized flavours.

They come in a wide range of flavours and profiles. Some common types of bitters include aromatic, citrus, herbal, and fruit-based bitters. Aromatic bitters, such as Angostura or Peychaud’s, offer complex spice notes, while citrus bitters like orange or grapefruit add a zesty tang. Herbal bitters, such as Fernet-Branca, feature a rich blend of botanicals that impart a distinct bitterness, and fruit-based bitters like cherry or cranberry bring a delightful fruity dimension.

Also Read: Make Way For These Boozy Cocktail Concoctions Perfect For A Summer Soiree; Recipes Inside!

What Is The Role Of Bitters In Cocktails?

Bitters in cocktail

image credits: Canva

Bartenders consider bitters to be a secret weapon in their arsenal. Just a few dashes of bitters can transform a cocktail, enhancing its flavour profile and complexity. They provide a harmonious balance to the sweetness of other ingredients, adding a subtle bitterness that stimulates the taste buds. Some offer a pleasant aromatic quality, creating a captivating sensory experience.

They can also be used to elevate more contemporary creations, offering an innovative twist to familiar flavours. There are numerous classic cocktails that owe their distinctive character to bitters:

  • The Old Fashioned, for example, relies heavily on the inclusion of Angostura or other aromatic bitters to impart its signature flavour.
  • The Manhattan, another beloved cocktail, achieves its depth by incorporating a dash or two of aromatic or orange bitters.

So, the next time you sip a perfectly balanced drink, raise your glass to the humble bitters in your cocktail that made it possible!

Cover image credits: Canva