Bitters are a type of alcohol that is typically used in cocktails.
They can be made from herbs, roots, and fruits, as well as other natural ingredients.
Nowadays, bitters can be found in different flavors such as orange peel, cardamom, or even celery salt.
In this article, I will go over what bitters are and what they taste like so you can decide if they might be something for you.
What are Bitters? What are Bitters Made of?
Bitters are a class of alcoholic beverages that typically contain high alcohol, sugar, and other ingredients.
They’re often used as an ingredient in mixed drinks or cocktails for flavor enhancement.
The history behind bitters is still somewhat unclear.
It’s believed that the earliest bitters were developed for medicinal purposes, but today they are most commonly used as a cocktail ingredient.
Bitters are made from various ingredients, including bitter herbs, roots, or barks of plants and spices to give them a taste.
Alcohol is added as well to preserve the mix and provide additional flavor.
Some brands might also include other herbs and spices, such as chamomile flowers or citrus peel.
Bitters are typically made anywhere between 40-45% alcohol by volume.
There is no set recipe for bitters because there are so many variations of the drink, but the most common ingredients will be gentian, quassia wood chips or bark, cinchona tree leaves, and a citrus flavoring.
Why are They Called Bitters?
Bitters are unique herbal mixtures that have been used for centuries to flavor food and beverages.
Called bitters because of their very bitter taste, they also contain beneficial herbs that are a form of medicine.
They were originally used medicinally for the stomach and digestive system.
Still, They can also be taken before an alcoholic beverage like whiskey to counteract its effects on digestion and increase potency.
Bitters have been called ‘straight shots because they use only one ingredient, unlike other cocktails, which often combine ingredients into drinks with more complex flavors.
Why Use Bitters?
Bitters are a type of alcohol with an aromatic flavor made from herbs, roots, and fruits.
They have been around for centuries in various forms and were even used as medicine at times.
So why should you use bitters?
- Bitters provide complex flavors to cocktails that bring out the individual taste of your favorite spirits while lending warmth and depth to the drink’s overall profile—all without adding any unnatural sugars or syrups.
- In addition to making everything tastier, many bitter ingredients also pack health benefits into one sip – dandelion root has natural diuretic properties; gentian delivers antioxidants like vitamin C; quassia bark is rich in antiviral agents who can help ward off illness (particularly the common cold); and, there are no calories to speak of in bitters.
- Bitters can also be used as a standalone mixer or ingredient by adding them to soda water for a refreshing spritzer; into hot tea for an aromatic pick-me-up; mixed with orange juice, club soda, or tonic for the perfect twist on a dawn patrol cocktail (or give your morning coffee that little extra kick).
- And if you’re looking to get creative – don’t forget about “bitter bombs,” which are small bottles filled with sugar, bitters, and champagne ready to pop open at any time.
Types of Bitters
There are many bitters, including Amaro, Angostura bitters, orange bitters, and Peychaud’s Bitters.
Amaro is Italian-style herbal liquors with a long history in Central Europe and roots in ancient Greek medicine.
The primary flavor of Amaro is usually some herb or plant such as gentian root, rhubarb stalk, cinnamon bark, or cinchona bark.
Amaro should be served chilled and consumed diluted with water (as they can pack quite the punch).
Angostura Bitters was created by German doctor Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert in 1824.
It is made from a secret blend of over forty aromatic herbs, plants, and roots, including chamomile flowers, gentian root, and cinchona bark.
Angostura Bitters are used as both an ingredient to flavor drinks or food and consumed straight out of the bottle with water or soda water to relieve symptoms such as nausea, indigestion, and upset stomach.
Orange bitters are typically citrus-based (hence the name) but can come in other flavors, too, like lemon balm.
Orange bitters pack a tart taste that works well when mixed into classic cocktails such as Manhattans or Negronis.
Peychaud’s Bitters were created in New Orleans by Antoine Amedee Peychaud, a Creole apothecary who served drinks containing the bitters to his customers.
They are made up of gentian root and other herbs with aniseed as one of the key ingredients.
Available in some classic cocktails, most typically with Rye Whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters’ spicy flavor is perfect for balancing the drink.
What Do You Use Bitters for?
Bitters are an essential ingredient for adding flavor to drinks.
They contain a variety of herbs and spices, which help with digestion and provide the signature bitter taste that makes some cocktails so distinctive.
Bitterness is often used as a counterbalance or contrast against sweetness when making certain combinations like sweet-and-sour mixers.
And if you’re feeling under the weather, bitters can also provide relief from sore throats, coughs, and congestion.
The next time you’re at the liquor store, pick up a bottle of bitters to liven up your cocktails or cure what ails you.
What Kind of Drinks Do You Put Bitters in?
There are many different kinds of drinks that you can mix bitters into.
Some popular examples include negronis, old-fashioned cocktails, and Manhattan’s.
Negronis are made of a mixture of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
Old-fashioned cocktails consist of bourbon whiskey, sugar syrup or honey to balance the strong taste, water with ice for dilution, and bitters.
A Manhattan consists of rye whiskey and other ingredients such as vermouth (sweet), Angostura bitters, and maraschino liqueur.
Different types of drinks call for different bitters because they have more intense flavors than others do.
For example, some people like to mix cherry lambic flavored bitters in their beers, while grapefruit is used in margaritas.
You can find many brands online if you don’t want to make your own at home.
What Do Bitters Taste Like?
The first thing that most people notice about bitters is the intense, robust taste.
Though these drinks vary in taste depending on the kind you drink (elderberry, for example), they all have some common traits: bitterness and bite that can be both invigorating or unsettling to your palate.
The flavor is usually extracted through steeping herbs like wormwood roots or gentian root bark into alcohol.
Bitters can be consumed in various ways, depending on your mood and what you’re looking for.
Some people enjoy sipping them neatly or over ice, while others mix them into cocktails such as the Old Fashioned whiskey cocktail to give it that extra kick.
They are also popularly used at the end of cooking dishes to add depth and flavor to sauces, soups, stews, and other savory foods.
And with so many different kinds of bitters available – some spicy and savory; others sweet and citrusy- there is something out there for everyone.
Explore this amazing drink today by checking out all these types offered around town.
What Does Angostura Bitters Taste Tike?
Angostura Bitters, named after the town of Angostura in Venezuela, where they were first made by Dr.
Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert back in 1824, are a key ingredient for any cocktail enthusiast’s home bar arsenal.
They can be used to create drinks with strong flavors like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.
The taste of Angostura Bitters is described by many as a sweet, sharp flavor that creates an interesting contrast with cocktails containing fruit juices or sodas.
Angostura Bitters are not only used in cocktails but can also be eaten straight on their own to help settle your stomach after a meal and aid digestion.
How to Make Your Bitters
Maintaining your liquor cabinet is not only economical but can be a fun and inexpensive hobby.
One of the easiest ways to make you feel like cocktail royalty at home is by making your bitters.
Bitters are an aromatic, concentrated liquid created from infusing herbs or other botanicals with alcohol and water for several days in a sealed container.
The result is a complex flavor that can enhance the taste of certain drinks like whiskey or even coffee.
You could make your bitters out of many different flavors, including cinnamon, cloves, vanilla bean pods, lavender buds, and more.
You’ll need about a cup of the botanical and a one-quart canning jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Fill it about halfway up with alcohol such as vodka, bourbon, or brandy, then add water to fill the rest of the way up in your container.
Then you’ll need time for those flavors to seep into each other while infusing- so let that mixture sit at room temperature for four days before transferring it all to another jar or bottle using a funnel.
Tighten on its new cap tightly and store it in a dark cabinet like your pantry (away from any direct light).
Now give them six months to mature.
The longer they sit there, the more intense flavor they develop.
After that point, you may want to filter out the solids that have settled at the bottom by sieving them through a coffee filter.
*A note about safety: there’s no need to worry if you mix your bitters, but make sure to use high-quality ingredients and follow all directions in this post.
In conclusion, bitter is an essential ingredient to many in many cocktails, such as a Manhattan or Martini.
With the use of Bitters, you can make even your most basic liquor into an interesting cocktail.
You have to experiment with different variations.
They offer a refreshing and tangy aftertaste that is especially nice with new, lighter drinks like gin fizzes or Palomas.
Mixing in some sugar will also make your drink even more palatable.
Give it a try next time you’re at the bar and see which bitters are your favorite.