You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

Dripping in drops of these varied, versatile flavourings will add to the complexity of your cocktails. Here are the best to buy…

In the last months of 2009, a scarcity scandal shook the cocktail industry to its well-mixed, ice-chilled core. Earlier that year, the House of Angostura — the Trinidad and Tobago-based brand that puts its potent herbal bitters behind bars the world — had reported a shortage of bottles. And, by November, the packaging problem had trickled its way to the factory floor, where it put production of the iconic bitters on hold.

Mixologists and Manhattan enthusiasts across the globe saw their drinks dashed. The cocktail industry was suddenly suffering from a lack of any discernible spicing or seasoning; of any added flavours or fragrances. Because bitters — while unassuming in bottle size, and frequently omitted from home-mixed recipes — are some of the most important ingredients in the world of cocktail-making

Most mixed drinks are predominantly sweet or sour. Dripping in drops of these varied, versatile flavourings (Angostura may be the most famous name in the bitters business, but it’s far from the only player) adds to the complexity of your cocktails — and rounds out the overall taste of serves from Old Fashioneds to Amaretto Sours. Here are three full-bodied, flavour-boosting reasons to start using bitters in your cocktails…

They add aromas and depth…

It’s the biggest benefit of bitters — and therefore where you’ll find the biggest bottles. Not in size, of course. Most bitters come in modest, medium-sized bottles. But here’s where you’ll find the big names. There’s Angostura, as mentioned above; with its iconic oversized label and gentian-based recipe.

Peychaud’s is the second-biggest name in bitters; and another recipe that uses the distinctively dusty, bittersweet scent of gentian flowers to afford depth to any cocktail. It’s for this reason that many drinks dot bitters on top as a decoration or final flourish; to add another potent element to the drink, and give it one final twist of taste.

But not all of these twists must be musky. Dillons ‘Small Batch’ aromatic bitters are created using Canadian cherries, cloves and allspice to bring balance to whisky-based cocktails. They offer both a flavour counterpoint, but also a handful of complementary notes; helping simultaneously season the spirit and make it more palatable.

You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

Peychaud’s Aromatic Bitters

£8.75

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You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

Dillons Small Batch Aromatic Bitters

£11.95

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They can add extra flavours…

While the aromatic bitters above are the most popular products in this saporous sector, recent years have seen suppliers begin to experiment and expand their offerings. Innovating with new and existing ingredients, the bitters industry has followed in the spirited footsteps of the flavoured gin boom — incorporating and infusing additional notes into their bitter depths. 

Unsurprisingly, the House of Angostura was one of the first to take this pungent plunge. In 2007, the brand introduced a new spin on the old recipe; with bright floral notes and fresh orange peel. But we’d recommend the heritage brand’s even more recent release; Cocoa Bitters. Using Trinitario cocoa to give the bitters a nuttier, chocolatey flavour, it’s the perfect way to introduce an additional classic cocktail flavour without needing another ingredient.

Other popular flavours captured in bitters include the aforementioned orange — best infused in Regans’ ‘Orange Bitters No.6’, like a spice box of ginger, zest and cardamom — and cucumber; The Bitter Truth’s take on the sapid salad vegetable is the perfect depth-giving addition to a simple Gin & Tonic.

You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

Angostura Cocoa Bitters

£8.95

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You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

Bitter Truth Cucumber Bitters

£15.25

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You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6

£9.95

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They can add another of the 5 basic tastes…

But it’s not all about flavour. Another of bitters’ abilities is that it can turbocharge the texture of a cocktail, and improve the mouthfeel of any given drink. Because, while bitter is one of the five basic tastes, bitters can introduce a second one of these tastes to ensure every sip is like a symphony of different character and consistency.

The best bitters for bringing about such a transformation is the ‘Umami’ offering from The Japanese Bitters. Using kelp, bonito flakes, and dried shiitake mushrooms to create a savoury mouthfeel, it’s an incredible ingredient — and one which will take your Bloody Mary games to new tangy heights.

To evoke other basic tastes with your bitters, try Ferdinand’s ‘Riesling and Quince Bitters’ to add sweetness, or the cheek-tighteningly tart ‘Lime Bitters’ from Fee Brothers to go sour. For this is the true purpose of bitters; to blend and balance those basic tastes until you create a perfectly-weighted, flawlessly-flavoured cocktail. Happy mixing.

You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

The Japanese Bitters Umami

£28.95

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You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

Ferdinand’s Riesling and Quince Bitters

£17.94

Buy Now
You should be using bitters in your cocktails. Here’s why…

Fee Brothers Lime Bitters

£14.20

Buy Now

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