Flip open the bar menu at a restaurant and you’ll see ‘bitters’ listed as an ingredient under your favourite cocktail.
The secret ingredient in the world of cocktails, just a few drops of bitters can elevate the flavours of a drink.
But, what exactly are these bitters and how do you use them?
Read on to know these bitters, better.
Bitters are created by infusing flowers, herbs, fruit peels, spices, roots, and other ingredients in a base liquor to create a wide variety of flavours. Many brands of bitters started out as medicinal tonics and soon made their way to cocktails as concentrated flavour stimulants that add a nice touch to the mix. They’re usually measured in ‘dashes’ when added to a mix, with each dash being 6-8 drops or 1/8th of a teaspoon.
There’s a wide variety of bitters to choose from, with each having its unique properties. The most popular ones that mixologists use in their concoctions are aromatic, citrus, herbal and nut.
The aromatic ones are the most popular and make use of infusions to develop a strong aroma, hence the name. One of the most popular kinds of bitters, Angostura, belongs in this category.
Orange is the most popular among citrus bitters, closely followed by other options like grapefruit and lemon. Tarragon, thyme and lavender are some of the well-known herbal variations while chocolate and coffee are the relatively newer nut inventions.
Bitters can also be used in cooking soups, salad dressings, apple pies, fish, etc.
Possibly the most popular brand of bitters, Angostura should be considered a must when stocking up a bar. This secret blend of tropical herbs and plants with the intent of curing a variety of illnesses is the oldest brand of bitters, dating back to the early 1800s. It is a necessary ingredient while making cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.
Peychaud's bitters are an essential ingredient in making a traditional Sazerac cocktail – a heady mix of brandy and absinthe.
Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 is considered one of the best citrus bitters on the market and can be used in a wide variety of cocktails.
Did you know you could make your own bitters at home?
Pick out your preferred flavouring ingredients, such as herbs, spices, roots, fruits and nuts. Secondly, get yourself a neutral, high-proof spirit, such as vodka or whiskey. Combine them in an air-tight jar and store in a cool, dark place. The infusion can take up to a month to develop, depending on the ingredients. Once it's ready, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth and store it in a clean jar.
So, the next time you head out for a cocktail, do get an appreciative glance from the bartender when you guess the bitter used in it correctly!
Don’t forget to drink responsibly.