Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The 4 Best Cocktail Bitters for Your Home Bar

Smell is a major aspect of taste, so it’s time to start paying more attention to cocktail bitters. These fragrant additions can make your favorite mixed drink bloom out of the glass, and every home bartender should have a small but reliable arsenal at their disposal.

For the record, bitters are what they claim to be: Bitter-flavored concoctions typically made with wildly aromatic botanicals. They have a long history of use, initially with medicinal purposes before becoming digestifs and cocktail enhancers. In addition to high proof alcohol, bitters are made with a witches’ brew of seemingly exotic ingredients like cassia, cinchona bark, and gentian peel — and countless others, depending on the overall flavor of the product. Behind the bar, cocktail bitters have been used to lift the flavors of famed drinks since the 1860s.

Related Guides

Don’t be fooled by the diminutive vessels cocktail bitters usually inhabit as they pack a potent punch, despite the relatively tiny package. They’re not just for the most complicated drinks, as classic and somewhat straightforward cocktails like a Manhattan, Sazerac, or whisky sour can attest to. And they’re not just for alcoholic drinks, as a brisk and refreshing soda and bitters suggests.

When looking to stock up on some bitters essentials for your home bar, consider the following:

Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Beatles of cocktail bitters, Angostura is responsible for hit after classic hit. It launched in the 1820s in Venezuela and ultimately moved to Trinidad and Tobago, where it’s based today. The secret recipe features gentian, herbs, and spices, giving it a soothing, kitchen spice cabinet-like quality. It’s a fantastic addition to an Old Fashioned as well as a gin and tonic, imparting feel-good flavors like dried cinnamon and clove as well as heightened aromatics. Countless cocktails, from Rob Roy to a Manhattan, depend on Angostura’s distinctive personality.

Fee Brothers Black Walnut Cocktail Bitters

Fee Brothers Black Walnut Cocktail Bitters
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Fee Brothers are responsible for an acclaimed family of bitters, spanning the entire spectrum of flavors. The black walnut is among the best, with a pronounced flavor profile unlike any other. Showing nutty notes, a bittersweet complexion, and a kiss of forest floor, it’s the perfect sidekick to bourbon and a great way to take a drink like a mint julep in an intriguing new direction. A few drops also do great with coffee and espresso-based drinks as well as ice cream.

Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6

Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Somewhat of a newcomer within the field, Regan’s Orange bitters have risen to deserved esteem since it was first developed in the 90s. Like so many bitters, this elixir relies on very particular ingredients, like Sevilla orange peel, coriander, anise, burnt sugar set in alcohol, and more. The zest of citrus shines through like a warm ray of sun, alongside the peppery punch of caraway and the warn, nutty flavors of coriander. We adore it with drinks that feature Campari and vermouth (Negroni, anyone?) and we like how it can wake up tamer spirits like vodka.

Peychaud’s Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Another classic and bar counter mainstay is Peychaud’s. It goes all the way back to the 1830s, of Creole descent in the city of New Orleans. It also features gentian, known for its green color and bitter flavor profile, along with woodsy elements like mint and black licorice. Given its bayou heritage, it’s no surprise that it’s tailor-made for classic French-American cocktails like the Vieux Carre and Sazerac. Never overwhelming and eager to complement a host of drinks, Peychaud’s is a bitters you don’t want to be stranded without.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
The best tea cocktail recipes if you love a hot toddy
Warm up with these hot tea cocktail recipes this winter
Red Hot Toddy.

If the Hot Toddy has taught us anything, it's that warm tea makes for a great cocktail base. And it's no wonder, given the broad range of tea types and styles. Given that we're still in winter's grip, these kinds of drinks are all the more intriguing, offering two kinds of warmth -- the hot tea itself and the booze.

You can end up with something drinkable by just throwing a tea bag and some spirits into a mug with some hot water. But we're not going for drinkable, we're aiming for utterly irresistible. That said, there are some things to keep in mind when mixing with tea. The most important aspect is to make the tea as recommended by the producer, as different kinds often require different methods.

Read more
12 tasty, versatile sake cocktails to whip up and enjoy
Try these delicious sake cocktails to up your mixology game
Winter Spritz Cocktail

Odds are, you're either not drinking enough sake or you're not mixing it right. Fortunately, this lovely nectar of fermented rice is nimble and cocktail-ready, once you get the hang of it.

What is sake?
Sake is the national drink of Japan, it's an alcoholic beverage that is made of fermented rice, water, yeast, and Aspergillus oryzae mold, which is also known as koji. The mold is used to convert the starch in the rice to sugar. The rice used in the process of making sake is a special sakamai rice that is high in starch and low in protein. The rice is highly milled (or polished) to remove the outer hull and some of the bran. Highly polished sake rice will lead to a smoother final product.

Read more
These are the best gin mixers to have in your home bar
Gin works wonders with a number of mixers. Here are the best ones to keep on hand
Gim gimlet in coupe glasses

Gin may be the most spring-like spirit out there. No matter what season it is, with its in-bloom characteristics, it's a highly aromatic, highly botanical spirit that smells and tastes a lot like the fresher, flower-filled air that we associate with spring. Turns out, the clear spirit goes exceedingly well with certain mixers, too.

So, if you want it to feel like spring no matter what time of year it is, and you're interested in gin drinks like some of the classic gin cocktails, we have a few pointers. A number of fellow liquids not only go great with gin, but they also enhance the stuff. Some, like a good tonic, are pretty expected, but there are lesser-knowns like Earl Grey tea, too.

Read more