Bitters can evoke and add different elements to many cocktails. Typically packaged in small bottles with dropper applicators or restricted openings, bitters are neutral spirits infused with different flavors. Traditionally, bitters of yore were more likely to yield an earthy or bittersweet flavor, but the flavor profile has expanded along with the craft cocktail movement.
We’ve picked some old standards in terms of flavor, as well as some that you might not know you need, but trust us, you do.
Angostura Aromatic (As Seen Above)
The gold standard in most places, Angostura is one of the few brands that survived Prohibition. If you were to have only one bottle on your shelf, it needs to be Angostura. Potent and clove-forward, a few dashes will take your cocktails a long way.
Another standard for the shelf made by Sazerac, Peychaud’s captures the essence of New Orleans with a lighter profile than Angostura. As a literal bitter, it tends to cut the sweetness of a drink.
Hella Bitters Orange
For everything from Old Fashioneds to Tiki cocktails, these add a little extra oomph behind the citrus in your drinks. These are also great for when you want to impart an orange flavor without the sweetness of a syrup.
Fee Brother’s Black Walnut
Great for bringing nutty flavors to whiskey-based drinks, especially when the brown, spirits-based cocktails of autumn are in full swing.
Love gin or vodka? The lavender flavors here wonderfully accentuate the floral notes in these spirits and their cocktails. Lavender cocktails tend to swing sweet, so these bitters are a good way to ground a drink in an earthier palate.
El Guapo Bitters Fuego
If you like a little kick or want to add some spice to a smoky drink, these will kick your cocktails up a notch.
Bitter Truth Celery
A great addition to Bloody Marys, naturally, but celery bitters do great things for garden gin cocktails as well. If you’ve got a vegetal cocktail, these will more than likely be a welcome addition.
Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla
The cherry at the bottom of an Old Fashioned is one of the best parts of the drink (just kidding, the whiskey is and always will be the best part), but these bitters will really let the sweet vanilla notes from the bourbon barrel shine.
Bittermen’s Xocolatl Molé
Chocolatey and spicy, these are everything you love about Molé sauce, distilled. Use them in everything from adding a little flair to your neat whiskey to elevating your chocolate martini game.
Apothecary Bitters Mystic Caravan Smokey Pear
Both fruity and smoky, these are great for scotch cocktails that you want to imbue a little fruitiness to, while enhancing the peaty characteristics.
Messina Bitters Cannabis-Infused Aromatic
Based in Portland, Oregon, Messina offers a variety of cannabis-infused and virgin bitters. Reaching to bitters origins, the products are meant for use in cocktails and also for medicinal use for digestion problems.
Wilks and Wilson Storyville Chicory Pecan
Another slightly spicy blend that evokes both the Wild West and the Deep South simultaneously. Great for creating a complex coffee cocktail.
The joy of bitters, too, is that they don’t just have to be used in one way like we’ve described above. Just a few drops can transport a cocktail to a completely different direction. Find your own path or blaze your own trail with the wide world of bitters out there.