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And a dash or two of Cocktail bitters…

One dash of Angostura aromatic bitters, two drops of Creole bitters. Many cocktail recipes ask for cocktail bitters of some sort. What are these cocktail bitters used in different concoctions? In this blog we will teach you everything you need to know to make your own cocktail bitters. From the history, to the types. This article will help you become a cocktail bitter-making master.

Cocktail bitters are the spice rack of bartenders. They come in many shapes, sizes & flavors. When used properly, they can give depth to your cocktails. So, let's talk cocktail bitters!

The history of cocktail bitters

Cocktail bitters, like most alcoholic beverages, have their roots in medicine. Yeah, our lovely liquid consumables started out as medicine.

Alcohol takes on flavors of whatever it is introduced to, such as herbs and spices. Everyone thought these had healing properties. They were sold as different elixirs or potions. The first to attempt to infuse herbs into alcohol were the early Egyptians. Yes, they did much more than build giant sand- castles.

The distilling technique was passed on through generations and cultures and was improved upon by distilled alcohol becoming more readily available. The higher ABV% in distilled spirits extract flavors and aromas way faster and aggressive. 

Fast forward to the early 19th century. By mixing spirit, sugar, water & medicinal bitters, something magical happened. A new category of mixed drinks was created; The first true cocktails.

More than 200 years later, cocktail bitters have become a staple in many bars and sometimes even kitchens.

Types of cocktail bitters

Bitters can be placed in two categories:

  • Bitter liqueurs e.g.: Galliano 'l Aperitivo, Cynar, Campari, Aperol etc. Bitter liqueurs are also called Amaros from the Italian word 'bitter'.

  • Cocktail bitters: Recognizable by their small bottle size with dash caps for pouring small quantities. Cocktail bitters are typically used in/or on top of a drink. 

Cocktail bitters have come a long way. From being used as medicine to becoming ingredients used in many cocktails. Nowadays there are countless types of cocktail bitters. If you can think of a flavor, you can probably turn it into cocktail bitters. 

Cocktail bitters consist of three main components

Alcohol

For optimum infusion of the ingredients, the alcohol should be at least 50% ABV. The alcohol can be neutral alcohol or a spirit like rum, whiskey, or a mixture of your own choice.

Bittering agent

These usually makeup about 50% of the blend and may include: angelica root, artichoke leaf, Oregon grape root, gentian, wormwood, sarsaparilla, licorice root, orris root dandelion, cinchona bark, citrus peels etc.

Aromatic/ Flavouring agent

Aromatic and or Flavouring agents can be anything you want. We categorize these into three types. Spices, herb & flowers, and fruits, nuts,& beans

Well-known cocktail bitters brands

  • Angostura aromatic cocktail bitters: The most famous of all cocktail bitters. Easily recognized by its oversized label and yellow screwcap. Angostura was created by a German surgeon general in Venezuela. Production relocated years later to Trinidad due to Venezuela being an unstable country at the time.

  • Peychaud cocktail bitters: created by Antoine Peychaud, who was an apothecary that mixed in his free time. mostly know for its use in the Sazerac.

  • The Fee Brother's cocktail bitters: this family started as butchers, then made liqueurs, went into importing wines, decided to make bitters who are loved all over the world, who knows what they'll do next?

  • Regan's orange bitters no.6: created by late and beloved cocktail expert Gary Regan and widow Mardee Regan who wanted a proper orange bitters 

  • Scrappy's cocktail bitters: one of the first on the US market to make handcrafted bitters. 

  • The Bitter truth's cocktail bitters: makes one of the best bitter available on the market right now, focused on being perfect for the classic cocktails. 

Making your own cocktail bitters

Want to make your own cocktail bitters? Here's how.

Step 1: Add your ingredients to 200ml (6,5 oz.) alcohol in a mason jar or sealable bottle. Make separate tinctures for easier blending on later stage or combine all ingredients together & seal bottle.

Step 2: Take notes! Write every single ingredient, amounts, volume, etc. down. 

Step 3: Taste your cocktail bitters daily until the desired result is achieved

Step 4: Strain out your solid ingredients from your cocktail bitters using a muslin or cheesecloth. Label your cocktail bitters. Your cocktail bitters is now ready to give extra depth to your cocktails

Sam's amazing bitter recipe

My own version of Angostura aromatic bitters. Great for spicing up a wide variety of drinks.And a great way to impress your date!

  • 200ml of high proof whiskey

  • 1 teaspoon of gentian root

  • 1 teaspoon of juniper berries

  • 2 cardamom pods

  • 3 peels of lemon 

  • 2 peels of grapefruit

  • 1 teaspoon of lavender flower buds

And now the long-awaited drink to impress all your friends with.

Singapore sling

The Singapore Sling obviously has its roots in Singapore and is a nice drink to make at home! It's tasty and great looking. It's the perfect cocktail to put your newly made cocktail bitters to work!

• 60ml Damrak Gin

• 15ml Bols Cherry brandy

• 10ml Bols Triple sec  

• 10ml Grenadine syrup

• 10ml D.O.M Benedictine

Shake everything for 10 seconds and strain into a sling glass. Top of with soda. Add two dashes of Sam's amazing bitters on top. And most importantly enjoy!!

So, there you have it. A complete guide into cocktail bitters. Want to try out other cocktail recipes with cocktail bitters? Click on the link and head over to our Cocktail Gallery.

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