Many individuals are confused by cocktail bitters and how they are used. The reality is, it really isn’t that complex an explanation.
If you have spent any time cooking in a kitchen, you’re already familiar with different spices, and those spices can drastically change the flavor of prepared dishes. After all, do you just drill up a piece of meat without adding any sort of spice—even salt and pepper? Cocktail bitters are no different.
Bitters for drinks (and more) are essential for professional mixing staff. They allow them to pour and mix to perfection, getting just the right flavor for a wide variety of drinks. They typically come in relatively small bottles (24 ounces or less) and have either a drip control insert or an actual dripper. Fair warning: a little bit goes a long way when you’re dealing with bitters.
Where Do Bitters Come From?
That’s a great question. The practice of using bitters can be traced back hundreds and even thousands of years. Ancient apothecaries once used bitters in a variety of their concoctions to help heal the sick from anything from headaches to chronic pain.
They have stuck around since then, but only professionals have been familiar with their use and application.
Physically, they are extracts from roots, seeds, herbs, etc.
A number of companies produce and distribute cocktail bitters, each having their own unique recipe. So, if you get a chocolate bitter from one manufacturer, it could be a little or a lot different than what you could expect to get from another company.
Using Bitters in Your Drinks
As mentioned previously, a dab or dash will do you when it comes to bitters. These are extracts and as such tend to carry with them a potent flavor. It is easy to over flavor using bitters. For most drinks a single drop or two is just right. Any more than that and you’re probably going to need to remake the drink.Rob Roy Perfect: Fill a mix glass with ice, add in 2 parts Scotch Whiskey, half part Dry Vermouth, half part Sweet Vermouth, and 2 dashes of bitters. Mix and garnish with a whole cherry and lemon twist.
Classic Martini: equal parts Gin and Dry Vermouth. But, to make it original, add a couple dashes of Orange bitters. You can try other flavor bitters as well to experiment in getting just the drink you are looking for.
Do you make your own ice cream? Homemade ice cream has become insanely popular over the past few years. You get some great and crazy flavors, but can’t find it everywhere. Try adding bitters to the ice cream for the kick that will take it over the top.
Adult Floats: Remember root beer floats? This one isn’t for kiddies. Add a few dashes of bitters and the mixture of flavors is a one two punch guaranteed to please.