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What Are Cocktail Bitters?

We could get really in depth with our explanation of what bitters are (we can’t decide if our immense knowledge is brilliant or embarrassing!), but we know that you just want to sound impressive when you go out for cocktails at the weekend, so we’re here to help! Let’s find out what are the bitters used in cocktails and why are they used.

What Are Cocktail Bitters?

To put it simply, bitters are just alcohol which has been infused with different plant matter. 

There, end of lesson!

Ok, we’ll elaborate slightly, but only on the provision that you remember these great bits of knowledge when you’re onto your third Rum Punch.

Bitters are spirits which have been infused with a range of different spices, fruits and herbs, etc. You’ll sometimes hear them being called a “botanical” blend of ingredients. 

These botanical ingredients are left to soak in (usually very high proof) alcohol until the alcohol has hit the absolute peak of deliciousness, and can then be added to many different cocktails. There’s also a variety of different botanical flavors that can be created; for instance, if you wanted a more citrusy little mix to your cocktail, you’d use a blend of botanicals which had more citrus fruit peels - it really is that easy!

Why Use Bitters In Cocktails?

Bitters are used in cocktails to accentuate the flavours within the cocktail. For example, if you had chosen our Apricot Rye Smash (great choice btw, one of our absolute faves) then you’ll notice in the ingredients that cherry bark vanilla bitters have been added to that cocktail to essentially cut through the overt sweetness that would have been present due to the apricot puree and the almond syrup within the cocktail. They’ve also been added to really bring out the essence and fruitiness of the apricot, allowing us to experience the genuine taste of the fruit, as opposed to being a sickly sweet “chemical” tasting drink that you’d find in your local 7Eleven (yes, we’re fancy with our flavors. You’re reading this, you’re fancy now too!).

Think of Bitters as the “yin” to a cocktails existing “yang” - a very sweet and luxurious cocktail would become very unpalatable and almost sickly if it wasn’t balanced out by an opposing flavor, such as a tart or bitter element. However, don’t be fooled... bitters aren’t just a reference to a “bitter” or contradictory flavor; bitters can be used to accentuate a cocktail’s sweet or sour flavor too.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how bitters are used, go and see if you can recognize how they accentuate the incredible flavors in some of our mixologists’ expertly crafted cocktails!