• Laura Stagg
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Cocktail 101: Everything you need to know about Cocktail Bitters

An essential ingredient when making cocktails, but do you know what they are? Or what do they do to a drink? Well, this Cocktail 101 article will help you decipher cocktail bitters.

What exactly are bitters?

The long and short of it is that Bitters are an alcoholic ingredient that is made by distilling and blending a selection of herbs and spices. They’re certainly not beer, they certainly aren’t an IPA. Bitters are the same for drinks that salt and pepper are for cooking.

Traditionally Aromatic Bitters are made using a number of different herbs and spices and are often the perfect choice for tiki and whiskey drinks. Generally, Aromatic bitters have quite a high ABV, but are definitely a go to base for cocktails and drinks.

After Aromatic bitters, you then have Flavoured Bitters, the most popular being orange and chocolate. Made the same way, flavoured bitters combine the specified flavour along with additional spices, flavours and herbs. Usually, a little bit lover in ABV, flavoured bitters are a great way to add hints of flavour to drinks and cocktails.

How to use Bitters?

The most common way of using bitters is by adding a few drops of the bitters into a cocktail shaker or mixing glass whilst making the drink. Alternatively, you could also spritz your bitters.

There are two ways you can spritz your bitters. The first one would be to spritz and coat an empty glass. A bit like ‘washing’ or ‘rinsing’ a glass a spritz of bitters will add a flavour accent to your cocktail and will ensure that it doesn’t get lost in the cocktail.

The second way to Spritz a cocktail is by using the burst of flavour instead of a traditional garnish. By adding a spritz of flavoured bitters to the top of a cocktail you’re giving it that burst of initial flavour when the cocktail is enjoyed. 

Classic Cocktails Featuring Bitters

Mint Julep

8 – 12 Fresh Mint Leaves
70ml Bourbon Whiskey
20ml Simple Syrup
2 Dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake!
Fine Strain into a Julep Cup half-filled with crushed ice
Churn, or stir, the drink using a bar spoon
Top up the cup with more crushed ice and churn again
Repeat this process until a frost appears on the outside of the cup
Add mint leaves for garnish

Mint Julep served in a Julep Cup
Photo by Ari Agustian on Unsplash

Old Fashioned Cocktail
Photo by Paige Ledford on Unsplash

Old Fashioned

60ml Bourbon
12.5ml Simple Syrup
3 Dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters


Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled glass


For more information on Bitters check out our Youtube Video by Steve the Barman.