Can you use vanilla extract instead of bitters?

Answered by Louis Krause

As an expert sommelier and brewer, I can tell you that extracts, including vanilla extract, can indeed be used as a substitute for bitters in certain situations. While extracts are commonly associated with baking, they have a wide range of uses and can add unique flavors to drinks as well.

Vanilla extract, in particular, has a rich, sweet flavor that can enhance the taste of various beverages. While bitters often have a more complex and taste profile, vanilla extract can provide a similar depth and complexity, albeit with a sweeter undertone.

One way to use vanilla extract as a substitute for bitters is in . For example, if a recipe calls for a dash of bitters, you can experiment by adding a small amount of vanilla extract instead. The result may be a slightly sweeter and smoother drink, which can be quite enjoyable depending on your taste preferences.

I have personally tried using vanilla extract in place of bitters in an Old Fashioned cocktail, and the result was surprisingly delightful. The vanilla extract added a subtle sweetness that complemented the other ingredients, creating a unique twist on the classic drink.

It's important to note, however, that while vanilla extract can provide a similar flavor profile to bitters, it may not have the same intensity or complexity. Bitters are typically made by infusing herbs, spices, and other botanicals into a high-proof , resulting in a more concentrated and potent flavor. Extracts, on the other hand, are usually made by soaking the flavor source, such as vanilla beans, in a solvent like alcohol or .

If you're looking for a closer match to the flavor of bitters, you could try using other types of extracts, such as citrus or herbal extracts. These can provide a more pronounced and bitter flavor, similar to traditional bitters.

While vanilla extract can be used as a substitute for bitters in certain cases, it may not provide the exact same taste experience. However, it can still add a delightful flavor to your drinks, so don't be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you.