What Are Cocktail Bitters

Cocktail bitters are an essential ingredient in many , adding a unique and complex flavor to your concoctions. But what exactly are they?

Bitters are a concentrated solution of herbs, spices, fruit peels and other botanicals that have been steeped in . Bitters are usually around 35-45% alcohol by volume (ABV). The recipe for cocktail bitters varies depending on the brand, but most contain cinchona bark, gentian root, cascarilla bark, orange peel, and other ingredients.

The flavor of cocktail bitters is quite distinct. They provide a sharp and pungent flavor to cocktails. When used correctly, just a few drops of bitters can take your drinks to the next level. As renowned bartender Brad Thomas Parsons famously said “Bitters are to cocktails as salt is to food” – they bring out the flavors of the ingredients and make it taste better.

Bitters can be used in a variety of drinks including Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, Sazeracs, Margaritas and more. Even beverages like tonic or ginger can benefit from a dash or two of bitters. You can also use them in food recipes such as marinades or sauces for an extra burst of flavor.

If you want to experiment with different types of cocktail bitters there is no shortage of options available on the market today. For example Fee Brothers has over 25 varieties ranging from cherry to grapefruit to rhubarb & fig. With so many flavors available you're sure to find one that perfectly complements your favorite drinks!

So if you're loking for ways to enhance your cocktails then why not give cocktail bitters a try? They may be small but they pack a big punch when it comes to flavor!

What Ingredients Are Used to Make Cocktail Bitters?

Cocktail bitters are a concentrated flavoring agent made from a base of neutral alcohol infused with aromatic botanicals, herbs, spices, roots, barks, fruits and other flavorings. The most common ingredients used in cocktail bitters include cinchona bark (which is the source of quinine), gentian root (known for its taste), cascarilla bark (a source of citrus-like flavors), orange peel and other natural flavorings. The aromatic botanicals infuse the neutral alcohol base with flavors that range from sweet to sour and from spicy to bitter. Bitters usualy have an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 35-45%, giving them a relatively high alcohol content. They are typically added to cocktails by the dash or drop to balance out the sweetness of the and other cocktail ingredients.

what are cocktail bitters
Source: okanaganspirits.com

Are Cocktail Bitters Alcoholic?

Cocktail bitters are made from alcohol, however the amount of alcohol in them is so small that they're often marketed as non-alcoholic. Bitters generally contain between 35-45% alcohol, but since they are used by dashes or drops, the amount of alcohol is minuscule and therefore difficult to trace. Therefore, while cocktail bitters contain a very small amount of alcohol, it is not enough to make them legally considered alcoholic.

The Purpose of Bitters in Cocktails

The purpose of bitters in cocktails is to add complexity, flavor, and balance. Bitters act as a seasoning for drinks, much like salt does for food, and can help to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients. Bitters also have the potential to enhance aromas and smooth out harshness in spirits. They come in many diferent varieties, each with its own unique flavors derived from a variety of herbs and spices. Bitters can be used to add depth and interest to classic cocktails or create entirely new flavor combinations. A few drops of bitters can be the difference between an ordinary drink and an extraordinary one.

The Taste of Cocktail Bitters

Cocktail bitters typically have a sharp, pungent flavor that can be likened to a concentrated herbal essence. They usally contain one or more of the following: herbs, fruits, spices, roots, tree bark or other botanical ingredients. The flavors range from bitter to sweet and spicy, and they are often used to add complexity and depth to a cocktail. Bitters can range in intensity from subtle nuances to strong punches of flavor. Commonly used flavors include citrusy notes (e.g., orange or lemon), spice (e.g., cardamom or cinnamon), floral (e.g., lavender or rose), herbal (e.g., juniper or licorice), earthy (e.g., root or dandelion) and smoky (e.g., peat or oak). When added to cocktails, bitters help bring out the best in other ingredients by enhancing their flavor profiles without overpowering them.


Cocktail bitters are an essential component of any good bar setup. They are a concentrated solution made from neutral alcohol infused with herbs, fruits, roots, spices and other botanicals. With a high alcohol content of 35-45% ABV, just a few drops of bitters can add depth and complexity to cocktails. Bitters can help to bring out the best flavors in various ingredients, making them an essential part of any craft cocktail. Whether you're a beginner or seasoned mixologist, having the right type of cocktail bitters is key for creating amazing drinks that will please your guests.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.