Bitters pack a punch. One drop can transform a drink — highlighting warm, spicy, rich, or acidic notes. These botanically infused alcoholic mixtures were once marketed as medicine, when pharmacist Antoine Peychaud would add them to alcoholic beverages sold at his 19th century apothecary shop in New Orleans.
Today, however, bitters are a must-have for everyone from the casual sippers to the cocktail connoisseurs. If you’re new to the world of bitters, here are the you need to own and why:
- Angostura Aromatic Bitters ($9 on Amazon): This is the most famous, widely used bitters. Originally created to improve appetite and digestion, Angostura highlights clove, tamarind, and cinnamon notes, and tastes great with aged spirits like whiskies, rums, and brandies. Use in: Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Champagne Cocktail
- Peychaud’s Bitters ($15): Slightly milder than the Angostura, this is a key ingredient in the Sazerac, one of the first cocktails ever made in New Orleans. Peychaud’s has a light body, floral scent, and a slightly sweet flavor. Use in: Sazerac, Vieux Carré, Whiskey Sour
- Orange Bitters: A step above the aromatic bitters, this works well in drinks because it’s both spicy and fresh. Try a couple different brands, as they all have their own twist and flavor profile. Angostura Orange Bitters ($13) has a straightforward orange flavor, while Regan’s Bitters ($11) are spicy with hints of cardamom – great for scotch. Use in: Dry Martini, Bourbon Cooler
Bonus: if you’re new to bitters and want to get the most learning for the buck, get the Scrappy’s Bitters Set ($24 for 4 small bottles). These also make a great gift.
Photo credit: Bon Appétit