Bitters have been around for a long time and an integral part of the mixologist’s bag of tricks. Essentially, they are a “spirit” that often begins with grain alcohol infused with spices, fruits, tree barks, leaves, and herbs and are roughly 44% alcohol. They create medicinal-like flavors that when infused sparingly in cocktails, can make them very exotic and complex. Examples of some ingredients include gentian root, cinchona bark, orange peel, and tarragon to name just a few.
If you are looking to purchase a bottle, Angostura bitters is a great place to start. A staple in any bar worth its name, Angostura bitters are named after the town of the same name in Venezuela, first created in the 19th century.
Bitters that feature certain flavors, such as cherry, celery, orange, plus many more, will be best with cocktails that feature those flavors.
Famous cocktails that are made with bitters include Old-Fashioned, Manhattan, Sazerac, Champagne cocktail to name a few.