Getting to Know Bitters
Perhaps you’ve seen them on a cocktail menu, being added to a shaker by your local barkeep, or on display in your favorite bottle shop. But what are bitters? Discover the history and uses of this classic cocktail ingredient and get creative with your favorite concoctions.
What are bitters?
Crafted from seeds, herbs, roots, fruit and other botanical elements, bitters are highly concentrated liquid extractions that are blended with water and alcohol and used by the dash to flavor cocktails. Considered the “spices” of the cocktail world, these unique blends add depth and dimension to drinks, much like using seasonings to improve the flavor of food when cooking.
A Little History
Originally created by physicians in the 1700s and sold as medicinal tonics, bitters were used to treat a variety of issues, from problems with circulation and digestion to acting as a stimulant for soldiers weary from malaria. In those days (and by some bartenders still today), many claimed mixing bitters with tonic water or club soda was the fastest way to cure an upset stomach. The strong taste could be a little too much for some, so adding spirits to help ease the flavor became popular. From this little concoction, the classic cocktail was born.
The Fresh Squeezed
A refreshing tipple, this spirited citrus drink made with fresh grapefruit juice is infused with a hint of grapefruit bitters for a delicate yet vibrant sip. Try it out!
½ large grapefruit, juiced
1 ounce gin
¼ ounce Rose's lime juice
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add the freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, gin, lime juice, and a dash of grapefruit bitters. Give the concoction a good shake until well chilled, then pour into a martini glass. Rub lemon peel along the rim of the glass and pop it into the cocktail for a pretty garnish. Makes one drink.