TGIF! As part of our Friday Cocktail series, we are taking a look at bitters. Bitters are, simply, a liquid extraction of various elements, such as barks, spices, and fruit peels. “Bitters are like the spice rack of the cocktail world,” says Ira Koplowitz of Bittercube. They can be used to tone down the sweetness of simple syrups, juices and sweet liqueurs, as well as adding depth, aroma, and flavor to a variety of cocktails. A touch of bitters is the perfect way to finish off a Manhattan, and chocolate bitters can be used to create a chocolate manhattan. Orange peel bitters can add a slightly fruity and complex element to bourbon cocktails. Classic barrel bitters contain smokey elements which can create an extra element of whiskey type flavors.
But don’t stop at brown liquor – bitters play well with virtually every alcohol in your liquor cabinet. Gin is another classic pairing. Use Gin, Lillet Blanc, and touch of violet bitters to create a light and classic cocktail – garnish with a Luxardo cherry for an old school and sophisticated twist. A classic Bloody Mary for brunch can be punched up with a touch of barrel bitters and Worcestershire Sauce. Make a champagne cocktail using a sugar cube soaked in bitters for the base on top of bubbly for a lighter, lower alcohol bitter cocktail. Chocolate and spicy bitters are also a great finish for a classic margarita recipe, and smoky Mezcal will benefit greatly from bitters also.
Sourcing bitters for your bar is also fun, but consider making your own. If you have a decent mixologist on your staff, he or she can easily whip up house creations which will save you money and give you clout for your own ‘house made’ recipes. Bitters made in house can also be customized to the exact recipes and bar menu that you’ve created also. Get creative with this and up your cocktail game – sophisticated palates will thank you!