Bitters. You see them on the menu at trendy bars and you hear how they’re all the rage right now. But what are bitters, how do you use bitters, and why should you care about bitters?
Well, here’s everything you need to know about bitters.
Bitters are made by taking a flavorless base alcohol and infusing it with spices, fruits, bark, roots, seeds, and other aromatics. The end result is usually packaged into small bottles and used in cocktails and other drinks. Flavor-wise, bitters range from the traditional - like orange and citrus - to more new-age varieties like ginger and sriracha.
There’s no right or wrong way to use bitters, but remember: bitters are extremely potent, so a few drops are more than enough.
The most common way to use bitters is in making cocktails. In fact, there’s a good chance that your favorite cocktails - from Manhattans to Hot Toddies - call for bitters. Bitters are also great in non-alcoholic drinks, such as soda water with a spritz of bitters.
For storage, keep bitters next to your alcohol - ideally in a cool, dry place - any they will last you pretty much forever.
The craft cocktail movement has put bitters back on the map. Bartenders are realizing that to make top-quality drinks, you need top-quality bitters. And as bartenders continue to push the envelope in creating new-age drink recipes, they need an ever-increasing arsenal of bitters.
However, it’s not just the faux-retro bars with exposed brick and Edison bulbs that are behind the bitters boon. More and more people are turning to bitters for their health benefits - everything from digestion, constipation, and acid reflux.
Bitters have been popular long before mustachioed bartenders started serving them in overpriced cocktails. Europeans have used bitters both for alcoholic recipes and health tonics, and the ancient Chinese are believed to have drank bitters as well.
In the United States, bitters benefitted mightily - as did all of us - from the repeal of Prohibition. During those dark, dark years of Prohibition, many manufacturers of bitters went out of business and the industry suffered as a result. So the next time you’re drinking a delicious bitters-infused cocktail, be sure to say a toast to the 21st Amendment.
You can find bitters in most liquor stores, but if you want the tastiest, healthiest, best-sourced cocktail bitters, there’s really only one choice: Strongwater.
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