How to Use Bitters in Cocktails

The power of cocktail bitters

Bitters are game-changing cocktail ingredients. Just a few dashes can transform spirits, wines, and non-alcoholic drinks. They are best known for classics such as Manhattan or Old Fashioned. But bitters are also widely used in modern mixology and are valued for creating a more complex flavour profile and balancing the sweet and sour aromas of the cocktail.

How to use bitters in cocktails?

If you are new to using bitters, start with complementing and enhancing the flavours of your Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and Negronis.

Bitters are condiments of the cocktail world and it is important to use them wisely. Add one or two dashes. This will be enough to enhance the flavours and aromas of a drink. One dash of bitters is about 1/8th of a teaspoon, which is approximately 6–8 drops from the bottle.

If you’re buying the first bottle of cocktail bitters for your home bar, start with aromatic bitters.  This category of bitters smells like baking spices and contains roots, barks, and herbs. You can go with Angostura aromatic bitters, or choose Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters, which are made with real Angostura bark, spices, and citrus. This is a cinnamon-forward alternative to Angostura bitters. 

Once you have aromatic bitters, you might want something that will bring a citrus edge to the drink. The most popular citrus bitters are, undoubtedly, orange bitters. Orange bitters can complement almost every spirit in the world, from whisky in Old Fashioned, to gin in Martini, to vodka in Screwdriver. If you aren't a big fan of orange flavours, you can pick lemon, lime, or grapefruit bitters. It’s a great way to dial down sweet drinks.

Citrus bitters also taste really good in beers. Add two or three dashes in a pint of your favorite lager, pilsner, or pale ale and enjoy a lingering and zesty citrus hints.

If you love nice fruity hints in your cocktails, veer towards cherry, peach, plum, cranberry, and rhubarb bitters. Add a few dashes to vodka, gin, or tequila cocktail to bring fresh fruity hints and nice sweetness. 

The next time you make a gin and tonic, consider adding a few dashes of bitters to the glass. Choose bitters that enhance gin flavours. Cucumber, pine, orange, and even celery bitters will be a perfect match. 

A dash or two of chocolate bitters will add a subtle nuttiness to cocktails. They play very well with sweet vermouth or aged spirits, like whiskeys or rums. Try a few dashes of chocolate bitters in cocktails like Manhattans, or with a dash of vermouth and soda for an easy, low-alcohol aperitif. Chocolate bitters are great with stouts, porters, or other malty beers. 

3 Cocktails with bitters 

Here are three delicious cocktails with bitters that you can easily make at home. 

Gin and Bitters


Method: Pour gin into the chilled copa glass filled with ice, add bitters. Top up with tonic and garnish with lemons. Cheers!

Nightcap Old Fashioned 

Recipe by Three Spirit Drinks 


Method: Combine all ingredients in a whisky-style glass and fill with ice. Stir until ice-cold, garnish with an orange slice, and top with a maraschino cherry.

Cranberry Negroni



Add all the cocktail ingredients to a shaker and shake well. Pour into a glass filled with ice cubes and serve.

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