About Cocktail Bitters

Cocktail bitters are combinations of bitter herbs, barks, and other botanicals in a neutral alcohol base designed to be added in minute quantities to give final layers of aromatic and flavor complexity to cocktails.

The most common type of cocktail bitters, aromatic bitters have their origins in the digestive and therapeutic tonics of the late 19th Century and were perfected during the golden age of cocktails in the early 20th Century. In recent years, the craft cocktail movement has inspired myriad faithful recreations, reinterpretations, and exotic experimentation using almost every conceivable edible or botanical ingredient.

Cocktail bitters are not to be confused with bitter liqueurs such as Italian amaros or fernets which have a higher sugar content and are designed to be consumed on their own or in cocktails. Due to their pungent bitterness, one would not drink cocktails bitters on their own, unless you are a bartender of course.

Top Picks and Reviews for Cocktail Bitters

202325
Abbott’s
Bitters
Bold spicy baklava and custard aromas with a dusty cedar attic note. On the palate, honeyed sweetness, cinnamon, mint, and delicate barky astringency follow; this is quite delicious and balanced on its own, remarkably. In the Old Fashioned cocktail, the effect is mesmerizing as it seems to amplify all of the positive attributes: fruits, spice, caramelized nuts, and vanilla and smoothes over any flaws in the alcohol. The finish is really where this bitters shines, as it adds layers of grassy herbs, sarsaparilla, and sweet pastry-like spiciness that mesh brilliantly with the oak of the whisky and add tremendous length as well. A truly world-class cocktail bitters.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202252
The Bitter Truth
Old Time Aromatic Bitters
Deep chestnut brown color. More dried spice in style with cinnamon, allspice, and anise cookie followed by gentian and hay notes with a bone dry palate and chalk and twiggy astringency on the finish. In the old fashioned cocktail, the effect is one of total integration and elevation of the sweet baking spice and fruity caramel notes of the bourbon. It really acts like a glue and an amplifier for the flavors of this cocktail and gives a nice lingering spiced nut top note to the finish. Fantastic.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
210443
The Bitter Truth
Cucumber Bitters
Tasted as a Pisco Sour cocktail. Golden amber color. Peppery, earthy fruity curious aromas of marinated cucumbers, cracked pepper, and fleur de sel with a body and a cucumber slices and squash finish. The cucumber flavor of this bitter meshes nicely with the floral notes of the pisco in the pisco sour and add a nice layer of spice giving a creamy meringue like effect.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202277
Scrappy’s Bitters
Orange Bitters
Very fruity and attractive orange pastry and sorbet aromas with a nice dash of herbs, cinnamon bark, and nutmeg. On the palate, fruity sweetness follows with a mellow, astringent, bitter dandelion greens like finish. In the gin martini cocktail, the orange pastry notes waft on the nose and a delicious candied violet like floral quality emerge from the cocktail. Later a sweet orange gelatin note and finally a honeyed orange zest and delicate minty herb quality. This bitters really transforms the cocktail completely and makes it nearly impossible to put down. Quite a powerful tool for the adroit bartender’s arsenal.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
210379
Regans’
No. 6 Orange Bitters
Tasted as a Gin Martini cocktail. Brilliant bright gold color. Interesting, complex smoky woody aromas of smoked peppercorns, pine bark, coriander, and gentian with a body and a lemongrass, wet cedar, and grapefruit rind finish. This earthy bitters meshes well in the martini the pineyness of the juniper is really amplified and the overall effect is a very woodsy fall like one with the spice in support.
93 points $7.99 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
210034
Dutch’s Spirits
Colonial Bitters
Tasted as an Old Fashioned cocktail. Bright hazy copper color. Woody, complex oaky spicy aromas of mace, saffron, anise, and pepper marinated meat with a body and a sassafras, cola, and salt and pepper finish. This bitters adds meaty earthy bases notes to the old fashioned cocktail while popping the cherry flavor; this will work great with all whisky based cocktails.
93 points $17.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
210035
Dutch’s Spirits
Boomtown Bitters
Tasted as an Old Fashioned cocktail. Clear amber color. Spicy, savory aromas of sandalwood incense, Indian spices, gingerbread, and honeyed citrus with a body and a nougat finish. This bitters integrates perfectly and adds multiple layers of exotic spice and earthy incense-like tones to the old fashioned cocktail; a super choice for whisky, rum and Asian themed cocktails.
93 points $17.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
206143
The Bitter Truth
Peach Bitters
On its own nice dried peach, ground nut, and savory soy aromas lead. On the palate, a bit of sarsaparilla and cola emerge. In the Martini cocktail, fresh peach notes appear nicely on the body and finish versus the nose and compliment and amplify the citrus notes of the martini quite deliciously. And if you ever wanted to try a shot of bitters, try this one.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
206404
Bittered Sling
Cascade Celery Bitters
Aromas of celery salt and lemon pepper. Palate confirms the nose with a hint of white toffee. In the Pisco Sour the celery and peppercorn notes show well on the nose and body and give the cocktail and more savory, dry, culinary quality topped with a lemon chiffon note. Very nice and very versatile bitters.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
206405
Bittered Sling
Malagasy Chocolate Bitters
Aromas of chocolate covered lemon peels, potpourri, and verbena. Perfume notes amplify on the palate with an almost eau-de-vie like quality. In the Pisco Sour cocktail, the chocolate plays nicely with the lime and pisco, tasting almost like and chocolate lemon poppyseed muffin. Fun.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab