About Cocktail Bitters and Elixirs

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 for Cocktail Bitters and Elixirs

Liber & Co. Fiery Ginger Syrup
95 points
$10
Best Buy
Tasted as a Moscow Mule cocktail. Golden straw color. Attractive, spicy aromas and flavors of fresh sliced ginger, freshly ground nutmeg, galangal, and hint of egg nog with a supple, racy, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, endless finish that shows notes of honeyed ginger root, ginger tea with lemon, and white peppercorn finish. A fabulously fresh and commanding ginger-forward Moscow Mule that warmly stimulates the senses.
95 points $10 Best Buy
Old Forester Salt and Pepper Tincture
94 points
Golden amber color. Savory, smoky aromas and flavors of smoky bbq rubbed meat, smoked paprika and gouda, cigar and pipe tobacco, and barnyard with a round, vibrant, bittersweet medium body and a tingling, subtle, long finish. A wonderfully smoky and savory tincture that will add a great smoked paprika note to classic and innovative cocktails.
Awards: 2018 Best Tincture
The Bitter Truth Drops & Dashes Roots Bitters
94 points
$18
Best Buy
Golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of toffee, orange-peach chutney, and fig bread with a round, tangy, fruity sweet medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, long finish with nuances of creme brulee, brown spices, and leather finish. In an Old Fashioned these bitters dovetail completely and add dried fig, licorice and spice notes to compliment the cocktail.
94 points $18 Best Buy
Weatherby’s Orange Saffron Bitters
94 points
$18
Best Buy
Slivery straw color. Aromas and flavors of juniper, orange fruit cake, pine sap, and saffron with a satiny, bright, dry medium body and a tingling, interesting, medium-long finish evoking accents of orange peel, pine, cardamom, and chamomile and pollen finish. In a gin martini these bitters add delicious orange spice cake and fruit cake bass notes that offset the herbal juniper forward gin and then an ethereal saffron high note that lingers.
94 points $18 Best Buy
The Bitter Ex Bitters Co. Drunk Texting Citrus Bitters
93 points
$12
Tasted as a Gin Martini cocktail. Light gold color. Aromas and flavors of frosted lemon cake and herbed yams with a supple, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a smooth, crisp finish with touches of lemon and nut oil and dried ginger and lime finish. These bitters add a hint of lemon and ginger to the mix for a serious cocktail.
The Bitter Ex Bitters Co. Stalking Ex Spicy Celery Bitters
93 points
$12
Tasted as a Pisco Sour cocktail. Golden straw color. Aromas and flavors of celery root and stalk, hints of dried peach, barbecue rub, and suede shoe with a supple, lively, dryish medium-full body and an even, layered, very long finish that exhibits elements of lemon cream, frosted herb scone, and cucumber-thyme and watermelon finish. Vibrant earthy celery notes mesh seamlessly with the botanicals of gin in a martini cocktail and elevate the experience; a must for brunch cocktails or try with Chartreuse.
Old Forester Oleo-Saccharum Syrup
93 points
Pale straw color. Attractive, citrusy aromas and flavors of freshly shaved yuzu and buddha’s hand, crystallized ginger, lady grey tea, and rosemary with a supple, vibrant, fruity medium body and a smooth, interesting, medium-long finish displaying accents of lemon meringue pie, spiced melon, and lemon heads finish. A rich syrup that will add attractive layers of complexity to any cocktail.
Awards: 2018 Best Bar Syrup
Keep It Simple Syrup Classic Sugar Cane Simple Syrup
92 points
$8.99
Best Buy
Tasted as an Old Fashioned cocktail. Aromas and flavors of good and plenty, spiced caramelized nuts, pear nectar, and grilled peach with a satiny, moderately sweet medium-to-full body and a tingling, interesting, long finish manifesting impressions of cinnamon candy and pepper jelly on raisin toast finish. A bright and inviting Old Fashioned with a lively, tingling spicy palate; the syrup is a clean, rock solid base and adds subtle fruit tones.
92 points $8.99 Best Buy
Keep It Simple Syrup Spearmint-Infused Simple Syrup
92 points
$9.99
Best Buy
Tasted as a Mojito cocktail. Minty aromas and flavors of white chocolate mint cookie and mint cream with a supple, vibrant, moderately sweet medium body and a smooth, layered, long finish with accents of citrus and melon relish and mint gum finish. An inviting and wonderfully balanced mojito with pure mint flavor from artfully infused syrup; try with tea, too!
92 points $9.99 Best Buy
King Floyd’s Cherry Cacao Bitters
92 points
$19.99
Tasted as a Old Fashioned cocktail. Amber color. Inviting aromas and flavors of toffee, chocolate orange peels and nuts, and hint of oven roasted tomatoes and cherries sprinkled with paprika with a satiny, soft, fruity sweet full body and a tingling, long finish with notes of caramel cream, dried figs, and grilled peach finish. A delightfully savory and complex Old Fashioned cocktail; the bitters really amplify with chocolate and dried fruity/savory tones.
92 points $19.99