Bitters are the unsung heroes of cocktails, the supporting characters if you will. I often say you should never taste the bitters in your cocktail as an individual ingredient, but you will probably notice if they’re missing. Just a few dashes can take your drink to a whole new level and I promise, they won’t make your drink bitter.
What is a dash of bitters?
A very unscientific measurement that consists of 2 or 3 drops. I know, what is a drop… Part of the issue is that bitters come with different tops. Some like ours have dasher tops which are a plastic insert in the neck of the bottle with a hole in it. You’ll see other companies that use dropper caps, meaning there is a long dropper attached to the cap of the bottle. Both of these methods allow you to more easily dispense a small amount of bitters instead of just pouring straight from the bottle.
A dash is taking a bottle with a dasher cap, turning it upside down over your drink and giving it one good shake. You’ll see a few drops come out. Most recipes will call for a few dashes, this does not mean a few drops, it does indeed mean a few shakes into your cocktail. You’ll most likely be adding anywhere from ½ to a full teaspoon of bitters. If you’re using a bottle with a dropper cap, remember that a couple of drops make a dash. It’s always best to start and add more to taste.
Why do you use dashes?
We use dashes because bitters are a very concentrated botanical tincture that is of course, bitter. A little goes a long way. And because bitters is basically a seasoning, or spice rack, for your cocktails, please adjust to your taste. If a recipe calls for 2-3 dashes, but you only like 1 or you like 6, go for it!
What do bitters do in a drink?
The short answer is they bring balance and add a little complexity. A few dashes of bitters will balance the various parts of a cocktail - the strong of the alcohol, the sweet of sugar, a liqueur, or juice, and the sour of a little lemon, lime, or even a twist of orange. Bitter is the fourth component that brings everything together. Like adding basil to a tomato soup, the tomato isn’t overwhelmed by the basil, but the soup wouldn’t be the same without it. Bitters should not overwhelm your drink, but it won’t be the same without a few dashes.
Are bitters just for cocktails?
Definitely not. Bitters can be used to bring a little life to any drink. Try a few dashes of Cardamom bitters in your coffee, especially if it’s iced, or in tea. Perk up your ginger ale with a few dashes of Aromatic bitters. Even fruit juice and/or soda water can be livened up with bitters.
But they’re not even just for drinks. If you think of bitters as an extract (which technically they are, read more about how they’re made) then it opens up the whole kitchen to using bitters.
I love to bake with them - Aromatic bitters instead of vanilla in a pumpkin pie, add Orange or Lime Coriander to a classic shortbread recipe, add Cardamom to some whipped cream to top just about anything including your morning coffee. Bitters also work in meat or fish marinades, Aromatic is particularly good with bbq. Grapefruit or Lime Coriander make a nice addition to summer salad dressings.
The options are pretty much endless!
What about bitters for digestion?
Bitters are great for supporting your digestion. If you look at our ingredients list you’ll notice that a lot of what goes into our bitters are also used in traditional medicines for digestion. Our reaction to bitter is a bit of a self defense mechanism. Things that are poisonous often have a bitter taste to them, so our bodies have developed to kick in our digestive process whenever we taste something bitter in an effort to get it out of our system. Anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of bitters in a glass of soda water before or after a meal will help rev up your digestion. It particularly helps after a rich, decadent meal. This is also why many cultures sip bitter liqueurs before or after meals, like the Italian aperitivos and amaros.
All that said, I have crafted our bitters for use in cocktails, not medicinal purposes. So while they can definitely help an upset stomach, I focus on getting the best possible flavor, not packing them full medicinal herbs.
Regardless of how you decide to consume our bitters, I mostly hope you don’t allow them to gather dust on the back of your bar.