Say you’re making a couple of Old Fashioneds after a long day, you look at your bitters selection, should use Aromatic or maybe Cardamom this time? Or you're making Gin & Tonics for you and a friend, you go to grab some bitters, but should you use Lime Coriander or Grapefruit? There is no right answer, but the bitters you choose will change the overall flavor of your drink.
The best choice really comes down to what end result you're hoping for. I’m going to offer some guidelines to help make you make a more confident decision, but I always encourage you to trust your instinct when it comes to flavor combinations you like.
Double Down on Flavors
The most obvious way to choose a flavor of bitters for your drink is to consider what flavors are already in the drink and pick something that will amplify one or two flavors. Going back to our Gin & Tonic example, maybe you already plan to add a squeeze of lime, then Lime Coriander would be a great choice.
Pick Something Complimentary
Another approach is to pick a flavor of bitters that will add a new, but complimentary flavor to your drink. Since you’re only adding a few dashes, this will be a subtle addition and should not overwhelm the drink, but instead should be a tasty and unexpected addition. This approach relies on understanding flavor combinations and takes a bit of practice. If you like to cook, fall back on familiar combinations you use in the kitchen. Adding Cardamom bitters to an Old Fashioned is a great example of this. There is no cardamom flavor in the drink, but cardamom works really well with whiskey.
If you really just can’t decide which direction to go, try adding just a couple dashes of two or even three different bitters. This is also a great way to ease into using complimentary flavors if you’re not as comfortable with that approach. For example my husband loves to add equal amounts of Aromatic and Orange bitters to his Old Fashioned. The Orange is the complimentary flavor and the Aromatic Bitters are a similar flavor.
One Last Approach
If you’re totally new to bitters and afraid of ruining your drink, you can also try making your drink completely without adding bitters. Taste the drink first, then taste the bitters you’re considering and see if you can imagine them working well together. Trust your tastebuds!
Happy mixing and please share any of your favorite recipes with us on social - @thebitterhousewife.