Bitters for Cocktails

The Best Bitters for Cocktails

Bitters are arguably the most magical of cocktail ingredients. Bitters for cocktails are very unassuming in their little bottles, but adding just a few dashes can completely transform a cocktail. Bitters are an essential ingredient in many cocktails, but you might not realize that there are several different types of bitters to choose from.

A well-stocked home bar will have at least a few different types of bitters, but which are the most deserving of a spot on your bartop (or kitchen cupboard)? We compared many different cocktail bitters brands to come up with this list of the best of the best to level up your cocktail recipes. 

Types of Bitters 

Have you ever looked at those small bottles of bitters and wondered what they were? Bitters are simply alcohol that has been infused with herbs and aromatics. You may hear a reference to “herbal bitters,” but this is just a general term that can be used to describe all the different styles of bitters. 

There are different types of bitters that are distinguished by the unique flavor they bring to a cocktail. That’s not to say that cocktails are the only place to use bitters. They’re equally good in non-alcoholic drinks, such as crisp ginger ale. 

The two most popular styles of bitters are aromatic bitters and orange. In addition, there are many different flavors of bitters available, with more craft bitters coming to the market, offering flavors that haven’t been seen before. 

You can have some fun playing around with your cocktails and how different bitters work in them.

Angostura Bitters   

Some argue that Angostura bitters are the gold standard in the cocktail world. What makes Angostura bitters stand out, according to some, as the best bitters are the hints of clove and spiciness. Angostura bitters taste warm and add depth to classic cocktails like the old-fashioned. 

Angostura bitters are made with gentian and other herbs, but that’s about all we know. The formula has been a carefully guarded secret since they were introduced in 1824.

Orange Bitters 

Orange bitters are infused with the essence of orange peel. Orange bitters taste, well, like orange, but they generally have a bright citrus flavor. The difference among brands centers mostly on the depth of flavor and other herbal notes. Orange bitters are great in a whiskey drink or any type of citrusy cocktail. 

Flavored Bitters

Flavored bitters come in different varieties, including everything from chocolate and celery to grapefruit and ginger and other flavors. A classic cocktail like a champagne cocktail can take on all sorts of different personalities with a variety of flavored bitters. 

Best Aromatic Bitters

Angostura Bitters

Angostura bitters are the most popular of bitters, offering a wonderful fruity bouquet and just the right amount of spice. Practically every bar has a bottle of Angostura cocktail bitters on hand. One of the most popular classic cocktails made with Angostura bitters is an old-fashioned cocktail. 

Curious what the difference between an old-fashioned and a Manhattan is? Both are whiskey drinks, typically made with bourbon or rye whiskey. The difference is that an old-fashioned has sweetness and layers of flavor from bitters and a sugar cube. A Manhattan uses sweet vermouth instead of sugar and cocktail bitters. 

Peychaud’s Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Peychaud’s Aromatic Cocktail Bitters are right up there with Angostura in popularity, although there are differences in the flavor notes and characteristics of each. Peychaud’s bitters taste slightly sweeter than Angostura, with a bright orange flavor and hints of cherry and licorice. 

Peychaud’s  Bitters are great in a spirit-forward cocktail and are an essential ingredient in the Sazerac cocktail. Peychaud’s is produced by the Sazerac Company in Kentucky. 

The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters

The Bitter Truth Old Time Bitters fall into a class of classic bitters. They offer notes of Ceylon cinnamon, clove, a few hints of cherry, and a bit of chocolate. Bitter Truth bitters go really well in cocktails with rich, dark liquors, such as rye whiskey and dark rum. 

Woodford Reserve Aromatic Bitters

Woodford Reserve Bitters are barrel-aged and just all-around good classic bitters if you want to expand your bitter repertoire beyond Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters. Some even argue that these are a contender for knocking those two out of the top spot. We like the more complex aromatic profile and just a hint of smokiness. 

Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters

Fee Brothers have the market mastered on flavored bitters. At last count, they had nineteen different flavors of bitters under their brand. If you want a solid introduction to Fee Brothers bitters, their Old Fashioned Bitters are the way to go. These bitters are highly aromatic and are created with herbals and botanicals from around the world. 

Best Orange Bitters  

Angostura Orange Bitters

The second most popular variety of Angostura is their orange bitters. These offer an incredible depth of flavor, with orange peel from Caribbean oranges. Angostura Orange makes a nice addition to popular cocktails, including those with white spirits, such as gin, vodka, and tequila. 

Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters

Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters offer a brilliant simplicity. If you don’t really care for the layers and layers of botanical flavors found in other cocktail bitters, this is a great option. The citrus flavor is so pure and bright that it complements most cocktails without changing the base flavors. While Angostura is often the choice for a pisco sour, we like to use these West Indian Orange Bitters instead. 

Regans Orange Bitters No. 6

Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 are more straightforward with citrus notes than other bitters. Considering this is one of the newer bitters brands, we’re impressed with the smoothness and brightness of citrus fruits. We especially like Regan’s in various types of rum cocktails.  

Woodford Reserve Orange Bitters

Woodford Reserve Orange Bitters have a more mellow flavor than the other bitters listed here. These are a nice addition to light, refreshing cocktails and are one of the best bitters for non-alcoholic drinks. 

Best Grapefruit Bitters

Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters

As mentioned earlier, Fee Brothers has the art of flavored bitters mastered. Grapefruit bitters are a nice change from traditional orange bitters. What’s delicious about this brand is that the grapefruit only highlights the other layers of botanicals. Add a few dashes of these to a certain cocktail, like a Paloma, and consider it your new secret star ingredient. 

SCRAPPY’S BITTERS Organic Grapefruit Bitters

Scrappy’s Bitters win hand down for using all-natural ingredients and a citrusy grapefruit taste. All the herbs and fruit used in these bitters are selected by Scrappy’s, and the fruit is zested by hand. All ingredients are organic, making this one of the best citrus bitters around. 

Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters

Bittemens Hopped Bitters are a standout with an unusual taste that easily becomes an obsession. The essence of grapefruit is combined with hops, which brings to mind a really good hoppy grapefruit beer. This is one of those novelty citrus bitters that every home bar should have. 

Best Chocolate Bitters 

Woodford Reserve Chocolate Bitters

Woodford Reserve Chocolate Bitters combine the lusciousness of chocolate with barrel-aged hints of whiskey. We don’t necessarily think these are the best for a sweet chocolatey cocktail, but a few drops in a martini is fantastic. You can also skip the booze and add a couple of drops to your morning coffee instead. 

Strongwater Cacao Bitters

Strongwater Cacao Bitters are handcrafted using cacao nibs, along with the essence of cherry and vanilla. We might be imagining things, but we swear we detected a hint of star anise as well. Rich and decadent, these are great bitters to have on hand for holiday drinks and other special occasions. 

Mexican Chocolate Bitters

For chocolatey bitters that don’t mess around, the best bottle of bitters out there is Hella Cocktail Mexican Chocolate Bitters. There’s a bit of spice, just a little heat, and the flavor is bold. Add a couple of dashes of these, along with a dash or two of smoked chili bitters, to a boozy Mexican hot chocolate for a special treat. 

Best Celery Bitters 

Fee Brothers Celery Bitters

These celery bitters are the perfect blends of celery salt, citrus, and a bit of spice. These are great in savory cocktails, especially in a bloody mary enjoyed over a leisurely Sunday brunch. Keep a bottle of these on your bloody mary bar next to all the other garnishes. 

Scrappy’s Bitters – Celery

Scrappy’s Bitters makes it onto our list again, this time for their celery variety. The celery seed is pronounced and supported by hints of citrus. We really like this variety of bitters in gin cocktails, such as a gin martini or gin & tonic. For a more citrusy alternative to this, Scrappy’s also makes black lemon bitters that go equally well in the same types of cocktails.


What bitters are used in cocktails?


Any type of bitter can be used in a cocktail. It just depends on what type of flavor you want to create. Traditional bitters are perfect for a cocktail like an old-fashioned and also in pisco sours. Flavored bitters, such as celery, chocolate, lemon, grapefruit, or even creole bitters, are fun to play around with in different cocktail recipes. 

What are the four types of bitters?

There are more than four types of bitters, but the most popular ones are aromatic, orange, chocolate, and celery. 

What drinks are best with bitters?

The most popular cocktails with bitters include the classic old-fashioned cocktail, sazerac, pisco sour, and negronis, along with some martinis and manhattans. Still, when you have the best bitters, the sky’s the limit. Spicy and savory bitters go well in tequila drinks, while cardamom bitters do well with whiskey, and ginger bitters are perfect for vodka and gin.  

What is the purpose of drinking bitters?

Bitters enhance the flavor of many cocktails, but you can also enjoy bitters without worrying about how much alcohol you’re consuming. Bitters in a glass of soda are known to help aid digestion, and a dash or two in coffee is a nice way to treat yourself at the start of the day. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Bitters are an alcohol-based spirit that has been infused with citrus, botanicals, and other flavorings. 
  • There are many different flavors of bitters, but aromatic, orange, chocolate, and celery are the most popular.
  • Bitters are an important element in many cocktails but can be added to just about any drink – creativity is key! 
  • Don’t shy away from fun flavors like ginger, lemon, cardamon, chocolate, plum, cherry, black walnut, or even rhubarb!

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