The condensed version is bitters are a flavoring agent made from infusing barks, roots, fruit peels, seeds, herbs, botanicals, and herbs in high proof alcohol or sometimes glycerin. The most common misconception is that bitters will make your cocktail bitter, not so, the term bitters refers to a category of aromatic solutions with bittering agents such as gentian root or cinchona bark. They actually tend to give a drink depth and or a nice spicy note, making a more interesting cocktail. Although they may be bitter or bitter sweet, they don’t always bitter the drink. They tend to bring flavors out or forward, almost seasoning a drink, I like to think of them as a bartenders salt and pepper. Bitters is sometimes a bridge to bring two spirits in to harmonious companionship, spirits that otherwise may not have worked together, with just a dash or two.
I like to break them down into two categories, potable and non-potable. Potable bitters would be thing you could actually drink, such as Chartreuse, Campari, or Eden’s Bitter Apple liqueur. Non-potable would be bitters that are near impossible or at the least not enjoyable to drink, these would include Angustora bitters, Peychauds bitters, and Reagan’s #6 orange bitters, just to name a few. The Cocktail you are creating will sort of tell you the kind of bitters it needs.
The best way to get A feel for what bitters can do for you is to make two Manhattans, one with bitters and one without, and you’ll notice an amazing difference between, and I’v noticed I have a greater under standing of a lot of things after two Manhattens.
The there we have a brief overview of bitter. If you would like to learn more, check out the bar at the WMCC and try our house made apple bitters, or pick up a copy of the book “Bitters a spirited history of a classic cure~all”