Bitters are a crucial part of any great cocktail. Rare is the drink that does not feature bitters among its ingredients. Just a few drops packs a powerful punch that can accentuate and enhance each sip.
At the very core, bitters are spices. Sometimes referred to as a bartender’s salt and pepper, bitters are an infusion of spices, roots, fruit, barks, herbs, flowers and botanicals steeped in high-proof alcohol.
Bitters have been around for hundreds of years. Originally used for medicinal purposes in the 1700s, they evolved to become cocktail enhancers. Prescribed by physicians to treat all number of ailments, those being treated with bitters began mixing their prescriptions into drinks to mask the taste. Little did they know, they were actually adding flavor to their drinks, creating something completely new: the Cocktail.
The term “Cocktail” was first used in 1806 and was defined as “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” After Prohibition, bitters fell out of fashion, and their use in the cocktail declined. It wasn’t until the 21st Century that we truly began to see a resurgence of these tonics. You’ll now be hard pressed to find a bar that doesn’t use bitters in its cocktails.