Guide to Bitters

Bitters Basics

Think of bitters as a spice rack for your bar – just a couple of drops can vamp up your cocktail. We give you the lowdown of what it is and how to use it

Ah, lemon, lime and bitters – an old favourite in every household. After a solid decade or so on the sidelines, bitters are starting to make another appearance in our drinks. 


Bitters are a highly concentrated, aromatic spirit made by infusing fruit, herbs, roots and spices in alcohol. They were originally used as medicine back in the day, with doctors prescribing wee containers of the stuff for every ailment under the sun. 

Later on, they made their way into cocktail culture. A cocktail wasn’t a cocktail unless it contained a dash of bitters. It usually acted as a flavour booster in cocktails made of just alcohol, water and sugar. 

There are two categories of bitters: tinctures and potables. 

No at-home bar would be complete without Angostura, the most famous tincture bitter. Tincture bitters clock in at 45 per cent ABV and pack more flavour than potables, which can be drunk on their own. Some of these include Campari and Jägermeister.


Reach for Angostura whenever a recipe calls for ‘bitters.’ You can use it in classics such as Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans and Negronis.

If you’re looking to inject some oomph into a simple vodka tonic or G&T, bitters will do the trick. They can balance sweetness, mellow out sour notes and add complexity to your cocktail. 

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