Bitters are arguably the salt and pepper for cocktail lovers. These tiny tinctures are a bridge to your drink's final flavor to make your Old Fashioned come alive. To help you find an option that elevates your home happy hour game, we've put together the best bitters for Old Fashioned so that you can unlock a new world of flavor.
What is a good brand of bitters?
What are Bitters?
Cocktails bitters have a much longer and richer history than most people know. Bitters date as far back as ancient Egypt, where they were strictly used for medicinal purposes. Over time, these flavor portals grew into the cocktail additive we all know and relish today.
Bitters are a combination of a concentrated tincture of water, and flavoring, typically from various herbs, spices, flowers and even fruit. The plant combinations are soaked in high-proof alcohol then drained and bottled. Traditionally, their flavor profile was bitter to help balance a drink's final flavor. Bitters are meant to be used in small amounts; just a few drops at a time can lift your Old Fashioned from flat to flavorsome.
Why Do Bitters Come in Small Bottles?
This goes back to the origins of bitters, when most were initially used as medicine. They were usually crafted in small doses, either straight or diluted in water or other liquids. Some presume alcohol spirits could have been one of the other liquids, hence eventually, the tiny bottles made their way behind the cocktail bar. Furthermore, bitters are high-proof and high-flavor, so a few dashes go a long way!
What Do They Do To Whiskey?
Bitters work remarkably well with various whiskey-based cocktails. According to experts, they provide additional earthy notes that blend well with the aromatic elements of whiskey that's aged in wood barrels. Bitters also add volume since they extend the finish on your palate like tannins do for wine.
Let's get right into the best bitters for Old Fashioned, shall we?
1. Strongwater Old Fashioned Craft Cocktail Syrup
- HANDCRAFTED COCKTAIL: Enjoy the perfect Old Fashioned every time with Strongwater’s...
- GOOD FOODS AWARD FINALIST: Nationally recognized as a Good Foods Award Finalist in 2019
- ORGANIC CHERRIES & ORANGE ZEST: Tart organic cherries and fresh orange peel mixed with the...
- POUR AND ENJOY: Fill your glass with ice, add Strongwater Old Fashioned craft cocktail...
- NO-NONSENSE: This flavored cocktail mix is non-GMO & gluten-free. Contains no alcohol....
Strongwater is a highly reputable brand in the world of bitters. For context, the company spent around three years crafting this particular Old Fashioned Craft Cocktail Syrup. It contains organic cherries, orange peels, and spices such as clove, cardamom, cinnamon and some bitters herbs.
You can try this bitter on its own with ice. Pour a flavored whiskey and orange peel, then perhaps top it up with a cherry for a fantastic whiskey cocktail. Furthermore, the main ingredients are mountain spring water and demerara sugar, so it also goes well with rum, bourbon and rye whiskey.
The syrup is gluten-free, hence suitable for vegan options. In addition, it comes in a user-friendly bottle with clear instructions.
2. WithCo Ellis Old Fashioned
- FRESH INGREDIENT OLD FASHIONED - Makes 32 Cocktails : Madagascar vanilla, orange,...
- FRESH : All-Natural, No Preservative, No Additive, Gluten Free, fresh ingredient cocktail...
- SIMPLE : Fill your glass with Ice, Pour 0.5 oz WithCo Mix, add 2oz of Bourbon, whiskey,...
- MISSION : WithCo stands for “With Company” and we believe in using cocktails to build...
- PURPOSE: The perfect gift for cocktail enthusiasts, health and wellness minded shoppers,...
The WithCo Ellis Old Fashioned is crafted by whiskey enthusiasts, bringing a perfect balance of ingredients for your favorite whiskey cocktails. It's mostly popular for its vanilla base obtained from Madagascar. Additionally, it contains special ingredients such as whole vanilla bean, cinnamon, cane sugar, orange oil, aroma bitters and water.
These bitters are ideal for any brown liquor with ice. Most enthusiasts say it is pretty smooth on their throats and can be enjoyed with anything from whiskey and bourbon to tequila. More so, it has no preservatives, artificial flavors or gluten, coming in a glass bottle to keep the ingredients fresh.
3. Fee Brothers Black Walnut Cocktail Bitters
- Ships in Certified Frustration-Free Packaging
- Brings a robust nut flavor to the spice rack behind your bar
- Adds complexity to your cocktails
- Great on desserts or in recipes
- Size: 5 fl oz
Fee Brothers, the brand, has a great reputation in the vastness of bitters, thanks to their expertly crafted and refined products. The Black Walnut Cocktail Bitters deliver an earthy taste with a hint of creaminess to your Old Fashioned. The walnut brings a significant nutty flavor, followed by cocoa and cola notes. As such, the subtle sweet finish taste sets off its bitterness.
Fee Brother's best bitter experts really went to town to deliver the robust nut flavor. It brings a new dimension and complexity to cocktails, including a sour cherry aroma. These bitters go pretty well with an Old Fashioned, so try them out with a powerful bourbon or whiskey that's finished in rum or sherry casks.
4. Bittermilk No. 4 New Orleans Style Old Fashioned Rouge
- HANDCRAFTED BY BARTENDERS: Made by bartenders with real ingredients. Barrel aged in...
- AWARD WINNER: Bittermilk received Silver in 2015 for Outstanding Product Line from the...
- PAIRS WELL WITH WHISKEY: Mix with Rye Whiskey for a classic New Orleans cocktail. For a...
- SIMPLE TO USE: To make a New Orleans Style Old Fashioned: Just add booze. Stir 1 part...
- ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS: Made with wormword, fennel, and gentian root to imply the flavors...
Bittermilk bitters are crafted and bottled in Charleston, South Carolina. However, they are made in the New Orleans style, meaning you get an impressive cocktail additive made by skilled bartenders. The Bittermilk No. 4 is specifically made to perfectly suit a classic Old Fashioned.
It contains hints of licorice and spices. Nevertheless, the flavors are well-balanced thanks to other ingredients such as organic lemon peel, cane sugar, gentian root and wormwood. Furthermore, the bitters' unique rose color is obtained from the cochineal, a Peruvian red bettle.
5. Hella Cocktail Co. Aromatic Bitters
- Rich and deep with prominent notes of clove and cinnamon, the finish is noticeably more...
- The aromatic bitters are the most in-demand flavor in classic cocktail recipes like the...
- The first bitters flavor called for at your favorite Mixology cocktail bar or making your...
- Tasting notes: 48% ABV (alcoholic), 100 servings per bottle, all natural, Vegan, Gluten...
- Enjoy delicious cocktail drinks with Hella's premium mixers, syrups, bitters and DIY kits....
Hella Cocktail is an incredibly famous bitters brand, renown for its quality and balanced recipes with unique flavors such as Eucalyptus and Ginger Bitters. Their classic aromatic bitters are equally well-balanced, meaning they go well with Old Fashioned from aged whiskey and rum.
These bitters bring the aromatic notes of clove, cinnamon and Jamaican allspice while also including the depth and kick of caraway and black peppercorns. Since the crafting process uses wormwood and Gentian root, your whiskey cocktails have a perfectly bitter finish that's not overpowering.
6. Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters
- Woodsy flavor profile
- Licorice, saffron, peel, and Carmel
- Lighter and fruitier
Peychaud's bitters date back to the turn of the 18th Century in New Orleans, Louisiana, where it started as a medicine brand. In fact, it's only one of two bitter brands to have survived through prohibition. So with centuries of experience, you can expect nothing short of perfection from their aromatic bitters.
This bitter brings spicy notes to your drink, including clove and nutmeg. Plus, the brand's remarkably old recipe contains a hint of cherry. The results are quite phenomenal with an Old Fashioned, delivering a masculine flavor with a woody profile. Furthermore, the exceptional blend of caramel, saffron and orange peel also brings out a mature flavor to Peychaud's aromatic bitters.
7. Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters
Fee Brothers has existed since the 1800s for plenty of good reasons. Its bitters range from Black Walnut to Cherry to Rhubarb. However, the Aztec Chocolate Bitters really stands out, a fine blend of cacao sweetness and just a hint of spice. Believe it or not, chocolate bitters surprisingly complement the main ingredient in an Old Fashioned- the orange peel- very well.
The chocolate bitters add depth and complexity to the flavor. They also sit quite well if you simply want a dessert whiskey cocktail to top off your night. That means they also go well with other cocktails, so you can also experiment with say, a cognac Sazerac cocktail, to bring a bit of heat to the table.
8. Angostura Bitters Set
- 1, 4 oz. bottle of each flavor.
- Angostura Aromatic Bitters
- Angostura Orange Bitters
Angostura classic bitters are a must-try option for exploring and expanding your home bar repertoire. These bitters bring out your whiskey's woody qualities and enhance sweetness. This delivers a fragrant blend of fruits and spices that truly never disappoints with any classic cocktail.
The brand's official website gives you plenty of options for the best Angostura bitters for Old Fashioned. That includes mixing Angostura aromatic bitters with a simple syrup or sugar for a slight sweetness. So pour your favorite bourbon, and you're setting yourself up for one of the stand-out classic bitters for maple bourbon Old Fashioned.
9. REGANS's Orange Bitters No.6
Regan's bitters are just as popular as Angostura. They blend exceptionally well with spirits rather than overpowering them. Regan's arguably makes the best orange bitters for Old Fashioned. They marry quite well with whiskey, brandy, vodka, gin, rum and other bitters.
Most professionals lean towards the orange bitters without sugar and cardamom undertone. Gaz Regan -the founder- says that it goes well with a wide range of cocktails, including Old Fashioned, Manhattans and Sazeracs. So if you're looking for great all-rounder bitters, Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6 is an excellent choice.
10. Bittermens 'Elemakule Tiki Cocktail Bitters
- Made in the USA! Bittermens offers a great range of bitters for the growing demand...
- These bitters are the secret ingredient for making great cocktails! Buy a bottle today!
- Discover why bartenders around the world use these very small batch bitters from...
- 44% Alcohol by Volume. Primary Flavors: Cinnamon and Allspice and supporting spice flavors
- Enjoy this 5 OZ bottle with a dropper top (pipette)! Buy one today!
If you haven't tried out Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters, you are almost certainly missing out on something special. First, the brand boasts a spectacular collection of bitters, but we'll dive into their Tiki Bitters since we are focusing on Old Fashioned. The Tiki Bitters contain cinnamon, ginger, citrus peels, cardamom and allspice flavors. Some even regard it as the entire world of tropical cocktails dribbled down into a few drops.
These bitters are inspired by one of the recent gardens of Tiki Legends: Brian Miller. The inspiration behind them comes from the Polynesia and Caribbean schools of tropical cocktails. The official website refers to them as "The Taste of Islands." Plus, it has 44% ABV, so you can rest assured the exotic flavors come with a pretty good time.
What to Look for in the Best Bitters for Old-Fashioned
There are several types of bitters, and each recipe brings a unique flavor to your drink: Aromatic bitters are classic, a harmonious blend of bitter and herbal notes. Citrus bitters are like a high-note citrus solo, backed up by other muted flavors. Floral bitters deliver a strong fragrant or floral main event. Finally, celery bitters work magic with savory drinks.
You can also consider twists such as smokey, chocolatey, savory, grapefruit and even cardamom bitters. If all-natural ingredients matter to you, look out for brands with pure bitters. However, it's worth considering that some of the leading bitter brands add artificial color to their products.
All in all, we recommend having a couple of different bitter flavors in your home bar so that you can explore the different characters each option brings to your Old-Fashioned.
2. Alcohol Percentage
Most bitters have around 45-50% alcohol by volume, but you only need a few drops at a time. You can also consider glycerin-based bitters. Since glycerin is a sugar alcohol, it serves as a shelf stabilizer while also imparting a sweeter taste.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Bitters
1. Do bitters contain alcohol?
As mentioned earlier, yes, bitters contain alcohol, some as high as 50% ABV. However, since you only use tiny amounts, the actual alcohol you add to a drink is virtually negligible and doesn't change the cocktail's overall ABV. Furthermore, you can consider non-alcoholic options if you're abstaining.
2. Can you drink bitters on their own?
Yes, but not all. In any case, bitters are mainly meant to be added to drinks, alcoholic or otherwise. Some bitters can also be added to soda water or ginger ale to cure hangovers. Plus, you can also use them for cooking as well.
3. How much bitters should you add to Old-Fashioneds?
Ideally, you should add bitters the same way you season food with salt and pepper. A drop or two will add a remarkable depth of flavor, enriching your Old Fashioned right away.
4. How should you store bitters?
You can store your cocktail bitters on your bar cart if their ABV is 20% or higher. They'll practically stay good forever. Anything lower has to be refrigerated. That being said, there's no conventional rulebook; if you are in doubt, store it in the fridge.
There's a wide range of bitters in the market to choose from, all unique in their own way. Hopefully, our in-depth review opens you up to a host of special ingredients that cater to your taste and style. So that next time you have a smooth, bold whiskey sipping down your throat, you can equally savor the fantastic flavors soaking on your palate.