Aromatic Cocktail Bitters and the Art of the Old Fashioned

Aromatic Cocktail Bitters and the Art of the Old Fashioned

Aromatic cocktail bitters are more than just an ingredient; they are the essence that transforms a good cocktail into a great one. For bourbon enthusiasts, understanding bitters and their role in classic drinks like the Old Fashioned is essential. Let’s explore what bitters are and their pivotal role in bourbon cocktails, especially the iconic Old Fashioned.

What Are Bitters?

Bitters are a concentrated blend of herbs, fruits, spices, and roots steeped in alcohol. They are used in minuscule amounts to add complexity, balance, and depth to cocktails. Think of them as the seasoning of the cocktail world – just as a pinch of salt can elevate a dish, a dash of bitters can transform a cocktail.

The Cornerstone Cocktail: The Old Fashioned

At the heart of bourbon culture lies the Old Fashioned, a cocktail that perfectly encapsulates the essence of bourbon. Comprising bourbon, sugar, water, and bitters, the Old Fashioned is a testament to the idea that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. The bitters play a crucial role here, bringing a balance to the sweetness and enhancing the bourbon's rich flavors.

Bottle Size: A Dash Goes a Long Way

Contrary to what one might think, the size of the bitters bottle isn’t a crucial factor. Given that only a few dashes (equivalent to mere drops) are used per drink, even the smallest bottles can last quite a while. This is especially true for home enthusiasts, as opposed to professional bartenders who might go through bottles more quickly.

The Convenience of a Dropper

The inclusion of a dropper is a thoughtful touch, though not mandatory. Droppers aid in achieving consistent measurements across different drinks, which is particularly helpful for cocktail novices. If you're unsure about your "dashing" technique, a dropper can alleviate that anxiety, ensuring each concoction is perfectly balanced.

Flavors: The Heart of Bitters

The variety of flavors is arguably the most important aspect when choosing bitters. For someone new to the world of cocktail bitters, a sampler set with basic flavors like orange, cherry, aromatic, and walnut is an excellent start. These foundational flavors offer versatility and ease of use. More complex or unusual flavors can be explored by those with more experience and a desire to experiment.

Attractiveness and Functionality of the Container

While not the most crucial aspect, the design and attractiveness of the bitters bottle do matter, especially for those who have a dedicated bourbon bar and enjoy displaying their collection. Look for bottles that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional - easy to distinguish from one another, especially for those with aging eyes or in dimly lit environments.

Origin and Social Responsibility

Knowing the backstory of the bitters can add an extra layer of appreciation. Bitters that are organic, locally produced, or contribute to community initiatives or charities can be especially meaningful. It’s worth researching the brand's ethos and production practices, as these can be significant for those who value sustainability and social responsibility.


Selecting the right aromatic cocktail bitters is a nuanced yet enjoyable process. It's about finding the balance between flavor variety, practicality, aesthetics, and ethical production. Whether you're a cocktail enthusiast or shopping for a gift, keeping these aspects in mind will guide you to the perfect choice.

Bitters may seem like a small addition, but they're the secret ingredient that can transform an ordinary bourbon cocktail into an extraordinary sensory experience. Remember, it's not just about the taste – it's about the story and craftsmanship behind each bottle.

Our Recommendation:

Strongwater Cocktail Bitters Sampler

With attractive packaging, a good assortment of basic options, a dropper, and a "mountain man" feel, the strongwater bitters is a great and affordable bitters sampler that makes an outstanding gift.

Whichever option you choose, remember that each drop of bitters carries a world of flavor and tradition, making your bourbon experience all the more enriching.

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