Are All Bitters Alcoholic? The Answer Might Surprise You


Perhaps when you think of bitters, you imagine a smooth, classic cocktail like an old fashioned. It might surprise you to know that not all bitters are alcoholic, some are simply a flavoring agent. More so, they have uses that extend beyond the bar. 

Beyond the bitter element there is a wide range of flavors that make up bitters. They can be made with a number of spices, herbs and other plants. A dash of bitters can make for a really well balanced cocktail, but you might find use for it in your next salad too. Read on to find out just what bitters actually are and how they can be used. 

A Bitter Taste

Bitters are made using a solvent and that can be a high proof alcohol or something like vinegar or glycerine for a non-alcoholic option, but are bitters alcoholic? The key ingredient to achieving the bitter flavor is often gentian root. It has a very bitter taste and not much else so it makes it easier to control the flavor of the bitters by a wide variety of ingredients. 

Making Bitters At Home

Bitters can be made in just a few weeks time at home. Are bitters alcoholic? The easiest way to make them is the non-alcoholic route, using vegetable glycerine and water. To keep the bitter shelf stable, use 3 parts of glycerine to every 1 part of water. Simply combine your bitter root, herbs and botanicals into a jar with a mixture of glycerine and water and store it in your pantry. Make sure that the jar isn’t overcrowded with herbs and remember to shake it daily. In about 6-8 weeks you will have a bitter solution that you can strain into a clean jar and begin using. 

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Add Some Flavor

Bitters would not be complete with a good amount of background flavors that come from herbs, spices and botanicals. Maybe something warm like cinnamon and nutmeg or something floral like chamomile or orange. Playing with the balance of other ingredients can change the flavor profile immensely, giving bitters a wide range when you’re looking to round out flavors.  

Using Bitters

Bitters we’re designed to enhance the flavor of what they’re being added to; they’re liquid flavor enhancers. They’re commonly used in cocktails to enhance the flavor of alcohol and compliment the mixers. They can be added to anything liquid such as: lemonade, soda, iced tea, wine or even in salad dressings. When you’re experimenting with ways to bring out the flavor in your food, try adding a few dashes to your marinade next time. 

Bitters Are Better

You can take your food and drink to the next level with a dash of bitterness. The pallet senses: sweet, sour, salty, umami and bitter. Being able to balance out your flavors adds a level of depth to your creations that will have people coming back for more. Smile and enjoy a refreshing drink as you amaze yourself friends with your new bitter lemonade or pat yourself on the back when you master a new cocktail. With such a wide number of options, you can create something new and fun for every season.