Any well-stocked cocktail bar will have a bottle of bitters, and you may be tempted to purchase one. How should bitters be stored, and what is the best way to prepare them? A bitters is a strong alcoholic spirit infused with natural flavorings. Due to the high alcohol content, bitters do not need to be refrigerated. They are shelf-stable at room temperature because of their high alcohol content. A bottle of bitters should be kept upright in a cool, dark place once it has been opened. Check out these tips for keeping bitters in the best condition if you have recently added bitters to your cocktail repertoire!
What Are Bitters?
Bitters are one of those products that we buy for a special occasion, and then bury in the back of the cupboard. Although they have many more uses than you might think, they are about time that their versatility and flavor were properly appreciated. Infused with fruit, herbs, spices, leaves, bark, and roots, bitters are an alcoholic spirit with a strong botanical flavor.
Since it is normally used and sold as a flavoring, this alcoholic infusion is not commonly sold alongside other liquors such as wine or spirits. It is not uncommon for bitters to contain a variety of botanical flavors, but they are usually selected for their aromatic properties as well as their intense flavors.
Bitters have a powerful infusion that would make you very brave to drink them neat! However, they have multiple uses around the house. Let’s see what they can be used for!
Using Bitters In Cocktails
A cocktail’s bitters are selected for their ability to add a fresh taste and smell. Cocktails are usually a combination of sweet and sour flavors, and bitters are used to balance these flavors. They also add a very natural aroma, and increase the complexity of the cocktail’s flavor. In addition to the iconic Manhattan cocktail, bitters are added to a variety of other mixed drinks as well.
Using Bitters In Cooking
There are also bitters that are specifically designed for cooking, like Angostura bitters, which can be used in bread, soups, marinades, and even sweet baked goods. Bitters add a rich, caramelized flavor to meat or vegetables when used as a glaze.
The key to using bitters in cooking is to use a little at a time. A teaspoon of bitters should be sufficient for a batch of marinade, and a few drops of bitters can transform a rich stock significantly.
Using Bitters As A Herbal Remedy
To create herbal remedies, ancient Egyptians infused wine with medicinal herbs to create bitters. Although medicinal bitters are not commonly consumed in this manner anymore due to their high alcohol content, you may have drunk them without realizing it.
Many after-dinner digestive beverages are based on the same methodology as bitters. Drinks such as Jägermeister, Campari, and Aperol are actually digestive bitters that were traditionally served after a large meal.
What Are Bitters Made From?
Bitters are usually made by infusing clear alcoholic spirits with botanical additives. Because grain alcohol tends to be very strong, it enhances the flavor of botanicals. The neutral flavor of grain alcohol allows botanical flavorings to stand out.
The bitter part comes from the root, which is known as a bittering agent. Dandelion and angelica roots are commonly used as bittering agents, but licorice, burdock, and many other plants can also be used.
A bitters’ aromatic flavor comes from ingredients we might not expect to find in our drinks. A few of these ingredients are bark from trees such as cassia and cinchona, citrus peel, and woody full-flavored spices like cinnamon, cloves, and lemongrass.
Do Bitters Need To Be Refrigerated?
You’ll soon realize that there are certain ingredients you’ll only use occasionally, but they’re still essential to your cocktail mixing arsenal if you’re new to it! It’s easy to start with the basics, but before you know it, you’ll be adding grenadine, simple syrup, and bitters.
As bitters are so concentrated, a little bit goes a very long way! This means that one bottle can last for months or even years, so you’ll want to store it in ideal conditions. Do bitters need to be refrigerated?
It is not necessary to keep bitters in the refrigerator. The high alcohol content of bitters serves as a preservative, keeping this delightfully intense flavoring fresh for a long time. Rarely will bitters need to be refrigerated – most will state on the label that they can be stored at room temperature before and after opening.
Can You Keep Bitters In The Refrigerator?
The bitters will still taste great if you’ve already put them in the refrigerator. The flavors of bitters will not be enhanced by chilly temperatures in your fridge, so it’s best to keep them at room temperature over the long term.
What Is The Best Way To Store Bitters?
Bitters should be stored upright, tightly screwed on their lids, whether they are open or unopened. Ensure that they are kept in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and fluctuating temperatures. It is not uncommon for bitters to build up around the pouring spout or bottle neck due to the thick syrup-like liquid. You should wipe the bottle with a damp cloth every now and then to keep it from becoming sticky and leaving messy rings!
How Long Do Bitters Last After Opening?
One of the most popular brands, Angostura Bitters, is around 90% proof – that’s stronger than most spirits! Bitters contain a high level of alcohol and can last for a long time once opened. Despite bitters containing organic botanical ingredients, the alcohol content acts as a preservative, preserving the concoction at room temperature for a long time.
The flavor of bitters will remain strong for up to five years after opening, although the botanicals may become more muted over time. You only need so little to add flavor that a bottle of bitters can last a long time!
Do Bitters Go Bad?
The alcohol in bitters acts as a sterilizer and preservative, so they remain shelf stable for a very long time. Bitters are based on a strong alcoholic spirit, and as with all spirits, they do not go bad. If bitters are exposed to extreme heat or direct sunlight, the flavor may become more subtle and less intense over time. You can still drink the bitters, but they might not taste as good as you expect.
Similarly, the base spirit used to make bitters can also change over time, resulting in bitters that may not be to your taste. All high-alcohol beverages fall into this category, so throw a cocktail party for your friends and use up those opened bottles of spirits while they’re still fresh!
Now that we know how to store cocktail bitters, let’s take a look at some other common cocktail questions!
Does simple syrup need to be refrigerated?
To prevent mold and bacteria from multiplying, keep homemade simple syrup in the refrigerator. If you leave it out at room temperature, the simple syrup can become contaminated and unsafe to consume. It is best to discard your simple syrup if it is not crystal clear and free of particles or mold.
In the case of store-bought simple syrup, if it has not been opened, it will contain stabilizers to keep it shelf-stable. Opened bottles are more susceptible to contamination, so keep them cool.
What Cocktails Need Bitters?
The best bitters for each type of cocktail is an article in itself, but there are some classic cocktail recipes that cannot be recreated without bitters. In the classic Manhattan cocktail, rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters are combined to create a smooth, intense flavor that should be sipped rather than guzzled. Cocktails using bitters include the Negroni (made with orange bitters and amaro bitters) and an old-fashioned gin and tonic with angostura bitters.