Once used for their medicinal properties in the 19th century, bitters crafted from herbs and botanicals are experiencing a resurgence in popularity in the bar scene as increasing beyond the dash of Angostura in a tried-and-true Manhattan.
"What's really cool these days are new bitters that are flavored and actually have an alcohol potency," says Emily Pinner, manager at Riverside Wine and Spirits. "There's so many flavors - lemon, orange, celery - I have used them myself when cooking at home."
People are now swapping out orange bitters for the standard Angosturo in their old-fashioned for a new twist, she says.
Celery-flavored bitters make a great addition to soup broths such as gumbo, and lemon bitters add excellent flair to a citrus chicken dish. "It gives it that extra layer of interest," says Pinner.
Most of the new varieties are 88-proof, but since only a few dashes are added, this doesn't make a huge difference in a cocktail's alcohol content.
Grapefruit bitters are currently Riverside's top-selling flavor. "It adds something special to a gin and tonic, and I like to put it in Prosecco," Pinner says of the Italian sparkling wine, adding it's also great with Champagne.
Bitterman's Hellfire, also a popular item at Riverside, is so hot it comes with an eyedropper. "It's great to add if you like a spicier cocktail, even something as simple as a bloody mary," she says.
Celebrate President's Day with this cocktail, which includes applejack, a favorite of former President Abraham Lincoln:
1.5 ounces whiskey
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounces tropical fruit black tea (such as Celestial Seasonings)
1/2 ounce applejack
1/2 ounce Demerara Syrup
1/4 ounce Galliano liqueur
1/4 ounce honey syrup
1 teaspoon Allspice Dram
Combine all ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into large goblet with fresh ice.
Top with 1 ounce seltzer.
Makes 1 serving.
Or try this crisp, refreshing cocktail:
1 ounce tequila
3/4 ounces elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce lime
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 dash grapefruit bitters
2 ounces champagne
Shake all ingredients aside from the Champagne. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice cubes.
Top with Champagne.
2 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon
3 3/4 ounces sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir well with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry or lemon peel.