Expertly Creating Cocktails with a Dash

Expertly Creating Cocktails with a Dash

Expertly Creating Cocktails with a Dash

What are Bitters, how to use them and what bottles to stock

In the realm of mixology, one ingredient has quietly but consistently played a pivotal role: bitters. What are bitters and why are they used in cocktails? Often found nestled among the array of bottles of gin, vodka and tequila, these small often overlooked bottles are the unsung heroes of any bar. Bitters add depth, complexity, and balance to cocktails, elevating them from your dad’s screwdriver to a beautifully crafted sensory experience.

What are Bitters?

Bitters are concentrated solutions made by infusing alcohol with herbs, roots, botanicals, and spices. They are renowned for their intense flavors, which often but not always include elements of bitterness, along with complex aromatic and savory notes. Think of them as seasoning; you would not even imagine making a meal without salt, pepper, and herbs.

Most bitter makers keep their recipes to themselves, but may include wormwood or cinchona bark (the source of quinine, the main ingredient that makes tonic water, well a tonic), and other astringent elements. The softer edges come from ingredients like citrus peel, jasmine flower, and other herbs.

Where did bitters come from?

Originally formulated for their medicinal properties, similar to the origins of tonic water, these potent elixirs were believed to aid digestion and cure ailments. Over time, however, bitters found their true calling behind the bar, now an indispensable part of the art of cocktail making. While the flavor profiles and aromas are concentrated—you get a lot in every drop— some are aromatic and bitter but many others are herbal, citrusy or even spicy (ranging from clove to chipotle).

How do you use bitters?

What sets bitters apart is their ability to enhance and accentuate the flavors of other ingredients in a cocktail with a small amount. Because of their concentrated flavor, just a few dashes can transform a simple drink into a multi-dimensional experience, adding depth and complexity. There are some classic cocktail recipes in which bitters—and even a specific type of bitters—are considered irreplaceable, like Angostura in an old-fashioned and Peychaud’s in a Sazerac cocktail. But you should feel free to play around.

Whether it's citrusy brightness you’re looking for or a refreshing herbal quality, each variety brings its own unique character to the glass. Most importantly, they can add flavor without any sugar. Traditionally, many bar tenders use flavored syrups to add a desired herbal or fruit flavor to their cocktail. But so many of us don’t want that added sugar to our drink. Imagine sipping on a Negroni and thinking, I’d like a more pronounced orange flavor; or even an herbal quality from that aromatic rosemary in the garden; bitters are your answer!

Where can I find exciting Bitters in Amman?

I remember 10 years ago, trying and failing to find anything other than your standard issue Angostura bitter in Amman, only to venture to make my own. Thankfully, you don’t have to make your own bitters.

At Dara Wine, we take pride in curating a selection of premium bitters, including renowned brands like Bitter Bastards and 18.21 Bitters. Bitter Bastards, are known for bold and adventurous flavor profiles like white truffle or chipotle. Bitter Bastards bitters are perfect for those looking to craft cocktails that stand out from the crowd. The Bitter Bastards Clove Bitters wouldn't look out of place in the tool-kit of either, but let's just say that a dash of these bitters in a Negroni, for example, adds winter warmth and character to your drink.  

Meanwhile, 18.21 Bitters embodies the essence of craftsmanship and sophistication, offering meticulously crafted flavors that elevate every cocktail experience. Add a few dashes of 18.21 Early Grey Bitters; Bergamot forward with multiple layers and notes of vanilla on your favorite Amaro with sparkling water and you get an immediate elegant and exciting spritz with 3 ingredients.

By offering both Bitter Bastards and 18.21 Bitters at our store, and using them at our bar at Dara Dining by Sara Aqel we aim to provide our customers with access to the finest ingredients, allowing them to unleash their creativity and passion for cocktail making. We invite you to explore a world of flavor and possibility, one dash at a time.