How to Use Bitters in More Than Just Cocktails

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We talked to an expert to learn how to use bitters in more than just cocktails. Learn why you should keep these bottles of liquid spice at the ready in your kitchen.

Mixologists and cocktail aficionados, you already know what bitters are, but did you know that these liquid aromatics are good for so much more than adding flavor to your go-to drink?

Yep, your favorite bottle of bitters can be used in mocktails, baking recipes and even in savory dishes. To learn how to add these complex flavors to more than just my favorite Old-Fashioned, I talked with Ira Koplowitz, founder and proprietor of Bittercube.

What Do Bitters Do?

Bitters are a blend of herbs, fruits and aromatics, and they are not just for cocktails. According to Ira, bitters are “liquid spice.”

As such, bitters add layers of flavor to recipes of all kinds. Like a tablespoon of your favorite spice blend, a dropper of aromatic bitters adds complexity.

Think about it this way: Bourbon and a bit of vermouth aren’t much, but when you add a few dashes of bitters, you have a Manhattan—a drink worth savoring. And the same goes for recipes in the kitchen; bitters add layers of flavor and a touch of spice.

How to Use Bitters in Baking

bottle of bittercube chipotle cacao bitters next to baked brownies on a plateCourtesy Bittercube

“As much as bitters are for cocktails,” Ira says, “they really lend themselves to baking in such an awesome way.”

That’s because bitters and extracts are very similar. Both are spirits imbued with powerful flavor. Instead of infusing flavor with vanilla beans or lemon peel, bitters use a blend of ingredients; they’re very similar.

So to add some of these flavors, just swap out the extract and use the same amount of flavored bitters, keeping in mind the flavor combinations you’re aiming for. For example, chipotle cacao bitters go really well with chocolaty desserts like brownies or even cookies. Bittercube even has a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that features this type of bitters along with cherry bark vanilla bitters—my favorite for baking and cocktails.

My advice: Take a look at the flavor notes of your favorite bitters for inspiration. Angostura’s Orange Cocktail Bitters pair well with fall baking. And Bittercube’s Jamaican No. 2 bitters work well for citrusy desserts thanks to grapefruit, hibiscus and ginger. Try it in this grapefruit walnut quick bread.

How to Use Bitters in Cooking

Louisiana chicken on serving plateTaste of Home

While baking may seem like the most natural fit for this ingredient, don’t be afraid to break out your favorite bottle when getting to work on dinner. Rember, bitters are liquid spice blends and all dishes can benefit from seasoning.

According to Ira, using a splash of bitters in a recipe can be “less scary than adding a bunch of spices.” When you add in spices one by one, there’s always the risk of throwing off the balance; with bitters, that balance is already perfectly struck.

Just like with baking, take a look at the flavor profile of the bitters. This can steer you in the right direction when it comes to adding them to recipes. Here are a few ways to make use of your go-to bottle:

  • Vinaigrette: Add a few teaspoons of bitters to a mix of oil and vinegar for a homemade salad dressing.
  • Marinade: Our recipe for Lousiana Chicken uses bitters in the marinade for some Big Easy flavor. Use a bottle of Peychaud’s, which is perfect for a Sazerac, New Orleans’ favorite cocktail.
  • Barbecue sauce: Use spice-forward bitters in homemade barbecue sauces. Flavors like molasses are a natural combination for this condiment.

More Ways to Use Bitters

Bittercube bitters product line on wood counterCourtesy Bittercube

Once you get into the habit of using bitters in your recipes, you’ll find yourself reaching for these bottles of liquid spice more frequently.

A favorite nonalcoholic sipper among my Taste of Home colleagues is sparkling water with a few drops of Angostura bitters mixed in. It’s a great way to get your fizz fix with a bit of complex flavor—and something beyond your basic LaCroix flavors.

Ira also recommends adding some bitters to your coffee. “The aromatics will shoot right to the top,” he explains. That means you’ll really be able to appreciate those flavor notes.

The bottom line here is to not relegate your favorite bitters to just your bar cart. Keep them at the ready for adding flavor to all of your recipes.

Bitters to Add to Your Bar Cart and Pantry

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.