If you were able sit down with Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling or H.G. Wells during the late 19th century and order a dry martini, you would have received a drink that was about equal parts gin and dry vermouth, flavoured with a few dashes of orange bitters.
Much like those writers’ famous works, orange bitters is a classic.
Orange bitters once ruled the cocktail world. Far from a fad, orange bitters provided the sophistication to sophisticated cocktails. Without orange bitters, cocktails were literally just mixed drinks.
When a deluge of new mixed drinks hit the pubs of olden times, customers would order a drink made ‘the old fashioned way’, which required the use of bitters. Bitters added the depth and complexity to cocktails that many found lacking in the new wave of mixed drinks on the scene.
Thanks to a new age of enlightenment, orange bitters, and a myriad of other sophisticated flavoured bitters, have experienced a renaissance behind the bar. They became a liquid spice rack, droplets of intensely-flavoured drink enhancers that can transform the ordinary cocktail into a gourmet experience.
What Can You Do with Orange Bitters?
With new flavours of bitters coming to market almost every day, it can be hard to decide what you need in your liquid spice rack. Orange bitters is a great place to start because it’s probably one of the most versatile bitters in the whole bitter bunch.
Orange bitters can liven up gin, vodka, whiskey and rum drinks and add a complex citrus bouquet to just about any drink you concoct. It can even be added to honey or whipped heavy cream to make delicious complements to tea, hot chocolate and coffee drinks.
Creativity and experimentation are the backbone of any mixologist’s repertoire. By using some of your own, you’ll find the uses for orange bitters in your home bar are almost endless. It will quickly become one of your go-to bottles.
To begin, try experimenting by adding a dash to a classic dry martini and take notice of the difference a little orange bitters makes. Or, just add a few dashes to plain soda water for a refreshing low-alcohol beverage that sparkles.
Not All Orange Bitters Are Created Equally
Distinct taste and aroma nuances abound in different orange bitters, and you’ll want to ensure you’re buying quality orange bitters or you could be in for a bitter experience.
Qualifirst sells a diverse range of orange bitters produced by some of the most respected, innovative and trusted names in the business.
Fee Brothers is one of the oldest makers of bitters. Their storied tradition dates back to 1864 and Fee Brothers was the first to reintroduce orange bitters to the post-prohibition market back in 1951. But it wasn’t until recently that this classic tincture became commonplace.
Fee Brothers’ orange bitters is made from the peels of West Indian oranges and offers a nice balance between sweet and bitter. It adds a concentrated orange twist to most any cocktail. Just a dash or two will help tone down overly sweet drinks and add a punch of orange zest to plain drinks.
Created by a chef/sommelier team in Vancouver, Bittered Sling Extracts have quickly become some of the most innovative and award-winning bitters on the market. This Orange and Juniper bitter extract will add some intriguing layered dimensions to a wide range of cocktails. Sweet, bitter, floral, citrus and sour notes are pleasingly balanced and will add surprising new pleasure to all of your favourites with just a few drops.
Angostura is probably the most recognizable name in the world of bitters. Their aromatic bitters dates back to 1824 and, until recently, have been the only bitters you’d typically find behind a bar. But times change, and in 2007, Angostura joined in the flavoured bitters revival with their orange bitters.
Made with sun-ripened Caribbean oranges, this Trinidad tincture packs a wallop of intense orange flavour and aroma that can easily overpower if used generously. Its complex citrus bouquet makes it a great choice when paired with rum drinks, and even whiskey and gin. It will help balance out vermouth in traditional drinks and liven up sweet tropical drinks even more.
Try Angostura Orange Bitters in The Chancellor Cocktail, a Rob Roy with a twist of ruby port.
For another artisanal twist on orange bitters, Fee Brothers made this limited-availability prize by aging orange bitters in gin-soaked oak barrels once used to age Old Tom Gin. The resulting flavour hues add a mature presence with deeply flavourful orange and oak notes that will linger favourably with a unique and mellow aftertaste. This limited edition bitters take complexity to a whole new level.
Try Fee Brothers Gin Barrel-Aged Orange Bitters in a Modern Cocktail, a citrusy and herbaceous concoction made with scotch and absinthe.
The resurgence of bitters doesn’t stop with orange. It goes far beyond. Bitters now come in an almost endless variety of intense flavours that you can use to liven up your drinks, and even your meals. From cherry, plum, celery, peach, rhubarb and even chocolate, there is an exciting world of flavours to explore.