This column was a fun excuse to make bitters the authentic way--with obscure bittering ingredients like gentian root and quassia chips. In my book, I have two great bitters recipes using easy-to-find grocery store items. They do the job and do it well. But the cocktail geek in me was happy to play around with weird tree bark for an traditional yet still totally original hardcore bitters recipe. (Don't worry: It isn't hard or expensive.)
Even though you only use a dash or two at a time, bitters can make or break a cocktail. Angostura bitters is the default, but orange bitters are actually very versatile.
Orange bitters are basically my cocktail Superman. When I've screwed up a drink by making it too sweet or gotten so close to perfection only to end up with something flat-tasting, orange bitters have swooped in to save the day. Just a drop or two can add the right depth or bridge together ingredients that aren't quite living up to their mixological potential. But orange bitters are so much more than a way to fix a bad drink—they're an essential part of so many balanced cocktails because of their deep, citrusy, spicy, and complex flavor.
Photo by Liam Boylan