by Molly Bradley
We all have a bottle of bitters (or two) gathering dust on the shelf. Here are some things to do with them that don’t involve alcohol.
If you own bitters, chances are the last time — and the only times — you use them are when you bust out your cocktail paraphernalia. What if we told you that not only constitutes severe neglect of good bitters, but that that’s the least interesting way to use them?
Our call to action: start using bitters in everything. Food, non-alcoholic drinks, desserts — everything.
Because bitters are, well, bitter, they balances out the other ingredients in an otherwise one-dimensional recipe. They can add an accent to the sugar in sweet things, cut through the creaminess of a sauce, or add a surprise to a predictable dish.
One of our favorite ways to enjoy bitters is in coffee. Hella Company makes incredibly delicious bitters that they highly recommend incorporating into your morning jolt (as do we).
But here are a bunch of other ways to use bitters of all different kinds. Bear in mind that for each of these suggestions, you’re going to want to use a pretty tiny amount of bitters — think about how in cocktails you’re only ever advised to add a couple shakes. Which is also the good news about bitters: if you buy some, you’ll be using that bottle for a long time, because they go a long way.
- Add bitters to seltzer water.
Fruit-flavored seltzers will never go out of style, but you’re neither confined to, nor obliged to shell out for, LaCroix every day of summer. Buy the plain, unflavored stuff in bulk to keep in your fridge, and then add whatever flavor you’re feeling or whatever you have on hand: citrus bitters will be most like your favorite flavored seltzer brands but with the upside of a much more interesting flavor, and the fact that you can add bitters to taste. Like we said, bitters are strong, but if you like a big punch of flavor, you can go hard.
A more interesting twist, though, is to add more herbaceous or unexpected bitters flavors to your seltzer. Celery bitters is one of the best ways to dress up your drink: it’s refreshing, tangy, and reminiscent of a gin and tonic that doesn’t knock you off your feet.
- Spice-flavored bitters in baked goods.
There are all kinds of bitters out there, and you may be ignoring some of the more delicious ones because you don’t make any cocktails that incorporate them. But if you’ve been wanting to try out spiced bitters, chocolate bitters, or spiced cherry bitters, This is a good place to start.
If you’re baking something that calls for vanilla or almond extract, you can replace it with bitters. You’ll probably want to halve the amount called for if you’re using bitters, though; if in the end it doesn’t taste strong enough, you can always up it to a quantity that tastes good to you.
You can also play with bitters in recipes that don’t necessarily call for extracts. Add citrus bitters to a lemon or angel cake, or add bitters to pie filling! Get creative. Make something delicious.
- Add bitters to a milkshake, float, or ice cream.
We particularly recommend chocolate bitters in a good old chocolate milkshake, cherry bitters in a soda float, and, honestly, classic Angostura right over the best-quality vanilla ice cream you can find. Simple as that.
- Add bitters to a vinaigrette.
Salad dressings are typically composed of the same core components: an oil (for example, olive), an acid (usually vinegar), a binder (such as mustard), and then additional flavorings: salt and pepper; grated lemon rind; onion — whatever you please.
So why not incorporate bitters? They’ll act like both an acid and a flavoring, cutting through the smooth oil and lending your vinaigrette a punchy taste.
- Incorporate into cake icing.
All we’re saying is, we’ve heard of a recipe that incorporates angostura bitters into a cream cheese icing. It’s a lot like adding bitters to ice cream, in that you’re punching up something both creamy and sweet with a tangy taste. The possibilities are endless.