Also known as non-potable bitters, cocktail bitters are a small yet fundamental ingredient for some of the most celebrated and popular cocktails. Often added as just a few dashes, bitters can completely alter the experience a cocktail offers.
In this guide, we will present you with the top 10 best bitters brands:
- Angostura Bitters
- Peychaud’s Bitters
- The Bitter Truth Bogart’s Bitters
- Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6
- Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub
- Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
- Hella Cocktail Eucalyptus Bitters
- Hella Cocktail Mexican Chocolate Bitters
- Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Dandelion & Burdock Bitters
- Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bitters
Scroll down to see them all or jump ahead using the links above. We will also cover where to buy bitters.
What Are The Best Cocktail Bitters Brands?
See The Best Digestive Bitters
Created by Simon Bolívar’s Surgeon-General, Dr Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, in the 1830s, Angostura is by far the most famous bitters brand. If you want to learn more about Angostura’s history, we briefly talk about it in our main introductory guide to bitters.
Admittedly, it’s not the most original choice for first place. However, Angostura is popular for a reason that goes beyond its iconically oversized labelled. Incidentally, the oversize label was because Siegert’s sons worked on the bottle and label separately. When they met again to put them together, they found the label was too big!
Despite this, the bitters were sent to a competition, which they ended up losing for this reason. Nevertheless, Angostura kept the label as a judge told the brothers that it was recognisable.
Although production first began in Venezuela, it is now produced in Trinidad. Its distinctive flavour is reminiscent of liquorice and blackstrap molasses with a slightly woody and herbal aftertaste. It’s a versatile variety of bitters that can be used to add depth and complexity to cocktails that may feel a little unbalanced.
"Versatile bitters that should be a staple in every cocktail enthusiast's collection, Angostura allows you to make some of the most iconic cocktails."
Often regarded as the antithesis of Angostura, Peychaud’s is another popular bitters brands. Outside of the bartending community, it perhaps isn’t as famous. Nevertheless, it’s considered the standard for cocktails like the Sazerac.
Created in the same period as Angostura by Creole apothecary Antoine Amédée Peychaud, these bitters add a sharper and brighter flavour to your cocktails. There’s a slightly more herbaceous flavour with a hint of anise and a distinctive citrus tartness.
In Jerry Thomas’ 1862 cocktail book, which we discuss in our introductory guide, he made reference to Boker’s bitters. Created by Johann Gottlieb Böker in 1828, the company fell victim to the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act as well as the Prohibition.
Although many alcohol producers would never reopen their doors after the 18th Amendment, Boker’s bitters became the subject of significant speculation. No samples were thought to exist and since it was heavily featured in the first and one of the most influential cocktail recipe books, the discovery in 2009 of a preserved bottle in London was received with excitement.
Several brands have since sought to recreate Boker’s Bitters including Scottish distiller Dr Adam Elmegirab and The Bitter Truth in Germany. Founded in 2006, The Bitter Truth is the brainchild of Munich bartenders Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck.
On their website, Berg and Hauck explain in detail how and why they sought to recreate Boker’s bitters. You’ll notice that it was named “Bogart’s” bitters in reference to Jerry P Thomas’ misspelling in what is regarded as the first cocktail recipe book.
Although a relatively recent creation, British bartender Gary Regan is renowned for his role in reviving orange bitters. Again, we cover orange bitters a little more in our main guide. However, in short, orange bitters were impossible to find until just over a decade ago.
Renewed interest resulted in Angostura and Fee Brothers both creating their own before other brands closely followed. Nevertheless, Gary Regan’s orange bitters tend to regarded as the favourite thanks to their greater level of complexity and depth.
Orange bitters are versatile and have a number of uses. They’re even a great taste modifier for mixers and simple cocktails such as a spritz or a Daiquiri.
Created in 2007 by Avery and Janet Glasser, Bittermens represented one of the first new bitter companies. Unlike other brands, it focuses primarily on creating all-natural, GMO-Free, certified kosher cocktail bitters.
While the Xocolatl Mole Bitters are the most iconic as they were the first made by Avery and Janet, the Hellfire Habanero Shrub is an impressive display of blending skill. Most spicy bitters tend to be a little too heavy and will overwhelm a cocktail’s balance. However, Hellfire Habanero Shrub provides harmony while still offering a healthy dose of heat.
In 2017, after ten years of critical acclaim, Bittermens was acquired by The Sazerac Company that also owns Peychaud’s and Regan’s, which are produced at its Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky. However, both Avery and Janet continue to helm the business and its operations.
Sometimes known for its motto “don’t squeeze, use Fee’s”, Fees is another historical brand. Founded in 1864, it continues to operate as a fourth-generation family business. It survived Prohibition by using very creative methods from helping clients make their own wine to producing cordial flavourings to add to homemade spirits.
Although the family continues to produce brines, botanical waters, mixes, and cordial syrups, it’s best known for its bitters. There’s a wide variety of excellent concoctions, including its Aztec Chocolate Bitters.
However, the grapefruit bitters are flowing with character. Zesty and tart without being overly sweet, it offers a rich citrus kick that will add depth to your beverage. Consider it as a creative alternative to orange bitters.
Founded in 2012 by Tobin Ludwig, Eddie Simeon and Jomaree Pinkard, Hella defines itself as a craft cocktail company that focuses on premium-quality mixers and bitters. Most of its bitters have a focus on gentian root and it’s actually quite rare for a brand to be open on even the main ingredients that it uses!
The eucalyptus bitters as said to be inspired by the California forest. Bracing and refreshing, its bitter undertones are offset by lively citrus and mint while woody undertones provide additional substance and depth.
Another excellent premium creation from Hella Cocktails, the Mexican chocolate bitters are bold and gourmand. Delivering subtle heat thanks to the careful use of Mexican chilli, it has an overall rich flavour of cacao and coffee bean. Meanwhile, a touch of baking spice and a hint of gentian root produce notable complexity.
As mentioned earlier, Adam Elan-Elmegirab’s claim to fame was a faithful recreation of Boker’s Bitters. Indeed, his are easily on a par with those by The Bitter Truth. However, his most unique concoction is his second foray into bitters.
Drawing inspiration from 14th-century remedies by Saint Thomas Aquinas, Adam created his Dandelion Burdock bitters in 2009. If you’re familiar with dandelion and burdock, it’s a quintessentially British soft drink. Yet, it was a mead when first created in the 1300s.
We feel that it’s these bitters that best define Dr Adam’s House of Botanicals as an artisanal brand that embodies the olde-world elixir concept for making craft cocktails. Expect a syrupy honey overtone that is supported by anise and ginger as well as zesty ginger.
Best known for its celebrated Kentucky bourbon whiskey, Woodford Reserve also produces an excellent selection of bitters. What sets them apart is that they’re barrel-aged after being produce in small batches in the distillery.
The spiced cherry bitters are certainly worth sampling thanks to their unique flavour. The distinctive cherry note is accompanied by notes of nutmeg and anise while a noticeable woody character offers additional complexity. Consider using them as a surprising alternative to the usual choices for either an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan.
Finally, Woodford Reserve bitters are listed at a higher price through Wine.com. The reason for this is that they’re available as a wonderfully convenient gift-pack, which can also be found on Amazon.
Where To Buy Cocktail Bitters In The USA
As you can learn in our detailed overview of bitters, they were often regarded as herbal remedies throughout most of their history. For this reason, some brands were even able to fly under the radar and continue to operate more-or-less normally during Prohibition.
Meanwhile, they had been an established cocktail ingredient since the mid-19th century and despite their original purpose, it’s their main purpose today.
Nevertheless, cocktail bitters are often regarded as “non-potable”. Due to their intense bitterness, they’re unpleasant to drink and since they’re not consumed like regular alcohol, they can sometimes be sold in other premises like grocery stores. In some places, they’re still retailed by chemists!
Therefore, they’re relatively easy to find locally and even if you can’t pick some up for “medicinal purposes”, a nearby liquor store will certainly stock them. Unfortunately, though, it’s often limited to Angostura and occasionally Peychaud’s, too.
If you want variety, your best bet is to look online. For instance, Amazon has a complicated relationship with alcohol. Yet, presumably for the reasons mentioned earlier, it sells almost all of the bitters that have been featured in the list above!
In fact, we found it to be the best online vendor for trying new and different bitters. Meanwhile, Reserve Bar isn’t bad but it seems to solely retail products Hella Cocktails. Although we’re quite fond of Reserve Bar, this limited choice was a little disappointing.
Now that you have read about the best cocktail bitters brands, why don’t you check out more of our resources?