As you’ll learn in our introductory guide, digestive and cocktail bitters are closely related yet quite different. Both consist of botanicals steeped in alcohol but non-potable “cocktail” bitters are primarily used for mixing.

However, digestive bitters can be used for cocktails, too! In fact, some of the best-known cocktails use digestive bitters as you’ll learn in this guide. Below are our top 10 best bitters cocktails to make at home:

  1. Old Fashioned (Aromatic Bitters)
  2. Sazerac (Aromatic Bitters)
  3. Japanese Cocktail (Boker’s Bitters)
  4. Negroni (Orange & Amaro Bitters)
  5. Bitter Sour (Digestive Bitters)
  6. Dark ‘n’ Stormy (Spicy Bitters)
  7. Reno (Multiple Digestive Bitters)
  8. Blushing Monk (Multiple Bitters)
  9. Expense Account (Orange Bitters)
  10. The Right Hand (Chocolate Bitters)

Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read them all!

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What Are The Best Bitters Cocktails?

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1. Old Fashioned (Aromatic Bitters)

Old Fashioned Cocktail

For many people, the Old Fashioned is their first foray into using bitters at home. Deceptively simple with just a few ingredients, the Old Fashioned is easy to make but takes practice to master.

You’ll just need the following to make it:

  • 45 ml (1½ Oz) Bourbon Whiskey
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Orange Peel
  • Water
  • Sugar Cube

Saturate a sugar cube with a few dashes of Angostura bitters and place at the bottom of a tumbler glass. Two dashes are generally used but you can add more if preferred. Add a few dashes of water and mix until the sugar has dissolved. It’s easier if the water is slightly warm.

Fill the glass with ice cubes (these will also cool the water if it was warm) and add the Bourbon whiskey. Stir and then garnish with an orange peel. Make sure that you twist the peel over the drink so it releases its oils onto the surface.

The Old Fashioned is typically made with Angostura aromatic bitters and for good reason. The burnt sugar and liquorice flavour it adds produces just the right level of complexity. However, feel free to experiment with different aromatic bitters to see what happens!

2. Sazerac (Aromatic Bitters)

While the Old Fashioned is associated with Angostura, the Sazerac is closely tied with Sazerac. Its brighter flavour pairs well with the brandy compared to Angostura. However, you can still experiment with different bitters as described above.

However, it’s no surprise given that New Orleans is home to both Peychaud’s bitters and the Sazerac cocktail. You’ll need the following ingredients.

  • 50 ml (1¾ Oz) Cognac
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Absinthe
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 Lemon Peel

Add the absinthe to a tumbler glass and swirl it around until it leaves an even coating on the interior. Fill the glass with crushed ice and set it aside. Add the cognac and bitters to a second tumbler glass and stir them with ice.

Afterwards, discard the contents from the first glass as you just want the absinthe’s essence. Strain the contents of the second tumbler into the first and add a lemon peel for garnish.

Finally, consider also experimenting by swapping out the cognac for other brandy such as Pisco, Armagnac, and Calvados.

3. Japanese Cocktail (Boker’s Bitters)

In 1862, Jeremiah “Jerry” P. Thomas published his influential cocktail recipe book. He remains an iconic bartender today and the publication is often regarded as the first of its kind.

In it, he would often refer to “Bogart’s Bitters“, which is widely believed to be a misspelling of “Boker’s Bitters”.

Unfortunately, the brand didn’t survive Prohibition. However, it has been recreated by artisanal producers such as The Bitter Truth and Dr. Adam Elmegirab. What better way to celebrate its resurrection than by sampling one of Jerry Thomas’ very own recipes?

You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Brandy
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Orgeat Syrup
  • 8 ml (¼ Oz) Bogart’s Bitters
  • Lemon Zest

Add the ingredients to a tumbler glass and fill with ice. Stir well with a spoon and then garnish with lemon zest.

As you may have noticed, the Japanese isn’t far removed from the Sazerac sans absinthe. In the original recipe, Thomas doesn’t specify the brandy so feel free to experiment with different types. However, the chances are that it was either Cognac or Armagnac.

4. Negroni (Orange & Amaro Bitters)

Negroni Cocktail

One of the most celebrated cocktails, the Negroni is a timeless marriage of not one but two types of bitters. Indeed, Campari is arguably a digestive bitter.

While it’s the ingredient usually demanded for this cocktail, you can always try a different amaro or digestive bitter. For instance, a White Negroni (an oxymoron if you ask us) opts for a French gentian digestive bitter like Suze or Salers instead.

Traditionally, you’ll need the following ingredients:

A Negroni is made with equal measures (typically 30 ml or 1 Oz) of each ingredient. If making a classic Negroni, use sweet red vermouth. Meanwhile, a White Negroni instead requires white aromatised wine that’s equally sweet. Lillet Blanc is an ideal choice whereas white vermouth tends to be a little too dry.

Simply stir the ingredients in a tumbler glass with ice and then garnish with an orange peel. Again, remember to twist it over the surface to extract the oils.

5. Bitter Sour (Digestive Bitters)

Sour Cocktail

Almost all digestive bitters can be used effectively to make a delicious sour cocktail. We personally have a preference for Suze or other gentian-based bitters but you can use almost anything.

You’ll require the following:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Digestive Bitters
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Simple Syrup
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Citrus Juice
  • 1 Egg White

Firstly, we haven’t indicated what citrus fruit to use for making the sour. We believe that this choice depends on the bitters used as well as your personal preference. For instance, we prefer a Suze Sour with lemon juice, but it’s ultimately up to you!

Furthermore, make sure your egg is fresh but placing it in a glass of cold water. If it sinks to the bottom, it should be fine. However, if the egg floats, it might not be fresh enough.

Get started by cracking the egg and pouring just the white into a cocktail shaker. Add the ingredients and shake vigorously so the egg emulsifiers. Open the shaker and add at least six ice cubes before shaking again until cold to the touch.

Double strain into a glass and garnish with a peel of your chosen citrus fruit. A lot of sour recipes call for Angostura bitters. However, you certainly won’t need those given the base ingredient.

6. Dark ‘n’ Stormy (Bittermens Hellfire)

Cuba Libre Cocktail

This simple and classic cocktail is a great way to try out spicy bitters such as the Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub and discover their level of complexity!

You’ll just need the following to make it:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Dark Rum
  • Ginger Beer or Ginger Ale
  • 2 Dashes Spicy Bitters
  • 1 Lime Wedge

Since ginger beer is already inherently quite spicy, we suggest trying it with ginger ale that’s a little smoother. However, if you love spice, then ginger beer is absolutely fine, too!

Simply pour the rum over ice into a highball and top up with ginger beer to taste. Squeeze in some of the lime and then leave the wedge as garnish. We’d recommend darker rums with a Dark & Stormy to best compliment the ginger beer’s flavours.

7. Reno (Multiple Digestive Bitters)

Old Fashioned Style Tumbler Cocktail

While the previous cocktails consisted primarily of celebrated cocktails, the ones that follow are modern riffs and reimaginings. The Reno is an excellent example and combines Italian amaro with French gentian bitters with excellent results.

Created in 2018 by Giorgio Ferrarese at the Holy Birds in London, it was inspired by the international allied effort to retake Bologna in 1945, which involved the Polish, the English, the French, and the Americans.

You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Amaro (Montenegro)
  • 22 ml (¾ Oz) Gentian Liqueur (Suze)
  • 22 ml (¾ Oz) White Americano Quinquina (Cocchi Bianco)
  • 8 ml (¼ Oz) Italicus Liqueur

The above ingredients are quite brand-specific as Ferrarese chose them for symbolic reasons. However, there are substitutes for each one. Firstly, you can use another amaro such as Meletti or Nonino Quintessentia.

Meanwhile, there are other gentian liqueurs such as Salers but Suze is probably the most prominent. Furthermore Cocchi Bianco is a variety of Italian Americano quinquina. You could use a French quinquina at a push but avoid Lillet Blanc as it doesn’t contain quinine anymore.

Finally, Italicus is a unique bergamot liqueur created in 2016 by mixologist Giuseppe Gallo. It’s hard to find in the USA but you might have better luck with Quaglia Liquore di Bergamotto.

To make it, throw all of the ingredients and then strain into an ice-filled tumbler. If you aren’t familiar with the technique, “throwing” simply consists of pouring the ingredients between two halves of a shaker. Garnish with a citrus peel.

8. Blushing Monk (Multiple Bitters)

Blushing Monk is another blend of various different bitters. It was invented by Sam Finch of the Milk Thistle in Bristol, England. His intention was to blend Bénédictine and Aperol while using a classic sour as the basis.

The result is a unique combination and certainly worth trying if you have a well-stocked bar. It requires the following ingredients:

  • 20 ml (⅔ Oz) Bénédictine D.O.M.
  • 20 ml (⅔ Oz) Aperitivo or Amaro (Aperol)
  • 10 ml (⅓ Oz) Gentian Liqueur (Suze)
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Lillet Blanc
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Once again, you can play around with substitutes. Take care if swapping out the Aperol as it’s quite mild compared to other amaro like Campari. You could, however, choose a red quinquina like Byrrh or Dubonnet.

Shake the ingredients with ice until ice cold and strain back into the shaker. Shake again without ice so the egg fully emulsifies before straining it into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

9. Expense Account (Orange Bitters)

Expense Account Rum & Calvados Cocktail

This exciting calvados and rum cocktail is a great example of how orange bitters can be used to produce additional depth. It’s arguably a modern riff of the Sazerac thanks to the careful use of absinthe. However, it’s an overall more complex drink to make.

You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Aged Rum
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Calvados
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Bénédictine
  • 1 Dash Absinthe
  • 1 Tsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 Dashes Orange Bitters

Throw in a dash of absinthe in a coupe glass and swirl it around until well-coated. Add the ice and set it aside.

10. The Right Hand (Chocolate Bitters)

Negroni Cocktail

Chocolate bitters are excellent in gourmand cocktails that use ingredients like coffee. However, it can also be creatively used in other creations like this one by Michael McIlroy at the Milk & Honey, New York, in 2007.

It just needs the following ingredients:

  • 45 ml (1½ Oz) Añejo Rum
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Red Vermouth
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Amaro (Campari)
  • 2 Dashes Chocolate Bitters

The original recipe calls for Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters. However, Hella Cocktail Chocolate Mexican Bitters are great, too. Consider also trying out different amaro such as Martini’s Riserva Speciale or Nonino Quintessentia.

Just stir all of the ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled tumbler glass!

What Next?

Now that you have read our guide to the best bitters cocktails, we’d like to end it on a final note.

One of the best things about trying new bitters is experimentation. Just because you’ve procured an original blend of bitters doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used in cocktails that call for a specific type.

Indeed, there are many exciting and unique bitter styles that will each impart their individual character into your cocktail. Therefore, we highly recommend that refrain from being too conservative and that you explore the countless possibilities!

Otherwise, why don’t you check out some of our related spirit guides? We have several more resources on bitters alone!

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