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Cocktail bitters can make the difference between an average cocktail and a great one. When it comes to whiskey, bitters are essential for the modern bar because they're a key ingredient in many of the best drinks.
From the old-fashioned to the Manhattan, bitters play a vital role. Approximately a decade ago, Angostura Aromatic Bitters was king of the bitters scene, but now we have a great variety to choose from. These bitters are best for your favorite whiskey cocktails.
Best Overall: Angostura Bitters Set
Angostura is the king of bitters due to its longevity. It would have been the only brand of bitters stocked in most bars 20 years ago. This bottle is instantly recognizable thanks to its oversized label, and it remains indispensable for any well-stocked bar.
Essential in a Manhattan cocktail as well as an old-fashioned, Angostura Aromatic Bitters have a pronounced tamarind and cinnamon flavor. If you come across any cocktail recipe that simply says "bitters," it's very likely that it was written with this bottle in mind.
Best Orange: Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6
Created by cocktail guru and author Gary 'Gaz' Regan, these orange bitters have a pronounced cardamom undertone. While there are many orange bitters available on the market today, Regans' Orange Bitters are among the favorites for professionals.
These bitters work well in just about any cocktail and are especially effective when accenting great whiskey drinks. Add a dash or two to beverages like the Liberal Cocktail or Fancy Whiskey, and taste the magic for yourself.
Best Spiced: PEYCHAUD'S Aromatic Cocktail Bitters
Essential for making a Sazerac cocktail, Peychaud's Bitters offers up light Christmas spice notes, including clove and nutmeg. The 18th-century recipe even includes a hint of cherry. As with most bitters formulas, the secret recipe is one that is well-kept.
Not only is Peychaud's a fantastic addition to classic drinks, but you'll also want to use them to spice up modern creations. A perfect example is the American whiskey and sake recipe known as the Manhattan Love Story. Here, the bitters play well against the spice of a ginger liqueur and the result is phenomenal.
Best Grapefruit: The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters
The Bitter Truth is one of the newer bitters producers. The company has quickly made a splash (or is it a dash?) on the bar scene. While The Bitter Truth offers many great flavored bitters, its grapefruit is one of the most notable.
Grapefruit and hops combine to make this heady, complex bitters. Try using it in drinks containing rye whiskey. A dash or two can add new life to the Algonquin, a classic rye and pineapple recipe. It also does wonders in the slightly fruity Millionaire Cocktail.
Essentially, if a whiskey cocktail has a hint of bright fruits, try The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters. You'll be surprised at the results.
Best Chocolate: Scrappy's Bitters Chocolate Bitters
A Manhattan cocktail takes on a completely different flavor profile with these bitters. You will also find that an old-fashioned cocktail is made with a nice sweet bourbon like Four Roses is heavenly. Look for cocktails containing whiskey and Green Chartreuse to feature this in as well.
Best Cherry: Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bitters
Not only does Woodford Reserve make great bourbon, but it also makes incredible bitters. In particular, the spice cherry flavor is quite the hit. Inspired by the Woodford Reserve distillery and aged in real bourbon oak barrels, this premium bitters bottle complements dark spirits of all sorts. Add a couple of drops to your Manhattan, old-fashioned, or any other essential whiskey cocktail for first-rate spiced cherry flavor.
Best Gift Set: The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Travel Set
This travel set from The Bitter Truth gives globetrotters the option to experiment with a variety of drinks no matter where life takes them. The pack includes five different-flavored 20-milliliter bottles including aromatic, orange, celery, creole, and Jerry Thomas, inspired by the late New York City bartender and "father of American mixology."
For ultimate protection and portability—and a dash of style—all five mini bitters bottles arrive in a charming tin box suitable for carry-on bags and, ultimately, a final destination on the home bar of the cocktail connoisseur on your gifting list.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Lance J. Mayhew was a bartender and bar manager for over 16 years. During his time behind the bar, Lance received numerous accolades for his creative and seasonal cocktail creations.