Bitters are to cocktails as salt and spices are to foods. They add complexity, highlighting existing flavors and introducing new ones. But what else can you do with that bottle of boozy extract sitting on your shelf?
Apparently, a whole lot. In Angostura’s home country, Trinidad and Tobago, bitters are added to all sorts of dishes, including breads, soups, and marinades. Purveyors such as Dram Apothecary in Colorado believe high-quality bitters can provide hangover relief, and suggest using them in everything from baked goods to glazed vegetables.
Now chefs across the United States are adding drops and dashes of these flavorful liquids to their creations. Chocolate cookies, coffee, ice cream, and even steak are getting sweet on bitters. We gathered seven recipes and ideas for using bitters outside your cocktail.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
When Alexis Tabor, beverage director at Momofuku Nishi in NYC, makes chocolate cookies at home, she seasons her dough with a generous amount of El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters. Tabor finds it best to incorporate about two teaspoons when adding eggs. “The bitters add this layer of rich coffee and nutty pecan flavor to the dough that really complement the chocolate,” Tabor says.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup refined white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together dry ingredients, add butter, egg, and bitters, and then stir in chocolate chips. Roll into one-inch balls and place on a nonstick baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.
Steak (or Chicken!) Marinade
Rich and savory, bitters tenderize and add flavor to meat. Coopers’ Craft Bourbon ambassador and former executive chef Michael Ring prefers to use bitters with cinchona bark and cinnamon in this marinade, which adds flavor and results in ultra-tender steaks.
2 ounces bourbon, preferably Coopers’ Craft
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup orange juice
1 teaspoon Angostura bitters
1 tablespoon cherry preserves
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon tamari
Mix ingredients and soak your favorite steak (or chicken) for three hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator.
Winter Squash Soup
Bitters add an herbal note to savory soups, à la this winter squash version from David Baudek of The Kerryman Bar & Restaurant in Chicago.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large leeks, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts only
1 winter squash (approx. 3 pounds), such as kabocha, butternut, or pumpkin
1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 tablespoons Angostura bitters
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
Peel and seed squash, and then cut into two-inch chunks. Melt butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Stir in leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in squash, stock, water, bitters, sugar, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook soup, uncovered, until squash is very tender, about 25 minutes.
Transfer soup to a blender and purée in batches, or use an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle with cream and a dash of additional bitters.
Give your morning pick-me-up a flavorful boost. Spitfire Coffee in New Orleans uses Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters in its Mole Cortado, and spicy Hellfire Habanero Shrub bitters in its Hellfire Mocha. Add a couple dashes of chocolate-flavored or chili-infused bitters to your next cup of coffee for added depth.
Lemon Cake with Grapefruit Bitters
In this clever riff on a traditional tea cake from Anand Sastry, executive chef of Highway Restaurant & Bar in East Hampton, New York, grapefruit bitters highlight orange and lemon notes.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grapefruit bitters
3 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 335 degrees. Mix all ingredients with a hand whisk. Bake in a parchment-lined loaf pan (9 x 4 x 4 inches) for 40 minutes.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Mixologist Randy Wright of Acorn in Pittsburgh uses bitters to spike his take on Mexican hot chocolate, which is rich with citrus and spices.
Hot Chocolate Ingredients:
2 cups cocoa powder
3 orange peels, fruit reserved for another use
3 star anise
1 teaspoon mace
6 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
4 to 6 dashes chili peppercorn bitters
2 quarts almond milk
Almond Maple Foam (optional):
4 ounces maple syrup
10 ounces whipped cream
If you’re making the almond maple foam, gently fold the syrup into whipped cream. Chill.
For the hot chocolate, combine all the ingredients in a stainless steel pot and allow to simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature and strain. For the almond maple foam, gently fold the maple syrup into the whipped cream. Warm the hot chocolate to a desirable temperature and pour into a mug or glass. Top with a dollop of the whipped cream and garnish with orange zest.
Give your favorite kombucha, pressed juiced, or sparkling water a boost by popping in a few drops of a vegetal, herb, or citrus-flavored bitters. Camilla Marcus, owner of the Los Angeles-inspired west~bourne restaurant in New York City, mixes celery soda and kombucha for an unusual, effervescent drink. (Note: This is not a mocktail.)
Marcus combines two parts celery juice, one part ginger shrub, one-and-a-half parts kombucha, and a splash of celery bitters (she prefers The Bitter Truth‘s celery bitters) over ice. Add a squeeze of lemon, stir, and enjoy!