Only Bitters - Buying Guide
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What are Bitters?
What spices are to a chef, bitters are to a barman.
Gone are the days when a lonely bottle of Angostura bitters held court behind the bar. A cocktail renaissance has swept across the globe, inspiring in bartenders and their thirsty patrons a new fascination with the ingredients, techniques, and traditions that make a cocktail so special. And few ingredients have as rich a history or serve as fundamental a role in our beverage heritage as bitters (see Thomas Parson's Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All)
Many brands of bitters began as medicinal tonics and soon found a home in cocktails as concentrated flavour stimulants that add a nice kick to the mix even though they are only used by the dash. Bitters were considered a necessity in the early definition of a cocktail, but were left out of many drinks until their recent comeback thanks, in part, to an interest in classic cocktails.
Formulas are often closely guarded secrets and include a variety of herbs, fruits, spices, and roots distilled in a base liquor. In today's bar, bitters are essential, and each brings its own qualities to a cocktail, so don't be afraid to experiment.
Below we have the largest selections of bitters brands in the world. You can also go to the search bar above and type in a flavour you are looking for. Or use or 'Browse Flavours' feature.
Happy hunting, and if you find something we don't have, please let us know.
How do you use Tonic Syrups?
Tonic water is traditionally a quinine based bitter drink. Quinine comes from the bark of the South American cinchona tree - the word quinine is from the Quechua (Inca) word for that bark. The tonic of the 1600s (quinine, sugar and water) bore very little resemblance to what we now know as tonic water, and was in fact used originally as an anti-malarial treatment. The quinine was mixed with sweetened water to make it palatable, but British colonials still found it too bitter and mixed it with gin, thus creating the gin and tonic.
Many astute bartenders have realised that widely available tonic water, typically made from high-fructose corn syrup, carbonated water and synthetic quinine, can ruin a quality gin and tonic. This is why you can now buy tonic syrups with combinations of real quinine, fruit, herbs and natural sweeteners. They are essentially, quality tonic water, minus the water. The magic of tonic syrups is that they give you complete control over the flavour. You pour in the syrup and then add soda water and dilute to taste.
What are Shrubs?
Shrubs, also known as drinking vinegars, derive from the original methods of fruit preservation in colonial era U.S. They have now been reinvented to offer lively combinations of intense fruit essence and tart acidity. A Shrub is a combination of sweet and savoury flavors: vinegars, sugar and fruits, aromatics and tart essences.
In drinks they can work much like citrus by providing a tart and slightly sweet component. Many Shrubs are produced using a cold-press technique to maintain the bright, zesty flavors that are damaged by heat-based extractions.
Use them when you require a sour element to your cocktails or make delicious, unique, non-alcoholic drinks. Add as an ingredient to your dressings and marinades - or use with ice cream and desserts. Be creative!
Need some help? We have put together this handy e-Book to help the creative juices.
What types of Cocktail Syrups are there?
Traditional syrups are a staple of any well-stocked bar.
Grenadine is a bar syrup that is instantly recognized by its bright red color. What many drinkers don’t know, is that grenadine is a pomegranate flavored syrup. For years, almost no bars had real grenadine. They had corn syrup with lots of red food coloring and no flavor – and many still do. Thanks to the craft cocktail movement, real grenadine is back in style and will actually give your drinks both color and flavor.
Orgeat is a French almond syrup, originally made from barley and used as a shelf-stable substitute for milk. Many cultures have versions, from Valencian orxata to Dutch orgeade to Mexican horchata. It’s irreplaceable in a Mai Tai and essential to the classic Japanese cocktail. Orgeat syrup, with its rich almond flavor and exotic touch of orange water, is matchless among cocktail mixers.
Gum (or gomme) syrup is a drink sweetener that was commonly used instead of simple syrup in many classic cocktails. While some people refer to simple syrup as gum syrup, true gum syrup contains an emulsifier known as gum arabic. However, where both syrups add sweetness, gum syrup adds viscosity as well, giving a richer mouthfeel and weightier texture to cocktails.
Aside from these tradition syrups, there are now some wonderful fruity artisan syrups too. If you’re looking to add some extra flavourful fruity kick to your cocktails that even fresh seasonal fruits in a blender can’t produce, you may want to explore this selection of artisan syrups.
Syrups are also splendid outside of the bar: to sweeten coffee, as a syrup on french toast or pancakes, to perk up a simple chocolate milkshake, for non-alcoholic drinks or anything else your can imagine.
Ginger Beer Syrups offer a sense of nostalgia as new trends have shoppers opting for brands and flavours they enjoyed in their childhood. "Ginger beer is back. As consumers look for natural ingredients and nostalgic flavours, old-fashioned drinks take centre stage again." (Trade magazine The Grocer)
Syrups are made from fresh ingredients, and therefore need to be refrigerated after opening.
Vermouth is an aromatized wine, a type of fortified wine flavored with various botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices). The modern versions of the beverage were first produced in the mid to late 18th century in Turin, Italy.
The name "vermouth" is the French pronunciation of the German word Wermut for wormwood that has been used as an ingredient in the drink over its history. There has been much debate about whether aromatized wines without wormwood could be called vermouth.
Vermouth was traditionally used for medicinal purposes, but its true claim to fame is as an aperitif, with fashionable cafes in Turin serving it to guests around the clock. In the late 19th century it became popular with bartenders as a key ingredient in many classic cocktails that have survived to date such as the Martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni.
Historically, there have been two main types of vermouth, sweet and dry. Recently many more varietals have been bought to market.
Vermouth is produced by starting with a base of a neutral grapewine or unfermented wine must. Each manufacturer adds additional alcohol and a proprietary mixture of dry ingredients, consisting of aromatic herbs, roots, and barks, to the base wine, base wine plus spirit or spirit only - which may be redistilled before adding to the wine or unfermented wine must. After the wine is aromatized and fortified, the vermouth is sweetened with either cane sugar or caramelized sugar, depending on the style.
Italian and French companies produce most of the vermouth consumed throughout the world, although many countries have started to make and market Vermouth in the last 5-10 years.
WHY 375ML BOTTLES
OnlyBitters will primarily market 375ml Vermouths (where available). We believe that the as Vermouths are Aromatized wines, they degrade over time with oxidation. For most consumers (non-bars) who do not go through a large volume of Vermouth, the smaller size will mean less spoilage and less storage room.