10 Best Bitters to Give Your Old-Fashioned a Boost

Published February 18, 2022
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Old Fashioned Cocktail in a Vintage Bar

Bitters help to curate the flavor, profile, and experience of an Old-Fashioned. They're certainly not to be treated as an afterthought. Bitters are responsible for taming the sweetness of the sugar and mellow the bite of the bourbon, allowing the flavors to couple together and create this classic cocktail. The best bitters for an old-fashioned can seem like finding a needle in a haystack, but these will get you started.

Best Bitters to Boost Your Old-Fashioned


Best All Around:
Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

These classic bitters are the best to have on hand.
Read more.

Best Orange Flavor:
Regan's Orange Bitters No.6

For an Old-Fashioned with a more citrus forward taste, this is the best.
Read more.

Best Unexpected Bitter:
Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Typically reserved for New Orleans style cocktails, it creates an unusual but tasty drink.
Read more.

Best for a Spicy Bitter:
Hella Cocktail Co. Smoked Chili Bitters

If you want your Old-Fashioned to have a smoky bite, pick this up.
Read more.

For a Dessert Style Old-Fashioned:
Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters

A great pick if you want a dessert-style cocktail without added sweetness.
Read more.

Best of the Old School:
The Bitter Truth Bogart's Bitters

These bitters could be considered the original bitter recipe.
Read more.

Best for a Summer Flavor:
Bittermens Boston Bittahs

If you want your cocktail to have a summery feel, these bitters deliver.
Read more.

Best Citrus Flavor:
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Aromatic Bitters

For a citrus grapefruit flavor, this is the best one.
Read more.

Best for a Spiced Flavor:
Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters

These bitters produce an excellent spiced Old-Fashioned without changing any spirits.
Read more.

For a Distinctly Smoked Flavor:
Crude Smoked & Salt

If you dream of a smoked Old-Fashioned this is the answer.
Read more.
Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Angostura might be the most widely known brand of bitters around the world. It is a staple behind any bar and necessary for any home bartender.

On the nose, it's, obviously, incredibly aromatic and herbaceous. A bouquet of herbs, fruits, and spices shines through. When added to a drink, these same flavors shine and enhance all flavors, rich, biting, or sweet, to elevate the taste of any cocktail.

Angostura might be the most widely known brand of bitters around the world. It is a staple behind any bar and necessary for any home bartender.

On the nose, it's, obviously, incredibly aromatic and herbaceous. A bouquet of herbs, fruits, and spices shines through. When added to a drink, these same flavors shine and enhance all flavors, rich, biting, or sweet, to elevate the taste of any cocktail.

What We Like
Classic flavor
Reliable
Creates a well-round Old-Fashioned
What We Don't
May want something more flavorful
Some may want a more unique bitter
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Regan's Orange Bitters No.6

Regan's Orange Bitters No.6

Regan's Orange Bitters No.6

Regan's Orange Bitters No.6

Regan's Orange Bitters are an astonishing feat. They deliver the herbaceous flavor that you would expect in bitters but with a wonderful orange citrus-forward package. I've gone back and forth about whether these are mostly bitters or mostly orange but it is such a perfectly balanced taste that I've yet to decide.

Their recipe is a blend of bitter orange extracts with cardamom, caraway, and coriander with subtle caramel to tie this package together effortlessly.

Regan's Orange Bitters are an astonishing feat. They deliver the herbaceous flavor that you would expect in bitters but with a wonderful orange citrus-forward package. I've gone back and forth about whether these are mostly bitters or mostly orange but it is such a perfectly balanced taste that I've yet to decide.

Their recipe is a blend of bitter orange extracts with cardamom, caraway, and coriander with subtle caramel to tie this package together effortlessly.

What We Like
Citrus forward
Sweeter than typical bitters
What We Don't
May want a more herbaceous bitter
Some traditionalists may not enjoy it as much
Could be too citrusy for some
Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters

Usually found in a Sazerac or Viuex Carré, Peychaud's are more licorice and anise forward than other aromatic bitters. It sets itself apart with its tarter, fruit flavors, with rhubarb at the front and a sweet cherry candy weaving through.

There are herbaceous flavors, of course, clove and saffron mingling with orange zest, to create a solid bitter. It's sweeter than other aromatics, offering a juicy palate to round out the herbs.

Usually found in a Sazerac or Viuex Carré, Peychaud's are more licorice and anise forward than other aromatic bitters. It sets itself apart with its tarter, fruit flavors, with rhubarb at the front and a sweet cherry candy weaving through.

There are herbaceous flavors, of course, clove and saffron mingling with orange zest, to create a solid bitter. It's sweeter than other aromatics, offering a juicy palate to round out the herbs.

What We Like
Juicy flavors
Lighter than other aromatic bitters
Licorice-note forward
What We Don't
Not as traditional
Some may not enjoy the licorice flavors
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Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Aromatic Bitters

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Aromatic Bitters

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If you want your next Old-Fashioned to be conversation-worthy, or at least spark a discussion, consider using Jack Rudy grapefruit bitters. The grapefruit flavor isn't lost in the bitters, rather, it's a clean and pronounced flavor with spices woven into it.

They're an elegant yet versatile bitter, that quickly dresses up an Old-Fashioned and takes it from average to juicy.

If you want your next Old-Fashioned to be conversation-worthy, or at least spark a discussion, consider using Jack Rudy grapefruit bitters. The grapefruit flavor isn't lost in the bitters, rather, it's a clean and pronounced flavor with spices woven into it.

They're an elegant yet versatile bitter, that quickly dresses up an Old-Fashioned and takes it from average to juicy.

What We Like
Grapefruit flavors are crisp
Still has that subtle bitter taste
Adds a juicy complexity
What We Don't
Unlike traditional bitters
Not herbaceous forward
Not a subtle grapefruit flavor
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Hella Cocktail Co. Smoked Chili Bitters

Hella Cocktail Co. Smoked Chili Bitters

Hella Cocktail Co. Smoked Chili Bitters

Hella Cocktail Co. Smoked Chili Bitters

The beauty of bourbon and the Old-Fashioned is their ability to transform without effort. In the case of Hella Bitters, their smoked chili adds two distinct flavors to any Old-Fashioned: a smokey statement and a spicy sip. Transformation quickly achieved.

The recipe uses bitters that complement the rich flavors of the chili, adding a depth of flavor so unexpected but delightful that you may not return to ordinary aromatic bitters.

The beauty of bourbon and the Old-Fashioned is their ability to transform without effort. In the case of Hella Bitters, their smoked chili adds two distinct flavors to any Old-Fashioned: a smokey statement and a spicy sip. Transformation quickly achieved.

The recipe uses bitters that complement the rich flavors of the chili, adding a depth of flavor so unexpected but delightful that you may not return to ordinary aromatic bitters.

What We Like
Spicy and smokey tones
Creates a complex Old-Fashioned
What We Don't
May not enjoy a spicy Old-Fashioned
Smokey flavor could be too overpowering for some
Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters

Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters

Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters

Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters

Having been around since the 1800s, Fee Brothers have perfected the art of bitters. Most noteworthy, however, might just be their Aztec chocolate flavor. It has all the richness of cocoa without any of the sweetness, thanks to the herbs and spices.

It both lightens up and lends a rich sweetness to any cocktail without actually adding any over-the-top sweetening or sugar. The cocoa flavors are the star of the show, the bitters an afterthought in the best of ways.

Having been around since the 1800s, Fee Brothers have perfected the art of bitters. Most noteworthy, however, might just be their Aztec chocolate flavor. It has all the richness of cocoa without any of the sweetness, thanks to the herbs and spices.

It both lightens up and lends a rich sweetness to any cocktail without actually adding any over-the-top sweetening or sugar. The cocoa flavors are the star of the show, the bitters an afterthought in the best of ways.

What We Like
Cocoa flavor without the sweetness
Rich, deep spice notes
What We Don't
May not enjoy such a chocolate forward bitter
Isn’t as much of a bite as typical bitters
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The Bitter Truth Bogart's Bitters

The Bitter Truth Bogart's Bitters

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Before other bitters began spawning onto the scene, this recipe was the one to use. Bogart's Bitters could be, theoretically, traced back to the first-ever crafted bitters, appearing in print as early as 1862.

With a flavor profile of dark spice, rich cocoa coffee notes, and herbs, it skips the usual cardamom flavors typically found in bitters. This comes at a high cost, but the resulting taste is incapable of duplication. Today, the recipe remains true to the original, going so far as the mimic the labels on bottles from the early 1900s. Overall, these bitters make a genuine and old school Old-Fashioned.

Before other bitters began spawning onto the scene, this recipe was the one to use. Bogart's Bitters could be, theoretically, traced back to the first-ever crafted bitters, appearing in print as early as 1862.

With a flavor profile of dark spice, rich cocoa coffee notes, and herbs, it skips the usual cardamom flavors typically found in bitters. This comes at a high cost, but the resulting taste is incapable of duplication. Today, the recipe remains true to the original, going so far as the mimic the labels on bottles from the early 1900s. Overall, these bitters make a genuine and old school Old-Fashioned.

What We Like
Unique, rich flavors
Chocolate and coffee notes
Skips the usual cardamom
What We Don't
May want a more traditional taste
Could be too aromatic or forward for some
Expensive
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Bittermens Boston Bittahs

Bittermens Boston Bittahs

bittermens-boston-bittahs-bitters.jpg

Bitters are usually deep, rich, and warm, giving the feeling of winter or help to create a cocktail that's better fitting for cooler weather. However, Bittermens spins this classic flavor into a summer taste. A combination of citrus and chamomile at its heart, it doesn't stop there. It drives home the citrus flavors, over and over again, before a heavy dose of chamomile provides the signature flavor of cocktail bitters.

The resulting flavor of this unconventional recipe is a summer aroma that carries through to its flavor. It brightens the Old-Fashioned, offering a new twist on a winter or colder weather cocktail, making it into a tasty mid-summer drink.

Bitters are usually deep, rich, and warm, giving the feeling of winter or help to create a cocktail that's better fitting for cooler weather. However, Bittermens spins this classic flavor into a summer taste. A combination of citrus and chamomile at its heart, it doesn't stop there. It drives home the citrus flavors, over and over again, before a heavy dose of chamomile provides the signature flavor of cocktail bitters.

The resulting flavor of this unconventional recipe is a summer aroma that carries through to its flavor. It brightens the Old-Fashioned, offering a new twist on a winter or colder weather cocktail, making it into a tasty mid-summer drink.

What We Like
Unique summer flavor
Citrus forward
Lighter herbaceous taste
What We Don't
Diverges from traditional bitters
Some may want a deeper, warmer flavor
Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters

Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters

Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters

Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters

Woodford Reserve Bitters have the added bonus of being produced by the Woodford distillery. They achieve their remarkable flavor by adding tart cherry flavors to herbaceous bitters.

With the gentle sweetness of cherry cutting through the traditional bitters flavors, it creates a soft sweet but spiced flavor. Made in the same barrels as their whiskey, it pairs well with any whiskeys or bourbons. And since it comes from Woodford, you know they put in the work to optimize a recipe for a bitter that emphasizes the depth of bourbons. And it delivers an incredible experience.

Woodford Reserve Bitters have the added bonus of being produced by the Woodford distillery. They achieve their remarkable flavor by adding tart cherry flavors to herbaceous bitters.

With the gentle sweetness of cherry cutting through the traditional bitters flavors, it creates a soft sweet but spiced flavor. Made in the same barrels as their whiskey, it pairs well with any whiskeys or bourbons. And since it comes from Woodford, you know they put in the work to optimize a recipe for a bitter that emphasizes the depth of bourbons. And it delivers an incredible experience.

What We Like
Spiced flavor
Subtle cherry flavors add a touch of new flavor
What We Don't
Strays from the traditional bitter flavor
A bit harder to find
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Crude Smoked & Salt

Crude Smoked & Salt

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If you don't have a way to enjoy a smoked Old-Fashioned at home, this is the quickest and tastiest solution. Crude's bitters don't make you wonder if these are meant to have a smoked flavor, they demand the full attention of the cocktail, in fact.

There's an aroma of hardwood smoke, with the faintest spice and touch of salt, to keep things interesting. The salt may seem an unusual touch but truthfully, it would be amiss without it.

If you don't have a way to enjoy a smoked Old-Fashioned at home, this is the quickest and tastiest solution. Crude's bitters don't make you wonder if these are meant to have a smoked flavor, they demand the full attention of the cocktail, in fact.

There's an aroma of hardwood smoke, with the faintest spice and touch of salt, to keep things interesting. The salt may seem an unusual touch but truthfully, it would be amiss without it.

What We Like
Shortcut to a smoked Old-Fashioned
Creates an indulgent cocktail
Adds a complex flavor
What We Don't
Very unlike traditional bitters
Not for those who don't care for a smoky taste
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Much like spirits and liqueurs, bitters come in all flavors and ranges: spicy, sweet, savory. The simplicity and herbaceous nature of bitters mean you can subtly, or not so subtly, alter the profile of an Old-Fashioned without having to use a flavored whiskey or add additional sweetness. The best bitters for an Old-Fashioned should enhance the experience, and there's a bitter for every taste and every budget.

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10 Best Bitters to Give Your Old-Fashioned a Boost