How Much Alcohol is in Bitters? The Surprising Truth Revealed!

When it comes to cocktails, bitters are not an uncommon ingredient. They add a depth of flavor to the drink that just can’t be found anywhere else. But have you ever wondered how much alcohol is actually in bitters? It’s a common question that many people ask, and the answer may surprise you. In this article, we will take a look at the surprising truth about how much alcohol is in bitters and what it means for your cocktail.

What Are Bitters?

Bitters are a type of concentrated spirit that are used to add flavor to cocktails. They are made by infusing herbs, roots, and other ingredients in high-proof alcohol. The result is a strong, intense flavor that can be used to balance out the sweetness of a cocktail or to add complexity to the overall taste. Bitters are usually added in small amounts, so a little goes a long way.

The History of Bitters

Bitters have a long and storied history in the world of cocktails. They were first used in the 19th century as a medicinal elixir for digestive issues. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that they became a staple in the cocktail world, thanks to bartenders like Jerry Thomas who popularized their use in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan.

How Much Alcohol Is in Bitters?

Now that we know what bitters are, let’s take a closer look at the alcohol content. Bitters are made using high-proof alcohol, typically between 40% and 50% alcohol by volume (ABV). However, the final alcohol content varies depending on the recipe and the amount of dilution that occurs during the production process.

On average, bitters contain around 35% ABV, which is higher than most wines and beers but lower than most spirits. Keep in mind that bitters are typically used in small amounts, so the actual amount of alcohol consumed in a cocktail is relatively small.

Bitters vs. Other Spirits

When compared to other spirits, bitters may not seem that alcoholic. For example, a standard shot of vodka has around 40% ABV, while whiskey can range anywhere from 40% to 60% ABV. However, it’s important to remember that bitters are used in small amounts, usually just a few dashes per cocktail. This means that the actual amount of alcohol consumed in a cocktail with bitters is relatively low.

How to Use Bitters in Cocktails

Now that we know how much alcohol is in bitters, let’s talk about how to use them in cocktails. As mentioned earlier, bitters are typically added in small amounts, usually just a few dashes per cocktail. They can be used to add depth of flavor, balance out sweetness, or even add a touch of bitterness.

Classic Cocktails with Bitters

Some classic cocktails that use bitters include:

  • Old Fashioned
  • Manhattan
  • Negroni
  • Sazerac
  • Boulevardier

Each of these cocktails uses bitters in a slightly different way, but they all rely on the unique flavor that bitters can bring to a drink.

Experimenting with Bitters

One of the fun things about bitters is that they come in a wide range of flavors, from citrusy to spicy to floral. This means that you can experiment with different bitters to create unique flavor profiles in your cocktails.

For example, you might use orange bitters in a margarita instead of the traditional lime juice to give it a different twist. Or you might use lavender bitters in a gin and tonic to add a floral note to the drink.


In conclusion, bitters are a staple in the cocktail world for a reason. They add a depth of flavor that just can’t be found anywhere else. And while they do contain alcohol, the amount consumed in a cocktail with bitters is relatively small. So go ahead and experiment with different flavors of bitters to create your own unique cocktails.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: Can I drink bitters straight?
  • A: While bitters are safe to consume in small amounts, they are typically used as a cocktail ingredient and not meant to be consumed straight.
  • Q: Are there non-alcoholic bitters?
  • A: Yes, there are non-alcoholic bitters available. They are made using water, glycerin, and flavorings instead of alcohol.
  • Q: How many dashes of bitters should I use in a cocktail?
  • A: The amount of bitters you use in a cocktail will depend on the recipe and your personal preference. A good starting point is usually 2-3 dashes per cocktail.
  • Q: Do all cocktails require bitters?
  • A: No, not all cocktails require bitters. It depends on the recipe and the flavor profile you are trying to achieve.


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