They may be called bitters, but dashing these dropper bottles into your cocktail won’t make your drink bitter—it will offer structure, Nugent explains. “Bitters can add some texture, and another layer of flavor as well,” he says. With an insane variety of bitters on the market—like savory herbal bottlings, lemon, plum, orange, Peychaud’s, tiki and grapefruit, just to name a few—you don’t have to stick to the standard Angostura. Try using one of these varietals instead, or try layering them on top of the traditional Ango.
Orange Bitters: If you want sweet orange flavor, you’re better off using juice. Orange bitters impart more of the tannic, tart notes of the fruit’s peel. The overall effect on the cocktail is subtle yet enticing.
Lavender Bitters: Floral lavender isn’t just good for candles. These bitters add a grassy sweetness with notes of mint, lemon and spice.
Plum Bitters: One of Nugent’s favorite drinks at Center Bar is The Red Queen, which calls for both lemon and plum bitters to perk up heavy Chambord and fruity rose cider. On their own, plum bitters recall plum pudding, which combines the sweet-tart stone fruit with winter spices like clove, mace and nutmeg.