Cocktail bitters: the small but mighty ingredient

13 April, 2023

Branching out

Cocktail bitters remain popular – after all, they are the defining ingredient for a cocktail to be just that, a cocktail. The on-trade is a key driving force in the category’s success, as Berg notes. “On-trade remains our biggest driver, although retail is ‘catching up’. We experience worldwide growth and are very grateful for that. Covid, which at first looked like a risk to the industry, has proven to be a catalyst if one, as a brand, had the right strategy and execution. We believe that this is only the start, and that the future is bright.”

Covid and its lockdowns ushered in the home mixology trend, which has been beneficial to bitters as people became more open to experimentation in their drinks. Berg adds this was something they “deliberately worked on” as “one cannot just restrict oneself to bartenders, although they are extremely important to us, in the end, also in HoReCa/on-trade, it is the consumer who makes the call”. This boost to knowledge of the category from those who don’t necessarily work directly in mixology means bitters, as Berg says, are “not only for the in-the-know venues anymore, but also more mainstream chains that are following this path as well as consumers themselves”.

Angostura, which is available in 170 countries, has always had a strong presence in the on-trade as Charles-Barber notes it “has always been an important part of Angostura’s success”. The brand has also witnessed a similar recovery post-pandemic. “Seeing the bottles behind bars the world over is a great source of pride for any Trini. We’ve seen a strong recovery in the on-premise post-pandemic and a surge of orders as bars restock their staples,” says Charles-Barber.

A new wave

The category is currently seeing a few different trends. The interest in low and no-alcohol as consumers are more mindful about what they drink, and with this comes awareness about sustainability and where ingredients are sourced. Charles-Barber says: “Low and no-alcohol offerings are increasingly calling for bitters to balance out and boost the missing flavour. For example, Angostura has long been associated with long, refreshing adult drinks in Australia – lemon, lime and bitters is an institution here and was born as a golf course drink.

“It’s perhaps no wonder that Angostura’s growth here is now being led by the explosion of low and no-alcohol cocktails, where bitters have captured the imagination of those looking to build and bind flavours in this new wave,” Charles-Barber continues.

The Bittered Sling has also noticed this trend of people being mindful about what they consume and the ingredients used. Chovancek notes: “People are using more bitters in a classic way and looking for sustainability and traceability in where ingredients are sourced.” The Bittered Sling keeps this in mind with its handmade, small-batch production process, which uses water, Canadian non-GMO grain spirit, and whole botanicals. Chovancek adds: “Before being shipped to our global distributors, the Bittered Sling product is macerated, naturally filtered, bottled, and labelled in an allergen-free, government-regulated facility in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. All botanicals, fruits, barks, and herbs are sourced from Fairtrade suppliers. We only use whole botanicals and do not use essences, extracts, colouring, sugars or sweeteners in our process.”

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