How Much Bitters To Use For Your Cocktails

how much bitters to use for your cocktails
Joe | Last Updated: November 19, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering about how much bitters to use for your cocktails, you’re not alone.

From the classic Angostura to the zesty orange and rich chocolate bitters, today we’re looking at how to achieve the ideal balance in your cocktail recipes.

As someone who’s quite the cocktail connoisseur, I’ve come to learn the perfect amount of bitters to use in cocktails to make them taste perfect every single time.

Whether you’re whipping up an Old Fashioned, a Sazerac, or a Trinidad Sour, by the end of this post you’ll have learned the precise ratios to make your drink a sensation. 

So grab those bitters bottles, infuse some complexity into your drinks, and let’s take your mixology game to new heights.

A Quick Guide To Bitters

For starters, bitters are mini bottles of spirits infused with herbs and spices, elevating cocktail recipes to new heights.

A dash of bitters can add complexity and an oomph to many classic cocktails.

Interestingly, neutral alcohol infused with ingredients like orange peel, gentian root, and cinnamon creates the aromatic essence of bitters.

Types Of Bitters

1. Orange Bitters

A comeback flavor with a citrusy kick, perfect for a Dry Martini revival. Brands like Regan’s and Fee Brothers offer subtle variations. 

2. Peychaud’s Bitters 

These bitters, founded in 1830s New Orleans, shine in the Sazerac cocktail, the official drink of NOLA!

3. Angostura Bitters

Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Angostura bitters taste bitter and spicy with hints of clove and cinnamon.

Their closely guarded secret recipe dates back to 1824 when a German surgeon created them as a medicinal tonic.

Besides the aromatic bitters mentioned above, you can find other flavors like mint, plum, cherry, peach, chocolate, grapefruit, celery, etc.

How Much Cocktail Bitters Should You Use?

So, how much cocktail bitters should you actually use? It’s a common question for bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts.

But the answer isn’t straightforward because the right amount of aromatic bitters required generally depends on your cocktail recipe.

So, start with a dash or two and tweak to perfection.

For your reference, a dash of bitters is roughly ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon. For most drinks, one or two dashes do the trick.

To infuse your drink, just tip that bitters bottle right in and shake it up real good.

How Much Alcohol Do Cocktail Bitters Contain?

Most bitters contain a 35 to 45% ABV (alcohol by volume), packing a punch, but fear not – they’re used in tiny amounts.

Tossing in two dashes of bitters, roughly ¼ teaspoon or 0.04 ounces, might seem like a lot.

how much bitters to use for cocktails
Photo by Oliver Plattner

But when you do the math with the alcohol by volume at 0.45, you end up with a teensy 0.01 ounces of alcohol. 

So, while bitters bring added flavor to your cocktail recipe, the alcohol content is a mere whisper.

Best Cocktail Recipes With Aromatic Bitters

1. Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is the OG cocktail, born in the early 1800s. It’s a timeless classic and one of my personal favorites.


  • Bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Sugar cube
  • Water
  • Angostura aromatic bitters
  • Orange peels

How To Make It

Shake 4 dashes of Angostura bitters on a sugar cube, then muddle with ½ teaspoon water.

Then add 2 ounces of your favorite whiskey – bourbon for sweetness or rye for a spicier kick.

Next, shove in some ice, an orange peel, and, if you fancy, a cocktail cherry. Lastly, squeeze some orange peels over the drink for that zesty aroma.


Garnishing Tips

  • Orange Peel: Squeeze and rim the glass for a citrusy kick.
  • Cocktail Cherry: Adjust the sweetness to your liking.
  • Lemon Peel: Optional, but a lemon twist can add an extra layer of flavor.

Pro tip- Elevate your Old Fashioned game with clear ice!

2. Vieux Carre

If Manhattan and Old Fashioned are your jam, say hello to their equally enticing cousin, the Vieux Carre!

Originating from the streets of New Orleans, this classic cocktail packs a punch with a double dose of bitters, making it a whiskey lover’s dream.

And in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced as VOO care-A because being fancy is half the fun!


  • Rye whiskey
  • Cognac
  • Sweet red vermouth
  • Benedictine
  • Peychaud bitters
  • Angostura bitters

How To Make It

Stir all these flavor-packed pals in a cocktail mixing glass – no shaking to keep that robust alcohol flavor intact.

Then strain the goodness into your serving glass. Don’t have a mixing glass? Any container works, but for that pro look, a cocktail mixing glass is your ticket!

Finally, you can garnish it with a cocktail cherry. 

Final Words

Mastering how much bitters to use is the key to unlocking a new world of flavor.

No matter if you’re crafting a classic cocktail or experimenting with a new concoction, a few dashes can make all the difference. 

From the sweet vermouth elegance to the pecan bitters’ unique twist, the possibilities are endless.

With the exact recipe guarded like a closely kept secret, these small bottles of liquid magic are a versatile ingredient that adds bitterness and enhances the flavor profile of any high-proof spirit.

So at your next cocktail night with friends don’t be afraid to bust out the bitters and take your cocktails to the next level.

See you in the next one.