Great Cocktail Recipes with Bitters & Shrubs

One of the things that excites us the most about Batch 22 aquavit is how much it inspires creativity. We’ve had lots of fun playing with classic vodka and gin-based cocktails, substituting Batch 22 instead, but we’ve also developed a number of delicious craft cocktails where Batch is paired with whiskey, bourbon, tequila, and many other classic spirits.

Even more fun, however, is creating entirely new concoctions, pairing Batch—not only with other spirits—but also with a whole host of cocktail enhancements, namely bitters and shrubs.

A dirty martini with olive bitters

Get to Know Bitters and Shrubs

What are bitters and shrubs? One way to think of bitters is to liken them to your spice rack at home. Like oregano, cumin, or coriander, bitters are used to add more complexity to a drink. Bitters come in an almost infinite variety of flavors, and each can be added to a cocktail to provide an added dimension of aroma or flavor. The breadth of flavors available for cocktail recipes with bitters is truly amazing. As Gary McIntire, co-owner of cocktail accessory mecca Collins & Coupe says, “Anything you can imagine, someone is making a liquid form of that flavor.”

Collins & Coupe, in San Diego, is our go-to shop for everything cocktail—it’s a cocktail lover’s dream store. Their shelves are bursting with bitters of every imaginable kind: Black walnut, wormwood, mission fig, lavender, chocolate, tobacco, Chinese 5 spice, hibiscus, fennel, cherry bark vanilla, and much more.  (Recently, we’ve fallen in love with the olive bitters made by The Bitter Truth; we use it to create our Batch 22 Martini: 2 oz. Batch, .5 oz. sweet vermouth, 2 shakes of olive bitters.)

“There are basically three categories of bitters,” explains Gary. “The three main types are aromatic, citrus, and floral bitters. “Most people are familiar with angostura bitters, with the yellow or orange cap and the white paper label. That’s just one type of bitters, an aromatic, which adds herbal or spice dimensions to a beverage. The difference from one aromatic bitters to the next is like the difference between one barbecue sauce and another. They all taste like barbecue sauce, but they all taste different from each other.” Citrus bitters include common flavors like orange, lime, grapefruit, and lemon, but also include less common ones like yuzu and bergamot. Floral bitters—rose, lavender, jasmine, and hibiscus, for example—add more of the botanical dimensions.

I asked Gary to describe the wildest flavor of bitters he carries. “We have some spicy bitters that are pretty crazy,” he said. “We just brought in a brand that’s using Carolina Reapers, ghost peppers, and scorpion peppers. It’s pretty out there.”

What Are Cocktail Shrubs?

Shrubs are another great category of enhancer with cocktails. Shrubs are a kind of syrup, usually a fruit or a spice syrup, that also have vinegar in them. “Shrubs actually date back to Roman times,” Gary explains, “when there was no refrigeration. So, to preserve fruit flavor, they would macerate fruits with sugar and then add vinegar. The vinegar would help stabilize the syrup and make it last longer.” Shrubs are made with fruits, but also with a wide variety of spices. Collins & Coupe carries a myriad of interesting blended tonics and shrubs, including Lemon+Lime, Blueberry+Lavender, Persimmon+Raspberry, Hibiscus + Rose, and Blood Orange+Damiana.

Typically, cocktails with shrubs are bright, refreshing cocktails where the acidity from the vinegar provides a counterpoint to the sweetness of the fruit and other elements. “Shrubs work great in variations of a margarita, a highball, even a tropical cocktail,” Gary says.

You can browse through everything Collins & Coupe carries at their web site: (they ship everywhere). You’ll see their extensive collection of bitters, shrubs, syrups, and mixers, but you’ll also see a bunch of other really cool stuff that is sure to take your bar to the next level. So, go explore and find a few shrubs and bitters to use with your cocktail recipes. It’s all about the creativity!

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