Even if you don't shake or stir up many cocktails at home, you may have a bottle of aromatic bitters tucked away in the back of your liquor cabinet for that occasional Old Fashioned or Manhattan you or a dinner party guest craves. While bitters are most at home in cocktails, their complex flavor makes them ideal contenders for not only other drinks, but also foods.
Here are five smart ways to take bitters beyond the bar cart.
1. Swap them in for extracts in baked goods.
Push aside the vanilla extract in favor of bitters to give your baked goods a surprising twist. Since bitters do have the potential to be overpowering, try swapping in a dash or two for half of the amount of extract called for as a starting point. Orange bitters are nice in any citrus-based treat like lemon pie, or try Angostura bitters in something rich and chocolatey like flourless cake.
2. Toss them with popcorn.
Popcorn is a blank slate for flavorful additions, like spices, cheese, and even chocolate. Adding bitters to the mix is a unique idea that works. Incorporating it into melted butter that's drizzled over the popcorn helps cut the richness of the butter while adding a touch of complexity that you wouldn't expect.
Get a recipe: Bitter Buttered Popcorn from The Splendid Table
3. Shake them into lemonade or juice.
Instantly make that cooling glass of lemonade more refined with a few dashes of bitters. Classic Angostura or Peychaud's bitters will turn the drink a pretty shade of pink — or seek out something a little unique like lavender bitters to add a lovely floral note to the glass.
4. Infuse honey and maple syrup.
Old Fashioned-inspired pancakes, anyone? A little Angostura in your maple syrup (splash of bourbon optional) and you're on your way. You can also add a few dashes of bitters to honey for tea or yogurt; it both contrasts and balances these sweeteners.
5. Add them to poaching liquid for fruit.
Whether you're poaching pears for a light dessert or an upgraded breakfast, add a few dashes of bitters to the poaching liquid as the fruit simmers. Classic aromatic bitters, like Angostura, have cinnamon, clove, and cardamom notes that tend to play very well with poached fruit.
Get a few more great ideas: 5 Dishes That Are Better with Cocktail Bitters
Do you have your own clever way of using a dash of bitters beyond the bar cart? Do share — we'd love more ideas!