I have about seven bottles of cocktail bitters on my bar cart, but I really only use two — Angostura and orange — when making cocktails. It’s not that the other flavours are bad, it’s just that I rarely want an old fashioned made with grapefruit or lavender bitters. But a lemonade is an entirely different story.
Cocktail bitters are the easiest way to make bespoke lemonades. You don’t have to juice any messy fruit, you don’t have to simmer any infused floral syrup. All you have to do is shake a couple of drops of whatever fancy bitters you have lying around right into the glass, stirring optional. Classic bitters can actually add a nice bit of herbaceous depth, but the weirder the flavour, the more fun the lemonade.
Aside from chocolate, I can’t think of a bitter that wouldn’t work here. Grapefruit bitters can lend a sparkling lemonade Fresca vibes; floral bitters give your drink a garden party feel. Fruity friends like rhubarb, cranberry and cherry make an outstanding pink lemonade. If you want to get real out there — and slightly vegetal — celery bitters can offer just a hint of beguiling bitterness. Want a spicy lemonade? Reach for a peppery bitter! Even pecan bitters can add a nice nutty twist.
But my favourite thing about adding bitters to lemonade is how easy it is. Instead of committing to an entire pitcher of a flavored lemonade, you can make a pitcher of plain and add a different bitter to each glass. As a lover of variety and hater of repetition, this thrills me. In fact, if parties are ever allowed again, I recommend a lemonade and bitters bar alongside your nacho bar or whatever. People love a DIY food and drink bar.
Plus, bitters make the lemonade look pretty. Aesthetics aren’t everything, but one has to appreciate a drink that is both beautiful and tasty.