When it comes to crafting the best cocktails, bartenders have been using bitters for centuries. What originated as medicines slowly crept their way to behind the bar and made their home in some of the most iconic cocktails of all time.
The Manhattan and the Old Fashioned are both signature drinks that are made with bitters.
But what are bitters?
Bitters are ingredients that bartenders use to add intense flavor profiles to drinks and cocktails. They are heavily infused with flavors like spices, fruits, barks, and even flowers.
Today, we are seeing a large resurgence in crafted cocktails and thus a large amount of new flavors and types of bitters are flooding the markets. Some offer traditional flavors of warm spices like nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, or allspice.
Others offer flavors of lemongrass, cilantro, or even celery. Even more, there are some bitters that taste of chocolate. No matter what flavor profile you are hoping to achieve, there is a bottle of bitters available for you.
The most common brand is Angostura Bitters. This brand has been around since 1823 and is the signature taste that many think of when they imagine an Old Fashioned.
Bitters are used by a bartender the same way that spices are used by a chef. When they are hoping to create unique and appetizing flavors, they sprinkle a little into the dish.
Since these mixtures were originally created for medicinal purposes, they are meant to be enjoyed in small doses. In fact, when a bartender crafts a drink, he or she will only put in a dash or two of bitters.
Bitters are actually considered non-alcoholic despite having between 35%-45% alcohol content per volume. This is because the amount used is so small that it would be nearly impossible to become drunk off of it.
The amount of bitters required to get a person drunk would be more than the amount they could physically consume before falling ill.
However, since most people will use bitters in the correct way, they remain to be one of the best ways to craft exciting and flavorful cocktails, whether you are recreating a classic or creating something entirely new.
Not only are bottles of bitters commonly found behind professional bar tops, many home bars and hobby drink crafters will experiment with different types of bitters.
If you are newer to drink crafting, you probably have a lot of questions, especially about bitters.
For example, the amount of bitters per drink is almost always written as a “dash”, but how much is a “dash”? Below, find a list of answered frequently asked questions to help you get a full understanding of how to use bitters in your drinks!
How Much is a Dash of Bitters?
When you are reading a recipe for a cocktail and it calls for a dash of bitters, how much do you add? It depends on how technical you want to get. If you are thinking in terms of teaspoons, a dash of bitters is about ⅛ to ¼ of a teaspoon.
While it may not seem like much, bitters are extremely concentrated flavors and adding even ½ a teaspoon can overpower your drink with spices or other herbal flavors.
Keep in mind that bitters do not add any alcohol content to your drink, so adding more will only make your drink taste bad, not get you drunk any quicker.
How Many Drops of Bitters is a Dash?
When most people see the word “dash” they tend to picture the bartender shaking a bottle over a drink. But for bitters, where there really is no set measurement for a dash, this is not the case.
If someone where to get very technical, anywhere between ¼ and ⅛ teaspoons of bitters could be about 10 drops from a small medicine dropper.
However, since most people are not pouring their bitters into a medicine dropper before applying, it is best to look at the bottle of bitters itself. Most bitters are sold in bottles with dasher tops. These tops are designed to only allow a small drop out of the bottle at a time.
How Much is two Dashes of Bitters?
Like all measurements for bitters, two dashes in relative to what you consider to be one dash. If you are using the ⅛ teaspoon measurement as a dash, then two dashes would make it ¼ teaspoon.
If you consider a dash to be 4 drops from the bottle then 8 drops would be two dashes. Dashes of bitters are like adding salt to food.
Everyone has their own preference, but once there is too much, the food is essentially inedible. The same can happen with drinks when adding bitters. It is best to start low on the amount and taste it before adding more.
How Much is a Dash of Bitters From a Bottle?
Most bitters will come in a bottle with a dasher top. This is a specially designed top that prevents the entirety of the bottle from spilling out all over the place when it is poured.
Since even the difference between ½ and ¼ of a teaspoon can essentially spoil the drink entirely, thes tops are incredibly beneficial with controlling the flow of bitters.
Most bartenders begin with adding 2-4 drops from the bottle and tasting the cocktail if it is their first time making it. Based on the flavor, they can adjust the amount of drops they continue to add.
Each time a new cocktail is created, it will need to be tested and tasted to know exactly how much bitter to add to the drink.
How Much is a Dash of Bitters in an Old Fashioned?
In the case of an Old Fashioned, 2-3 dashes of bitters will make or break your drink. Adding too little will not create the warm feeling that is so commonly loved when enjoying this drink. Where as adding too much will easily ruin the balance and create something entirely undrinkable.
Turning the bottle 2 times and allowing a few drops to fall out is what many consider to be two dashes. Start with one dash, taste, and a add the second if you feel the drink is lacking.
How Do You Measure a Dash of Bitters?
Sadly, there is no scientific way of measuring the precise quantity of a dash of bitters. Similar to a pinch of salt, a dash of bitters is just a way of saying “just a little bit”.
There have been a few attempts at putting an exact number on a dash of bitters. The general consensus was that a dash of bitters is about ¼ to ⅛ of a teaspoon. As you can see, this is a very small amount.
Bitters are incredibly flavored and will overpower a drink quickly. It is important to add them slowly to prevent the entire drink from being spoiled.
How Much is a Dash of Bitters in ml?
A dash of bitters can be measured as about 10 ml. A study was done where they had ⅕ of a teaspoon of bitters put into a medicine dropper. At the end, they were able to get about 10 1 ml droplets from the medicine dropper.
However, this is not considered to be an exact number. A dash changes depending on who you are talking to and how large a droplet is.
Even when you are pouring from a dasher top or dropper, drop sizes vary depending on the way you are holding the bottle. However, the difference between a small and medium sized drop from the same dropper is hardly noticeable in flavor.
How Much Alcohol is in a Dash of Bitters?
While the entire bottle of bitters has about 35%-45% alcohol content, bitters are actually considered to be alcohol free due to the amount that is used in a drink.
Most drinks will only use ¼ to ⅛ teaspoons of bitters. Once everything is mixed together and consumed, the body cannot even register the alcohol content.
While it technically could be possible for a person to drink enough bitters to get drunk, the amount that they would need to drink would render them ill well before they were able to consume enough for the alcohol to affect them.
Dash of Bitters vs a Drop of Bitters
When it comes to the difference between a dash of bitters and a drop of bitters, you have to consider a few things. First you need to consider how you are administering the drops.
Some people use the dasher bottle that bitters generally come in. However, some purchase special glass bitters bottles that have precise droppers.
Usually, a dash of bitters is a few drops. How much is a few drops? Usually 3-4 drops will be used as a dash. You want to try to put in about ¼ of a teaspoon of bitters to start. After you have tasted the drink, you can add another drop or two if you feel like the flavor is not quite there.
How Much is a Dash of Bitters in a Manhattan?
Most Manhattan recipes will call for 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters. How you want to arrive at two dashes is up to you. Many people will just shake the bottle of bitters over the drink with two quick turns. This will allow about 3-4 drops to come out each time.
Others will choose to measure it out precisely. Starting with ⅛ teaspoon, they will add it in and taste. After, they can decide to add more or to leave the drink as it is.