You can own every spirit under the sun, but if you don't have any syrups or bitters on your bar, there aren't many cocktails you can make. Both are essential not only to classic and modern cocktails but also to making mixology fun. Once you begin to play around with various flavored fruit and herbal syrups and bitters, you'll really see how easy it is to change the flavor profile of any base spirit at the drop of a hat. Here are a few of my favorites to add to your bar.
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small-Batch Grenadine ($16)
Made with a robust pressed pomegranate juice, cane sugar, and orange flower water, this rich, full-flavored small-batch grenadine is delightful in classics like the Monkey Gland and El Presidente. I love it alongside bourbon and lemon juice in the Lady Shirley, a boozy version of the Shirley Temple.
Cecil & Merl Cucumber Bitters ($26)
There are few drinks I love more on a hot summer day than a muddled cucumber gin gimlet. But sometimes you’re just fresh out of cucumbers, or you can’t be bothered to break out the muddler. Enter Cecil & Merl’s Cucumber Bitters. Crisp and herbaceous with hints of juniper, lemon, and dill, it pairs almost too perfectly with gin and surprisingly well with tequila and mescal, too. Add this to your bar, and you can make flavored gimlets on the fly anytime.
Purely Syrup Co. Habanero Syrup ($13)
When it comes to flavored syrups, Purely Syrup Co. is the cream of the crop, in my opinion. The brand’s Habanero Syrup is my favorite, as it’s a key ingredient in my signature spicy margarita, which is always a hit at home. Just mix this with lime, rose water, a hint of agave syrup, and good tequila, and you have yourself a lively, smoky, and vegetal beverage with a kick.
Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters ($13)
I’ve been experimenting with making my own rhubarb bitters, but I almost don’t know why I bother, since Fee Brothers’ Rhubarb Bitters is so darn good. Now you can integrate this spring flavor into your drinks all year; I love how its tartness offsets the sweetness of cocktails. It’s great with practically every spirit—tequila, white rum, pisco, and gin are my favorites to add it to.
The Bitter Truth Chocolate Bitters ($23)
I don’t usually enjoy overly sweet or fruity cocktails, and dessert-like drinks aren’t really my thing. That said, the dark, rich flavor of chocolate bitters is definitely something I can get behind. This one from The Bitter Truth has notes of gentian and wormwood that are beautifully balanced by hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and spice. It plays exceptionally well with aged spirits like whiskey, brandy, rum, and tequila.
Royal Rose Simple Syrup Jasmine Syrup ($12)
There are few flowers more intoxicating than jasmine, so how fitting to add it to your cocktails? This syrup is at once delicate and floral, and it has a touch of lime juice to balance the sweetness. Add it to Champagne with a bit of gin for an easy and impressive Champagne cocktail, or mix it with light rum and tea for something a bit more complex.
What are your favorite syrups and bitters? Tell us in the comments below.