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The Bitters are Back

Turncoat Bitters Range

We currently make 3 different bitters. Our House Aromatic Bitters are the closest to classic bitters you can get, use it like you would your Angostura Bitters. The Coffee bitters are perfect to spice up any Espresso Martini, or add to a stout for some added warmth. Our Orange Bitters add a well balanced citrus component to your cocktails, perfect for a sweet Amaretto Sour.

A Brief History of Bitters

I have been learning about the history of bitters from Brad Thomas Parsons' 2011 book 'Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes & Formulas'. In his book he states "the cocktail world is in the midst of a cocktail boom"(Brad Thomas Parsons, 2011) as we have noticed an increase in craft spirit makers experimenting in making different styles of bitters: and us at Turncoat are no different!

So what are bitters?

Bitters are a flavouring agent made by infusing fruit, botanicals and more in high-proof alcohol. The name 'bitters' make it seem as though they'd make your drink bitter, but in fact they are used as a binding agent to lower the acidity or the sweetness of your drink. For centuries they were used as a medical cure-all, you would be able to find stomach-bitters readily available in chemists, or apothecaries. It was considered normal to have your daily dose of bitters! This was due to the herbs and spices used to create them, giving you a vitamin boost.

There are two forms of bitters, 'cocktail bitters' and 'potable bitters'. Potable bitters refer to those that can be sipped as either an aperitif, to stimulate appetite, or a digestif, to aid digestion. Examples of potable bitters are Campari, Fernet Branca and Jägermeister. Whereas, cocktail bitters are used to unify a drink instead of being sipped. They are too high in alcohol and have a concentrated flavour, which work great among other flavours but alone they are too intense.

Bitters started to gain popularity in the US in the 1850s and were being used more freely in drinks. However, it has become known that bitters were being used in cocktails in the UK as far back as 1700. The way they were used had been forgotten in the 1800s and it wasn't until prohibition started in the US that bitters really hit a boom! Due to the prohibition and high taxation on spirits, the bitters industry started to accelerate in popularity. They were considered medicinal by the governments so they continued to be affordable and readily available. Cocktail bitters were classified as "nonpotible alcohol and weren't affected by taxes aimed at the sales of spirits, and the same is true today"(Brad Thomas Parsons, 2011).

Today bitters are a "bartender's salt and pepper"(Brad Thomas Parsons, 2011) and you will find them at any cocktail bar, in different flavours and styles!

Get your copy of Brad Parsons' great book and learn to make your own bitters here:

A look at our range of bitter

We make a House Aromatic Bitters, reminiscent of Angostura Bitters, an Orange Bitters and a Coffee Bitters. Each having a different flavour profile and can be used in multiple ways!

Turncoat House Aromatic Bitters: We steep a whisky in numerous botanicals including sour cherries, cinnamon and clove over a period of three months, or longer. We add fresh orange peel alongside our aromatics to give a citrus finish. These bitters are perfect in an Old Fashioned, classic Pink Gin or as a low ABV Bitters and Tonic.

Turncoat Orange Bitters: We rest sweet and bitter orange peel on our high strength vodka for a number of months to create a beautiful citrus base. We then add cardamom, star anise and other warming botanicals over time to create our unique Orange Bitters. These bitters perfectly balance out any sweet, citrus cocktail.

Turncoat Coffee Bitters: Aged with Hasbean's finest Coffee Beans, incredible coffee flavours burst out of these bitters. They add depth and warmth to any drink they are added to. Try adding them into a porter or stout, or a whisky based cocktail for an added coffee hit!


Brad Thomas Parsons (2011). Bitters : a spirited history of a classic cure-all, with cocktails, recipes, and formulas. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

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