Add One Simple Ingredient To Enhance Your Pitcher Cocktails

Pitcher cocktails offer a quick and effortless way for hosts to serve guests without spending the entire party behind the bar. Making large batches of cocktails ahead of time saves time and money, but many pitcher or punchbowl recipes get a bad rap for being too sweet or one-dimensional. The easiest way to upgrade your pitcher cocktail? With a few dashes of bitters.

Named for the intense flavor they impart with just one drop, bitters are aromatic-infused alcohol. Each one has a proprietary recipe of various botanicals such as herbs, spices, citrus peels, and roots, and they actually had medicinal origins when they debuted in the mid-19th century.

Bitters are alcoholic, but since cocktail recipes call for only a dash or two per drink, their utility is as a flavoring agent. Just as baking spices add complexity to a dessert, bitters elevate cocktails to gourmet heights with depth of flavor and a crisp finish. They help neutralize sweetness and add a distinct botanical flavor that's versatile enough to pair with many different spirits and mixers. In fact, they're a crucial ingredient in a long list of classic cocktails, from Old Fashioneds and Manhattans to Pisco Sours.

How to add bitters to your pitcher cocktail

Versatile, cost-effective, and highly pungent, you only need to add a tiny portion of bitters to flavor your cocktail. There are three main types of bitters: Angostura, Peychaud's, and orange bitters. You can use one or a blend of all three when batching your cocktails. Angostura bitters offer a bitter and spicy flavor profile, while Peychaud's is more botanical and sweet with strong notes of anise. Orange bitters have intense citrus notes with a spicy finish.

You can draw inspiration from the long list of classic and modern cocktails that include bitters to help you decide which ones to add to your pitcher cocktail. If you find a classic cocktail with a similar flavor profile to the pitcher recipe you're following, try using the same bitters included in that recipe.

No matter which kind you use, a little bit goes a long way — a single cocktail calls for one to three dashes of bitters. (A dash is equivalent to ⅛ of a teaspoon.) You can add bitters directly to the pitcher along with the rest of the ingredients, adjusting the proportions of dashes to the number of cocktails in each pitcher. To play it safe, you can begin with a conservative four or five dashes per pitcher, adding more for a stronger taste. If you find the pitcher cocktail too bitter, you can always add water or extra ice.