Cucumber Bitters Add A Vegetal Freshness To Your Cocktails

Gardeners may hear "cucumber bitters" and be stricken with war-like flashbacks to inedible, high-cucurbitacin harvests. Typically, a bitter cucumber is a bad thing. Not so in the mixology world.

Cucumber bitters combine the best of bitters and the best of cucumber flavor into a single botanical, herbal cocktail superstar. Regular bitters are a one-stop shop for instantly balancing mixed drinks, cutting through sweetness and creating a complex, dimensional profile. With the addition of infused cucumber, this pungent tincture becomes a lightly bitter, grassy tonic with a lingering floral taste.

German spirits brand Bitter Truth makes a mature cucumber bitters with notes of cracked pepper, rosemary, thyme, fleur de sel, and fresh vegetal cucumber. It clocks in at 39% ABV, and a bottle retails for $20. For more playful drinks, France-based brand B18 makes cucumber bitters with a brighter citrus-forward profile and a 65.5% ABV. As with regular bitters, you only need two or three dashes of the ingredient per cocktail, so a little goes a long way, which makes your money stretch and makes the high ABV no big deal. Both brands are available for purchase online and in some liquor stores — and they are far from the only brands of cucumber bitters on the market. Imaginative home mixologists are encouraged to shop around.

You can also make cucumber bitters at home by infusing neutral grain-based alcohol. But to achieve cocktail bitters' highly concentrated quality, a single batch takes just shy of three weeks to complete. 

Put your cucumber bitters to good use

Cucumber bitters are a natural fit for the English Pimm's Cup cocktail with Pimm's gin, lemon juice, ginger ale, mint leaves, and fresh fruit slices. You could also slam together a Cucumber Collins with lemonade and a few whole cucumber slices. For best results, customize the flavor profile of your lemonade by making it at home; this will avoid an overly sweet bevy and keep the citrus and vegetal notes in the spotlight. You could even add a splash of watermelon juice into the mix.

Try adding a few dashes of cucumber bitters to a classic G&T with a splash of rosewater. Or, whip up a Melon Cucumber Martini with dry vermouth and gin. Cucumber bitters would elevate the El Pepino cocktail (aka "the cucumber" in Spanish). This reimagined Margarita is a spicy yet cooling sipper perfect for summer, combining cucumber bitters, Blanco tequila, triple sec, fresh cucumber slices, fresh jalapeno slices, cilantro, and a Tajín rim.

Those cucumber bitters would be great in a gimlet with fresh basil and lime. Opt for a light botanical gin like Hendrick's to complement the floral bitters and let the ingredients shine. Or, you could always keep it simple and add a few drops of cucumber bitters to sparkling water with a few fresh mint leaves and a dehydrated lime wheel to garnish.