These days, bitters come in a range of enticing flavors, so we wanted to try them in a range of nonalcoholic applications.
Traditional cocktail bitters such as Angostura or Peychaud's add bracing medicinal complexity and complementary bitterness to mixed drinks. Traditionally made by infusing alcohol with aromatic herbs and spices (though some manufacturers use synthetic flavorings and glycerin, an alcohol-free liquid), they are intensely flavored and meant to be used in small doses. These days, bitters come in a range of enticing flavors, from peach to black walnut to pumpkin pie spice, which prompted us to try them in nonalcoholic applications. They worked beautifully in flavored seltzer, whipped cream, crème anglaise, and meringue cookies. They were less successful as a substitute for extracts in higher-heat baked applications such as pound cake, where tasters detected unpleasant (rather than complex) bitterness. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when using bitters as a flavoring agent.
➢ When making seltzer, whipped cream, or crème anglaise, use 2 to 3 teaspoons of bitters per cup.
➢ If using bitters in an application that calls for an extract, substitute an equal amount.
➢ Do not expose bitters to prolonged cooking or high heat (gentle simmering and oven temperatures below 300 degrees are fine), as too much heat can drive off lighter aromas and leave behind unpleasant bitterness. Add the bitters at the end of cooking when possible.