How Much is a Dash of Bitters?
This is a question that many cocktail enthusiasts have. After all, bitters are an essential ingredient in cocktails, and many of the most popular cocktails feature bitters. However, with the recent rise in popularity of craft cocktails, there are now many new and unique bitters available. But measuring them remains a mystery.
Most recipes call for a dash of bitters. But what does that mean? Just a dash? That doesn't sound like a lot. Why not more?
When mixing a cocktail, you usually grab a jigger and precisely measure out an ounce of liquid. So how do you measure bitters?
This article will talk through bitters and how to measure them, dash by dash.
What are bitters?
Bitters are a type of alcohol-based flavoring agent commonly used in cocktail recipes. Bitters don't contain much alcohol but pack a lot of flavor and can be purchased everywhere, from the grocery store to the liquor store.
Bitters are made from various ingredients, including citrus peels, spices, herbs, dried flowers, bark, and roots. Cocktail bitters are usually sold in small bottles and only require a few drops to impart their unique flavor.
The craft cocktail boom helped bring bitters back from near extinction. Bitters date back to the 1800s when they were used for mixing classic cocktails, such as the Old Fashioned. However, digestive bitters were also commonly prescribed for medical purposes.
How to use bitters?
Nowadays, the purpose of bitters is to add complexity and flavor to cocktails. However, they can also be used to make homemade sodas, iced teas, and other drinks. In fact, even a few craft beer brewers are using bitters in their recipes.
Each variety of bitters has a unique flavor profile, ranging from fruit to chocolate, but two types of bitters are at the front of the bar.
The most popular bitters variety. As their name suggests, Aromatic Bitters contain a blend of spices, including cinnamon, ginger, allspice, vanilla, and cardamom. A few dashes of Angostura Bitters deliver great aromatic flavor.
Orange bitters, dating from the mid-nineteenth century and produced from the dried rinds of oranges, can differ in taste depending on the brand. They can include different spices and aromas, but orange is the primary taste.
If you're going to have just one bottle of cocktail bitters on hand, we recommend a bottle of aromatic bitters. A couple of dashes of aromatic bitters will spice up any cocktail.
Is there an exact dash measurement?
While the term "dash" is often used as a unit of measurement, it is actually quite imprecise. A typical dash of bitters is generally considered to be about 1/8th of a teaspoon or less than that. In other words, it's just a small amount.
Liquids used in recipes for cooking and cocktails are usually measured in fluid ounces. However, while you can convert teaspoon measurements to a fluid ounce, it is too small of a number to be able to measure with any accuracy.
Bitters bottles and dasher bottles
Bitters are typically sold in a glass bottle with dasher tops. The dasher top has a small spout that allows for single drops of the bitters to be dispensed and controlled by the angle of the bottle. This is ideal for recipes that only call for a few dashes of bitters.
Many bitters bottles also come with dropper tops, similar to those used for eyedrops. A dropper top allows for greater control over the amount of bitters being dispensed. Drops of bitters are similar to dashes in measurement.
If you want to take your bitters presentation to a higher level, you can buy a separate bitters bottle. Made of glass, these reusable bottles are decorative and available with various tops that allow you to dash or drop your bitters for precise measurement.
A dash of bitters is like a pinch of salt
When adding salt to a food recipe, old-time cooking measurements often call for a pinch of salt. Did you know that similar to a dash, a pinch is an actual measurement? A pinch is half the size of a dash, measuring at 1/16 teaspoon compared to a standard dash which is 1/8 teaspoon.
When was the last time you measured a small amount of an ingredient, like a pinch of salt? Generally, when salting food, you do so by taste. Although these measurements have precise definitions, you start small and work your way up to a level that tastes good to you. You should do the same with bitters. Start small, and add more. But, as they say, you can always add more, but you can't take any back.
Can you use too much bitters?
There's a reason bitters are measured in dashes. They're concentrated and have a potent and robust flavor. A little goes a long way.
Some cocktail recipes call for up to 7-8 dashes. With each dash measuring an 8th teaspoon, anything more than this, and you are beyond a dash. You're into teaspoons.
As with any cocktail ingredient, it is possible to use too much. If you add too much bitters to a cocktail, it can become unbalanced and overwhelming. When making cocktails, start with just a few dashes and then taste as you go. This will help you find the perfect balance for your cocktail.
Should you shake or stir bitters into a cocktail?
When it comes to mixing bitters into a drink, there is some debate about whether it is better to shake or stir the cocktail. Shaking the cocktail will help distribute the bitters more evenly throughout the drink. However, stirring is generally considered the best way because it doesn't introduce as much air into the mix.
In some cocktail recipes, bitters are also floated on the top of the cocktail or used as a garnish. An example of this is a couple of dashes on bitters placed on the foam of a whiskey sour.
If you're following a cocktail recipe, you should follow the recipe's instructions on when and how to mix bitters into your drink. If you're freestyling your own cocktails, you should experiment and find the right mix that suits your personal taste. Also, don't be afraid to try a different type of bitters. If a recipe calls for a dash of Angostura bitters, try a different brand or flavor.
Best cocktails with bitters
Bitters are used in many cocktails recipes. Here is a list of our favorite whiskey cocktails featuring bitters.
- Old Fashioned
- Whiskey Sour
- Mint Julep
- Vieux Carré
- Rob Roy
Related Reading: Our 15 Favorite Whiskey Cocktails for 2022
Putting it all together
Bitters are a unique and versatile ingredient that can add flavor and complexity to cocktails and other drinks. While their exact measurement is not always precise, dashes of bitters are a convenient way to add just the right amount of flavor. And with so many different flavors available, there's sure to be a bitters out there to fit everyone's taste.
When in doubt, know that a dash of bitters measures to be approximately 1/8 of a teaspoon and that you should start small. You can always add more as needed. A couple dashes of bitters go a long way.
Check out our collection of bitters products HERE
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- Steve S