Cocktails with Bitters; Make The Best Cocktails & Zero-Proof Mocktails

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Transform boring drinks into memorable experiences with bitters & garnish.


Whether you want to entertain friends this weekend or need that perfect gift, cocktails with bitters (or using them in zero-proof alcohol-free drinks) are always a hit.




And, if you want to know where to buy the best bitters, we will share our favourites and where to get them. 


Table of Contents:

      1) Where to Buy Bitters?

          2) Cocktail & Drink Mixers 101, Getting Started

            3) What are Digestive Bitters

            4) How to Use Bitters; Make Memorable & Delicious Cocktails & Mocktails

                  5) Our Favorite Recipes: Cocktails with Bitters

                  6) The Best Zero-Proof, Alcohol-Free, Mocktail Recipes

                      1. Where to Buy Bitters?

                      If you believe in supporting local, sustainable, artisan producers, look no further than Wild Muskoka's Wildcrafted Bitters Line. 


                      where to buy bitters

                      Of course, we have a bit of a bias as the producer, but our wildcrafted bitters bring something truly special to the world of cocktails and zero-proof drinks.

                      Along with being made from sustainably wild foraged ingredients, our flavours have been created to bring to new life to already popular drink mixes.

                      We have four varieties available (plus occasional limited editions based on the local foraging season):


                      You can also find bitters at your local bar supply store. In addition, some specialty grocery stores carry bitters, and you can get wide varieties through online cocktail stores such as The Crafty Bartender & Cocktail Emporium.

                      2) Cocktail & Drink Mixers 101, Getting Started:

                      What Are Cocktail Mixes?

                      Simply put, cocktail mixes are anything that you use to make drink mixes with other than alcohol and ice.

                      what are cocktail mixes?

                      The most commonly used mixes include sodas and juices, but you can also get much more creative.


                      Another option is a "simple syrup," a sugar-based syrup used by bartenders to get the perfect level of sweetness in a cocktail. There are many different types of flavoured syrups. You can also use natural and often healthier options such as maple syrup, honey or agave syrup.


                      Shrubs are a cocktail mixer that uses fruit, sugar and apple cider vinegar. They balance the sweetness with the natural tart flavours of fruit and hold up well against the robust flavours of spirits.

                      Healthy Cocktails Tip:

                      Pay attention to labels; many syrups are made with artificial flavouring and unhealthy ingredients and dyes.

                      Our Strawberry Sumac Shrub (see picture above) is made with organic apple cider vinegar, organic cane sugar, strawberries, wildcrafted sumac and nothing artificial.

                      What are Bitters in a Cocktail?

                      Bitters are often referred to as cocktails' ‘salt & pepper.’ They are a common ingredient in many craft cocktails and zero-proof drinks that bring out flavour and character in your drink mixes.

                      what are bitters in a cocktail?

                      Bitters are made of bitter and aromatic herbs infused in alcohol (and sometimes glycerine). Like choosing the spices to use in a recipe, you can use bitters to spice up the flavours in your drinks.


                      A few of the most common flavour profiles of bitters include:


                      • Aromatic bitters with herbs and spices
                      • Citrus bitters with fruits (often the peels) such as orange, lemon, lime, etc
                      • Bean & Nut bitters such as chocolate and coffee bitters
                      • Wildcrafted Bitters with ingredients wild foraged from the land.


                      There is also a wide selection of bitter liqueurs. These liqueurs are purchased at the liquor store and are often in the 20% alcohol range. Their flavours include bitter herbs but can also be spicy or sweetened.


                      Some typical bitter liqueurs you'll find in cocktails are:


                      • Campari,
                      • Aperol,
                      • Amaro 
                      • Fernet Branca


                      What is a Zero-Proof Drink?

                      A zero-proof drink is a fun and trendy way to say alcohol-free. Thus, a zero-proof cocktail is a cocktail without alcohol, sometimes called a mocktail.

                      What Does "Proof" Mean When it Comes to Drinks?

                      "Proof" is a term in alcohol manufacturing and labelling that refers to the amount of alcohol in liquor. It is a bit of a funny system for the casual cocktail consumer in that the alcohol content is half the proof number. Thus, an 80-proof bottle has a 40% alcohol content. Supposedly, this is a term dating back to 18th-century war times.

                      Can Bitters be Used in a Mocktail or Alcohol-Free Drink Mixes?

                      Absolutely. Often non, drinkers miss out on the fun flavours and garnishes at a cocktail party or bar. But there is no reason you can't serve mocktails and zero-proof drinks with bitters. You need to know how to use the bitters, and we cover than in-depth below.

                      IMPORTANT - Most bitters are made from aromatic herbs infused into alcohol. But remember, you are literally only adding a few drops to a drink.

                      Zero-proof drinks with bitters are usually considered non-alcoholic beverages as the alcohol content is so low that it would not have a notable impact on your blood alcohol level.

                      But, if you can not consume even a few drops of alcohol, you will want to find bitters that have been infused in glycerine instead.

                      3. What are Digestive Bitters

                      Bitters are not just used for flavour in cocktails; they are also well-recognized herbal formulas that have been used for hundreds of years to support good digestion.

                      Our bodies have unique receptor sites that are tuned to the chemistry in plants that make them taste bitter. Triggering these receptor sites can support our body's digestive and detoxification processes.

                      what are digestive bitters and how to use digestive biiters?

                      Bitters can support our bodies by:


                      • Easing stomach issues such as bloating, indigestion or heartburn
                      • Supporting healthy liver function
                      • Create clearer and more healthy skin
                      • Gently detox the body
                      • Curb sugar cravings


                      If you want to experience the health benefits of bitters, you need to take them regularly outside of your use in cocktails. For example, take a dose of bitters daily before heavy meals or add to your regular or soda water for best results.


                      Look for a type of bitters that list Dandelion, Burdock, Yellow Dock, and Gentian as some of the main ingredients. In addition, bitters containing aromatic herbs like Cardamon, Mint, or Chamomile can make incredible drinks after big, heavy meals.


                      If you would like to know where to buy bitters for digestion, we recommend our Wild Muskoka:


                      4) How to Use Bitters; Make Memorable & Delicious Cocktails & Mocktails

                      With a well-made cocktail, we drink to remember, not to forget!


                      Do you ever wake up and think about how delicious a drink you had a few days ago was?


                      That is the magic of a well-made cocktail or zero-proof mocktail. They bring smiles to people's faces, fully engage your senses, and create a point of conversation and a reoccurring memory that brings back the flavours, smells, and ambience of that first sip. 

                      How to use bitters in a cocktail or zero proof drink

                      How to Use Bitters in Drink Mixes

                      Bitters in cocktails can be used like spices in cooking. As the bartender, you can add or exchange the types of bitters in drink recipes to make a new take on a classic cocktail.


                      And, like when cooking, you can create your own original drink mixes as you start understanding how the various flavours and ingredients work together. This is what we have done with our original line of Wild Muskoka Wildcrafted Bitters. 


                      Bitters in a Cocktail



                      The fun part is that bitters not only change your drink's flavour but can also be used to create a unique experience of the overall drink by scent or visual interest.


                      Our unique angle at Wild Muskoka is adding sustainably wild foraged herbs and flavours to make memorable Wildcrafted Cocktails. See some of our fun recipe suggestions below in Section 5.

                      Jump back to point number two and "What are bitters in a cocktail" to review some of the more common flavour profiles of bitters.

                      When & How to Add Bitters to the Drink?

                      Some recipes will call for the bitters to be added while preparing the cocktail in the mixing glass or shaker, while other cocktail recipes call for them to be added to the top of the drink.

                      Adding bitters with a strong aromatic smell to the top of a cocktail will allow the drinker to enjoy their unique scent.

                      Cocktails made with egg white or aquafaba foam to make a rich, creamy top can have drops of bitters applied to the surface, and with a toothpick, the bartender can create patterns for visual appeal and flare.

                      Drinks with Bitters

                      How Much Bitters to Use & What is "A Dash of Bitters?"

                      Bitters usually come in dropper bottles. How much you use depends on the taste buds of whoever is consuming the drink. Most recipes suggest how much is recommended.

                      Often you will add anywhere from a few drops for a stronger tasting bitter to a full dropper for a decadent drink experience.You can always sample the bitters first by putting a drop on the back of your hand to taste. This will give you an idea of the flavour profile. Just remember it will be strong if you take it straight; they are meant to be diluted in the drink.

                      Bitters liqueur usually uses one or two ounces per cocktail.

                        What Cocktails are Bitters Used in?

                        Many traditional cocktails use bitters. A few popular cocktails with bitters include (see recipes in Section 5):



                        Do Bitters Go Bad?

                        Generally speaking, though, bitters last for years. Because they are infused in alcohol, they don't tend to spoil; the alcohol preserves them indefinitely. But, the flavours may fade over time, and you will not get the same aromatic effect. This can impact the taste of the drink over time. But remember, we are talking years with most bitters.

                        Don't forget Garnishes, they Take Your Cocktail to the Next Level!

                        adding garnish to cocktails and zero proof drinks

                        A great garnish elevates the entire cocktail or mocktail experience. There are so many ways you can garnish, not limited to:


                        • Fresh or frozen fruit floating in a drink or added to the side walls of glass.
                        • Skewers of sweet or savoury items. Think the classic olive in a martini or outrageous Cesar skewers of all the things.
                        • Citrus wheels and fancy-cut peels are classic. Before adding them to the drink, don't forget to squeeze oils over the glass to entice the taste buds.
                        • Fresh herbs or flowers. Make sure to use only culinary herbs, known safe wild edibles, or non-poisonous, untreated flowers.
                        • Rim the glass with salt, sugar or a specialty seasoning blend. We love to use our Spruce Tip Sugar.
                        • Egg White or Aquafaba foam with bitters drops

                        5) Our Favorite Recipes: Cocktails with Bitters

                        Drinks with Whiskey & Bitters:


                        2 oz rye whiskey

                        1 oz sweet vermouth

                        1 dropper Rock Barren Bitters

                        Cranberry or orange peel for garnish

                        How to mix: In a mixing glass with ice add rye, vermouth & bitters, then stir. Strain this into a glass with ice and add the garnish.


                        Muskoka Maple Old Fashioned

                        2 oz Canadian rye whiskey

                        ½ oz maple syrup

                        1 dash Forest Fire bitters

                        Cedar leaf & cherry for garnish

                        How to mix: In a mixing glass combine the whiskey, maple syrup & bitters. Mix it well and strain it into low ball glass filled with the ice. Garnish the drink with a fresh clipping from a cedar tree and cherry.


                        Apple Bomb

                        1 oz of applejack, apple whiskey or whiskey

                        1/4 oz simple syrup or Dry Cider (optional for sweetness)

                        1 dropper Spiced Maple Bitters

                        Lemon Peel for Garnish

                        How to mix: Combine all of the ingredients except for the lemon peel in glass with cracked ice. Garnish with the lemon peel & serve. *If using the sweet cider, omit the simple syrup.


                        Drinks with Gin & Bitters

                        Elderflower Smash

                        2 oz Gin

                        1 ½ oz Elderflower Liqueur (St. Germain)

                        Juice of half a lemon

                        1 dropper Citrus + Roots Bitters

                        4-5 Mint leaves

                        How to mix: Combine all ingredients except mint leaves in a shaker with ice. Shake well and pour into a cocktail glass with ice. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.


                        Rocky Gin & Tonic

                        1 ½ oz Gin

                        2 droppers of Rock Barren Bitters

                        ½ oz lime juice, freshly squeezed

                        Tonic Water

                        How to mix: Fill a tall glass with ice. Add gin, lime juice and bitters and top with tonic water and stir briefly.


                        Gin Sling

                        1 1/2 oz gin3/4 oz fresh lemon Juice
                        3/4 oz simple syrup or honey
                        1/2 oz sweet vermouth
                        Soda Water
                        Lemon peel spiral for garnish
                        How to Mix: In a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice, combine gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, vermouth, and bitters. Strain into a highball glass filled halfway with ice.Top with soda water. Garnish and serve.


                        Drinks with Rum & Bitters

                        Dark & Stormy

                        1 ½ oz dark rum

                        1 dropper Forest Fire Bitters

                        2 oz ginger beer

                        Lime wedge

                        How to Mix: Add the ginger beer, a squeeze of lime and the bitters to a low ball glass with ice. Pour the dark rum over the top to create dark and stormy look to drink.


                        Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

                        1 ½ oz dark rum

                        1 dropper Spiced Maple Bitters


                        How to mix: Fill a tall glass with ice. Add rum and bitters and top with lemonade and stir briefly. Garnish with lemon slice.


                        Campfire Blueberry Mojito

                        1 ½ oz white rum

                        1 dropper Forest Fire Bitters

                        3/4 oz Blueberry & Spruce Shrub

                        ½ oz lime juice, freshly squeezed

                        Soda Water

                        Mint Leaves

                        How to mix: Muddle (crush) Mint sprigs with lime juice in bottom of glass. Add ice, Blueberry & Spruce Shrub, rum, bitters. Add half soda water and give a stir to mix then fill to the top with soda water. Garnish with sprig of mint leaves and serve with a straw.

                        6) The Best Zero Proof, Alcohol Free, Mocktail Recipes

                        Orange-Ginger Chiller Mocktail

                        1 oz Orange Juice

                        1 oz Pineapple Juice

                        Ginger Beer

                        1 dropper Citrus Roots Bitters

                        Ice cubes 

                        Orange Wheel

                        How to mix: In a mason jar or shaker combine orange and pineapple juices, bitters with ice and shake well. Pour mixture with ice into a low- ball glass and top with ginger beer.  Tuck the orange wheel along inside of glass as garnish.


                        Chaga Iced Tea

                        2 oz Chilled Chaga Tea

                        1 oz Oat Milk

                        1 tsp Maple Syrup

                        1 dropper Spiced Maple Bitters

                        Ice cubes 

                        Cinnamon or Spruce Tip Sugar

                        How to mix: In a mason jar or shaker combine all ingredients with ice and shake well then pour all contents into tall glass. Can also be prepared in a blender for a daiquiri style drink. Garnish with cinnamon sprinkled on top or before mixing the drink rim the glass with Spruce Tip Sugar.

                        bitters cocktail DIY drinks mocktail recipes

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