For more about bitters, what they are and the basics you’ll need to start your cocktail journey head here: Bitters and Bourbon in Cocktails.
Fee Brothers Chocolate Bitters are easily accessible for cocktail newbies. They’re the least expensive – between $6-9 and are readily available in most large liquor stores. They’re made with a glycerin base rather than an alcohol base, so while they are bitter, they come across as sweeter than the other options.
These have a slight bit of spice in them – a touch of cinnamon, and some dark chocolate notes, but mostly a lighter, milk chocolate kind of nose and flavor. These are excellent chocolate bitters to start with if you’re not sure you’ll fall in love with chocolate additions to your drinks.
I like these in cocktails with lighter spirits and fruit notes. They work fine in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan but are not my favorite in those cocktails.
These bitters are one of my favorite bitters of all time. They have the darkest, earthiest chocolate flavors of the ones I use. They have strong bitter notes of gentian and wormwood, but also some vanilla flavors as well. They are a perfect match for whiskey cocktails and the strong notes of unsweetened chocolate.
When added to cocktails with a substantial sweet element, Bitter Truth Spiced Chocolate Bitters add a dark chocolate flavor – sweetened, but barely. In addition, the strong bitter components mean they build more complexity into the cocktail.
These are my favorite bitters to use in Manhattans – they can balance with a high-proof whiskey (my favorite in Manhattans) and bring in a dark chocolate note that can pull cocoa flavors from many bourbons and ryes. Usually, one to two dashes is plenty because of the intensity of their bitter flavors.
Scrappy’s Bitters have more of a dark chocolate note than Fee Brothers, but they’re not as earthy or woody as The Bitter Truth’s chocolate bitters. On the nose, they smell like a melty dark chocolate lava cake.
They also have vanilla and a slight baking spice nose and flavor, but the overwhelming impression of them is premium dark chocolate. Their dash stopper is smaller than other brands, so you’ll likely need a few more shakes of them to get the same boost of flavor in a cocktail.
Scrappy’s chocolate bitters are my favorite to add in cocktails with berry, caramel, or vanilla flavors. They bring a sweet dark chocolate note that’s pure and not distracted by more bitter elements (like The Bitter Truth) or a high note of sweetness (like Fee Brothers). These are perfect for delicate sour flavors or adding a cocoa twist to a cocktail you’ll shake.
If you’ve ever had a really great mole sauce at a Mexican restaurant, you’ll recognize the nose and flavor of these bitters instantly. Dark chocolate on the nose, heavy cinnamon, and a bit of heat – just a hint of pepper added to it.
It’s not as heavily bittered as the Bitter Truth, and not as focused on pure dark chocolate flavor as Scrappy’s but it’s an intriguing mix of spices like allspice, clove, and mace. Perhaps just a hint of cumin?
Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters work wonders with dark spirits – especially rum and tequila cocktails. In a classic sour, they can add a lot of complexity and mystery because the flavors of the spices and peppers added to the cocoa are unexpected to most cocktail drinkers.
I use this one with rum and tequila old fashioneds, and also any cocktail that can stand to have some warming mouthfeel added to it.
Start with One and Expand your Collection
Bitters are the spice rack of cocktails, and just as we might choose to add dark chocolate, semisweet chocolate, or milk chocolate to a recipe based on our desired outcome or flavor experience, choose a chocolate bitter brand that works well for you and the cocktails you’re building.