Learn with A Bar Above


Photo by thedabblist/ CC BY

What are Tinctures?

A tincture, according to your science teacher, was “something dissolved in alcohol.”  So it’s no surprise that we’d use it behind the bar!

What they are:

Tinctures are alcohol based infusions. In general they focus on one single ingredient, but that is certainly not a rule that must be followed. Behind the bar, there is just one rule – a tincture must not be made with any bittering ingredients. (If it does, it’d then be called “Bitters” instead.)

How They Are Made:

Tinctures behind the bar are generally not the result of actively dissolving things in alcohol, so much as infusing them. I like to use the analogy of making tea. You don’t dissolve your tea bag in your cup of tea – you set it in hot water and let the flavors naturally seep into the water, encouraged by heat.

With tinctures (and any alcohol-based infusion), you are doing something similar. Placing the aromatic or flavorful item into the alcohol allows the flavor to seep into the alcohol, encouraged this time by the alcohol instead of heat.

And just like a hotter cup of water will make a stronger cup of tea, higher proof alcohol will result in greater infusion into your tincture.

Photo by John Loo / CC BY

Tinctures in Cocktails

Tinctures are generally used in cocktails to add flavor or complexity. They have several benefits that can make them extremely useful behind the bar:

  • The ability to add a lot of flavor without adding very much volume
  • The ability to prepare them completely in advance
  • How easy it is to make them.

Use in Cocktails:

In cocktails, tinctures are generally used in very small amounts. For some tinctures, a single drop will be enough to add flavor and complexity to the drink. In others, they may be dispensed using a eye dropper or bitters bottle.