Do Angostura Bitters Go Bad?

Woman in red sweater looks disgusted

Let’s start with the biggest question people have. Do Angostura bitters go bad?

There are conflicting opinions about the shelf life of Angostura bitters. Some people say that you should discard them after three years, while others claim they can last for decades. Although there is no official expiration date on the bottle, bitters do lose their potency over time.

If your bitters have turned dark brown or black in color, then it may be time to purchase a new bottle. Likewise, if any mold appears on the lid or inside the container then you should definitely toss it out!

If anything tastes or smells off, or you’re concerned that your bitters have gone bad, it’s better to err on the side of caution and pick up another bottle.

Let’s look at some other common questions people have about Angostura Bitters.

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What Are Angostura Bitters?

Angostura bitters are the secret ingredient in many cocktails. They provide an earthy, herbal flavor to an assortment of mixed drinks and can be used as a substitute for other bittering agents such as Angostura bark or orange peel.

The original recipe was developed by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, who travelled from Germany to Venezuela in 1824 at the request of Simon Bolivar, leader of South American independence movement.

Angostura Bitters are created by combining herbs and hand-ground spices – including cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander seeds, cloves, cardamom pods and bay leaves – which are then macerated with alcohol (rum). It is manufactured by Angostura Limited in Trinidad & Tobago using these original ingredients.

If you’re interested in making cocktails with Angostura bitters, why not pick up a bottle (or two) then head over to the House of Angostura from some drink recipes!

Angostura bitters
200 ml Bottle Angostura aromatic bitters via CC BY-SA 3.0

Do Angostura Bitters Contain Alcohol?

Angostura Bitters are an essential ingredient in many cocktails. The secret to their delicious flavor is a blend of herbs and spices including gentian root, cinchona bark, licorice root along with other ingredients – but do they contain alcohol?

Cocktail bitters like Angostura generally have 35 – 45% alcohol but, because most drink recipes only call for a “dash” of bitters, very little is used.

Ironically, Angostura Bitters are often marketed as non-alcoholic even though they contain alcohol. If you need proof, take a look at the label. Alcohol is listed as the first ingredient.

Do Angostura Bitters Need to Be Refrigerated?

If you’re a cocktail enthusiast, there’s a good chance that you have Angostura Bitters on hand. But do they need to be refrigerated?

Angostura Bitters don’t need to be refrigerated. Just store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Ideally, you’ll want to put them in a cupboard or pantry with low humidity levels, away from your stovetop or oven.

The label doesn’t say the bottle should be refrigerated and my friends have never complained about the quality of the ingredients in my mixed drinks.

How Should I Store My Bitters?

In the previous section, we learned that Angostura Bitters don’t need to be refrigerated but how should you store them?

Store your bitters upright with the lid tightly screwed on so the bottle doesn’t leak or allow essential oils to evaporate. Bitters should be kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent the ingredients from spoiling or the flavors from becoming muted over time.

Follow this basic advice about how to store your bitters and your friends will rave about your cocktails for years to come!

Bottles stored away from direct sunlight

What Is the Shelf Life of Bitters?

How long can you keep an opened bottle of Angostura bitters? Is it still safe to drink after a year or two?

Bitters contain a high percentage of alcohol, which acts as a preservative. A bottle of Angostura aromatic bitters has 45% alcohol which means it can last for a long time. Like any spirit, the shelf life is virtually indefinite.

Generally speaking, bitters won’t go bad but their flavor and aromatics wear down over time. If you’ve had a bottle of bitters on hand for a long time, it will still be okay to use, though the flavors in it might not be as strong.


Angostura bitters have no expiry date. They’ll keep indefinitely.

If you’re not sure where to store your Angostura bitters, here’s a practical idea. Keep them in the kitchen with your spices and cooking oils.

Relax. Make a drink, add a dash of bitters, and enjoy – because life is too short not to drink great cocktails.


By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.