Basic curiosity drives the desire to drill down to the components of what makes things taste good--and what makes them taste even better. Beverage flavor additives tend to be concentrated and are used in small amounts to enhance and meld the flavors of the main ingredients.
Bitters are herbal concoctions of alcohol and botanicals with bitter, complex flavors, added by the drop or two as a flavor accent to cocktails or foods. While alcohol based, bitter flavors are intense, and a drop or few is all you need. Technically a person could get drunk from drinking a bottle of bitters, but no sane person would find it palatable to do so. Add complexity to your favorite cocktail or try a drop or two to flavor a glass of sparkling water, for a non-sweet, refreshing beverage.
Infusions and flavored syrups are popular, and simple to whip up, using your favorite herbs. What's not to like about a basil martini on a hot summer day?
To make a simple syrup, pour 2 cups of water into a saucepan, add 1 cup of cane sugar (or substitute agave nectar or honey), and a fistful of fresh herbs of choice, such as basil, mint, ginger or thyme. Other interesting syrup flavorings are citrus peel and seasonal berries. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the sugar, and turn off the heat. Let the mixture cool, then strain, put in an airtight container and refrigerate until use.
Add a half to a jigger full of flavored syrup to a glass of ice, a jigger of your favorite spirit and top with sparkling water. To enjoy it as a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage, add plain sparkling water, ginger beer or fruit juice. Let there be no limits to your creativity!