Scaffold styles, variables and structure for Bourbon projects.

Bitters helps designers start projects faster by defining a basic set of Sass variables, default element style and project structure. It’s been specifically designed for use within web applications. Bitters should live in your project’s root Sass directory and we encourage you to modify and extend it to meet your design and brand requirements.

Bitters is made to work alongside a CSS reset or style-normalizer; not replace one. We like to use Normalize.

Table of Contents


  • Sass 3.4+ or LibSass 3.3+
  • Bourbon 5.0+
  • Ruby 1.9.3+ (required to install Bitters from the command line)


  1. Install the Bitters gem using the RubyGems package manager:

    gem install bitters
  2. Install Bourbon.

  3. Install the Bitters library into the current directory by running the following command at the command-line. If you’re using Ruby on Rails, run the command in app/assets/stylesheets:

    bitters install

    A base directory will be generated which contains all of the Bitters files.

  4. Import Bitters after Bourbon in your application.css.scss or main manifest file. All additional stylesheets should be imported below Bitters.

    @import "bourbon";
    @import "base/base";
  5. Once Bourbon and Bitters are set up, you can begin to import your styles below them.

    @import "bourbon";
    @import "base/base";
    @import "my-project-styles";

Using Bitters

Sass structure & default style

The Bitters directory (base/) should contain styles for all the basic elements used throughout the project. It also contains directories for custom mixins and extends for your site. Add code to the existing files or add new files to the directories. Customize Bitters for your site as you see fit.


This houses all variables that are used, or will be used, in more than one file in your site. Variable names in Bitters that are used outside of the variables file start with $base to indicate that they are the most basic variables.


All type is based on $base-font-size which is set to 1em (16px) by default. The spacing around type is based on $base-line-height so as to keep a semi-baseline grid. All sizes are scaled up or down by a factor of 0.25.


All lists have stripped out styles. No bullets, no left padding.


Adds basic styles all form elements. The variables at the top of the file all inherit from the variables file but make it really easy to be overridden.


Basic style for button and input[type="submit"]. Base button styles can be changed by modifying the styles applied to button and #{$all-button-inputs} in base/_button.scss.

Command Line Interface

bitters [options]


Option Description
-h, --help Show help
-v, --version Show the version number
--path Specify a custom path
--force Force install (overwrite)


Command Description
bitters install Install Bitters into the current directory
bitters reset Reset Bitters
bitters remove Removes Bitters from the current directory
bitters help Show help
bitters version Show the version number

The Bourbon Family

  • Bourbon: A Lightweight Sass Tool Set
  • Neat: A lightweight and flexible Sass grid
  • Refills: Components and patterns built with Bourbon and Neat


See the contributing document. Thank you, contributors!


Bitters is copyright © 2013-2017 thoughtbot, inc. It is free software, and may be redistributed under the terms specified in the license.


Bitters is maintained by the thoughtbot design team. It is funded by thoughtbot, inc. and the names and logos for thoughtbot are trademarks of thoughtbot, inc.


We love open-source software! See our other projects or hire us to design, develop, and grow your product.