For the past few years we've been collecting and experimenting with adding a dash of bitters to cocktails. They are kind of like the spice rack of the cocktail world and are made by making a liquid extraction from various flavorings. I am all about DIY in the kitchen. I find a lot of things you can purchase are much better when made at home and took that philosophy to trying this fun cocktail ingredient.
The process takes a few weeks but is pretty basic. Here are the steps:
1. Add flavorings to 2 cups of a neutral alcohol. Set aside in a jar for two weeks in a dark place. Shake the jar daily.
2. After 2 weeks, filter out the solids from the flavorings you used. Put the flavored alcohol in a separate jar and set aside.
3. Place the solids in a small saucepan and cover them with water. Heat on your stovetop for 10 minutes. Place the water and solids in a separate jar after they cool and set aside in a dark place for another week. Shake daily.
4. Strain the solids and discard them. Add the remaining liquid to the separate jar of flavored alcohol. Set this mixture aside for another week.
5. Add a Tbsp. of simple syrup to this mixture. That's a 50/50 mixture of sugar and water heated until you get a syrup consistency.
I decided to start with orange bitters as that one's a favorite in our house. It involved adding the peel of three oranges, 4 cloves, 4 cardamom pods, 6 allspice berries, and 1/4 tsp. coriander seeds to 2 cups of everclear grain alcohol and followed the procedure listed above. My husband likes these better than the commercial orange bitters in a bourbon over ice.
Here's an in-process shot. Isn't the color gorgeous?
I've already started a pear and vanilla version. I decided to try using vodka this time. It's got 3 chopped up pears, the zest of a lemon, a cinnamon stick, 6 allspice berries, 4 cloves, some chopped ginger and a split vanilla bean. It smells like heaven! This is what that recipe looked like right after the first two weeks. The jar on the left shows the strained vodka. The one on the right shows the solids after they were cooked down in water.
The jar on the left shows the pear and vanilla ones ready to undergo the final process step. The jar on the right shows the finished orange bittters.
Our homemade orange bitters look right at home with the rest of our collection!