Homemade Bitters Giveaway!

Hey, guess what — this is my 100th post! Shall we celebrate with free things? Yeah!

Bitters and cocktails are a relatively new interest of mine. While my parents didn’t care much for alcohol outside of social events, a few random bottles of beer could always be found in the basement fridge, along with the occasional half-empty, forgotten bottle of wine. Liquor, however, rarely (if ever) made an appearance. Long, twisty spoons, shiny shakers and their accompanying gadgets, pretty glasses of various shapes and sizes — all of these things were unknown to me.

Without a scotch-sipping grandfather or a cabinet filled with old, mysterious bottles to instill charm and intrigue during my childhood, my first impression of liquor/mixed drinks came from college. (College students in Albany, NY do not drink “cocktails,” they mix swill with more swill, and then they guzzle it. Lots of it.) In case you can’t already tell, my first impression was not a good one. Liquor was bleached-blonde, spray-tanned girls sucking down appletinis or cosmos in between attempts to out-screech each other. It was guys sporting double polos with popped collars, a pound of hair gel, and a suffocating amount of Acqua Di Gio elbowing me out of the way at the bar to order a round of panty droppers for the appletini girls and Captain ’n’ Cokes for the bros. It was drinking to get wasted. It was drinking to get so wasted that you just puke directly onto the floor of a bar, then nonchalantly stumble away while a girl screams about the vomit on her feet. (Yeah, I saw that happen. I bet that girl never wore open-toed shoes to a bar again.)

And so, I developed a love of beer and wine, but bypassed liquor and cocktails almost entirely. Then last year, I began looking into books on homemade soda. And thanks to Amazon’s suggestion vortex, Andrew Schloss’s Homemade Soda led me to Darcy S. O’Neil’s Fix the Pumps, which led me to Brad Thomas Parsons’s Bitters (as well as Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails and David Wondrich’s Imbibe!). And because each of them sounded so intriguing, I bought them all. BTP’s Bitters, however, quickly became my favorite. I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with apothecaries, old-timey medicine, and anything that gives me an excuse to buy and use many jars and bottles, so I guess it was a natural attraction. Within a month, I had the jars, the high-proof alcohol, and more herbs than I will ever use in my lifetime, and I was ready to get down to business.

UPDATE: After this post went live last night, I received several comments from people who weren’t quite sure what bitters were, and I realized I probably should have explained a bit more about them! Bitters are made by infusing herbs, spices, fruit peels, barks (and a number of other things) in high-proof alcohol over the course of several weeks. (Glycerin is sometimes used in place of alcohol, although I’ve read that the extraction is not as good.) When the steeping process is complete, you filter out the solids and add a little bit of sweetener. The result is an aromatic liquid that is most commonly added to cocktails, but has a variety of other uses as well. Bitters were originally marketed as a cure-all of sorts, for anything from headaches to indigestion, but soon found their place in alcoholic beverages. Just a few dashes can make all the difference in a cocktail. To quote Parsons: “Bitters are essentially a liquid seasoning agent for drinks and even food, and their frequent description as a bartender’s salt and pepper hits close to the mark.” Their presence is somewhat subtle, but leave them out and you’ll definitely notice that your drink seems a bit sweet, a little disjointed, or is just lacking that extra something.

The first round I made consisted of six varieties of bitters: apple, lemon, grapefruit, pear, root beer, and coffee pecan. Then as soon as spring hit and rhubarb started showing up on the shelves, I whipped up a batch of rhubarb bitters, and decided to throw together an orange one as well. Out of all eight varieties, the grapefruit, pear, and root beer are the stars in my opinion. (The pear took a little while to grow on me, but then summer hit and I discovered that it absolutely rocks in tequila.) The grapefruit is excellent in most drinks that usually include a little bit of lemon or lime juice/twists, as it adds some unexpected citrus notes that can only come from grapefruit. (I love adding a few drops to my gin & tonics.) And as far as the root beer batch goes, I can’t get past drinking it in soda water. In fact, I’d say that the vast majority of my bitters wind up in plain ol’ seltzer. If you’ve never tried this before, I highly recommend it. I drink it simply because I love the taste, but a glass of bitters & soda can do wonders for an upset tummy or after a particularly large meal.

Alright, enough of my blabbing, let’s talk about the giveaway! I have two sets of bitters up for grabs. Each set consists of eight 1-oz. bottles of pear, grapefruit, lemon, orange, rhubarb, root beer, apple, and coffee pecan bitters. Just leave a comment below telling me your favorite variety of bitters and your favorite way to use it (in a drink or otherwise). Or if you’re new to bitters, just tell me your favorite drink (as long as it isn’t the panty dropper). I’ll start things off with two of my favorites (the first of which is actually just something that I’m just super excited about and haven’t gotten around to trying yet):

  1. My 50-year-old bottle of Angostura bitters that I found at a flea market. As soon as I pick up a bottle of Pisco, it’s Pisco Sour with old Angostura time!
  2. The Bitter Truth’s Original Celery Bitters. Excellent in grapefruit juice. Astoundingly good in soup.

The giveaway will end this Sunday (the 29th) at midnight. Sadly, I do ask that only U.S. residents participate in the giveaway, as I’m not sure how well these little guys would fare in Customs. I will announce the winners Monday morning on Facebook, as well as in a follow-up post Monday or Tuesday evening. Good luck, everyone!

And for those of you that would like to try making your own bitters, here are a few tips from me:

If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Bitters. It is a wealth of information, ranging from history to recipes to cocktails to culinary uses.

Look into what sort of reasonably priced, high-proof spirits are available for purchase in your area. For U.S. residents, visit the Department of Liquor Control website for your state, or inquire at your local beverage center. You want to use alcohol that is at least 80-proof, but ideally 100-proof or higher. (The higher the alcohol content, the better the extraction.) For vodka-based bitters, a grain alcohol like Everclear is the way to go. It is 190-proof and dirt cheap, but its sale is also restricted in a number of states (Vermont being one of them). I was able to get a few bottles shipped to me through Budget Bottle. They will ID you on delivery, so it’s ideal to be home when the package is scheduled to be delivered (otherwise be prepared to pick it up later).

If you don’t have an herbalist in your area, you can order herbs online. I bought most of what I couldn’t find locally from the Dandelion Botanical Company (as I found their site had most of what I needed and was relatively user-friendly), but Tenzing Momo is another good vendor. If you aren’t familiar with buying herbs by weight, keep in mind that 1 or 2 oz. of something might not sound like a lot, but it will wind up being far more than you need.

If you need to purchase jars for steeping bitters or storing herbs, or bottles to bottle up the finished product, I highly recommend Specialty Bottle. I used their 32 oz. mason jars for steeping, their 4 oz. amber jars for storing herbs, and their 2 oz. amber dropper bottles for the finished product (and the 1 oz. version for the giveaway bottles). You do not want to go larger than 2 oz. for the dropper bottles. I originally ordered the 4 oz. bottles, but the droppers felt very flimsy. Considering how slowly most people use bitters, 2 oz. is more than adequate. I am also curious about the European dropper bottles, as I think their droppers might be similar to the dashers you would find on most store-bought varieties of bitters. (I just didn’t want to buy a bunch and find out I was wrong! If anyone has any insight on this, I would love to hear it.)

As far as labels go, I went pretty DIY with those since I am relatively savvy with design programs. I made mine in InDesign, printed them off from my home printer on basic label paper I bought from Staples, and then covered them with clear packing tape to keep the ink from running if it happened to get wet. (Like I said, pretty DIY.) If you don’t want to deal with all that, I hear good things about MOO, although I have not used them myself.

Filtering is key, and also kind of a pain in the @$$. Parsons’s recipes call for straining the solids out of the alcohol after 2 weeks, then covering them in a pan with water, letting them simmer, then placing those in a separate jar and allowing them to steep for another week. The solids + water + heat yields a pretty cloudy mixture, and filtration can be a bit tedious. For the first round of bitters, I spent ALL day filtering those things. I ran them through butter muslin (very fine cheesecloth), then I ran them through paper coffee filters over and over until I was satisfied with the clarity. (They usually backed up in the paper filters, so I wound up carefully stirring them for a bit, then gently squeezing them to coax the liquid through. If I didn’t do so with the utmost care, the filter would pop and I’d have to grab a new one and start over.) Once I was happy with the clarity, I combined the alcohol and the water-based mixture back together, then added the sweetener and let them sit for a couple more days as directed. Parsons’s notes that you should skim off anything that congeals and rises to the top after the sweetened mixture has sat for a few days, but nothing congealed in my first batches. In the second round when I made the rhubarb and orange, however, I was much lazier about filtering before adding the sweetener. As a result, I wound up with a lot of weird gunk that needed to be removed (especially in the rhubarb batch). And so, my suggestion to you is to filter, filter, filter before adding the sweetener. I would recommend buying a flat-bottomed gold filter like this one. (Make sure it also has the filter mesh on the bottom — some do not.) Get the solids out by running them through a cheesecloth-lined sieve first, and then run the remaining liquid through your gold filter a few times. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can also run it through a paper filter for good measure. Alternatively, Science Fare‘s Kevin Liu has a great poston Alcademics that discusses using an Aeropress for filtration. (I would love to buy an Aeropress and give this method a try, as it seems more effective and less tedious than coaxing liquid through a gold filter.) Either way, the more you can clarify the liquid, the better.

If you ever decide to experiment with concocting your own bitters recipes, do your research and/or consult an herbalist. (This is very important for spirits that will be consumed in greater quantities, like DIY vermouths/apéritifs/digestifs or other liquor infusions, but it’s wise to exercise caution with bitters as well, even if you’re only adding a few dashes to things here and there.) The extracts of a number of barks and herbs can have adverse health effects when consumed in large doses. Granted, it will usually take quite a lot for some of these effects to manifest, but it’s still important to know what you’re working with, regardless of the quantity you plan to consume. I realized this shortly after I completed the first round of bitters and brought them to a friend’s cocktail party, where a number of herbalists also happened to be in attendance. When they excitedly asked me what I’d used to make the bitters, it caught me rather off guard. I stared at them blankly for a few seconds, trying to remember what — besides the obvious — had gone into each batch, and then stumbled over the names of handful of herbs and barks that I was actually able to recall. They then went on to recount various bitters and tinctures they had created for specific reasons, and why they’d used particular ingredients for each, as I listened and though to myself, “oh yeah, these ingredients actually do things . . . duh.” So, in short, just keep in mind that there’s a reason these things started out as medicinal extracts, and that people still go to school to learn about them today.

I hope some of you will find this useful! (I think this is the longest post I have ever written, by far.) If anyone has any tips of their own, please share. I would love to hear them.

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Comments

  1. Matt says

    I love using bitters when I bake pies. Whether it be to enhance my apple pie or to emphasize the rhubarb flavor in a strawberry rhubarb, which is usually forgotten. While I do look bitters in baking I do of course love using it in my drinks to create new drinks in my home

  2. Ashley Rogers says

    I have a very fond liking for all variations of bitters, including eclectic mixtures that can greatly improve my libations. I’m also mesmerized by apothecaries. I’m sort-of a natural witch, so naturally, they appeal to me. I’m also quite the mixologist myself, interested in fusing various liquors with fruits and herbs, there is nothing more satisfying that concocting your own creation and watching other’s enjoy it; it brings a me utter joy and satisfaction to no bounds. I also find Petite kitchenesse an inspiration as she has followed her dreams and talents and are sharing them with us. For that, I Thank you, and wish you the best and keep up the culinary greatness! Slainte! Cheers! Salud! Prost! – Ashley

  3. Sara says

    Well to be honest with you, I had never heard of
    a bitter! However I like to try new things and this
    sounds yummy!

  4. Scot says

    I tended bar in pool halls to get through college. After doing that for years I rarely drink. When I do drink I usually will have coffee and Bailey’s Irish Cream, a Rusty Nail, or the occasional Colorado Bulldog. Ever try a Rusty Nail? Its made of Scotch and Drambuie(a Scotch/honey/herb based liqueur), add a drop or two of orange bitters, some ice and you have a drink you can sip all evening. It is really something you should try if you like complex flavors.

  5. Jen Barry says

    I have never tried bitters, but I adore rootbeer, so I’m in. I tend to like the fruitier drinks, so my favorite is frozen concentrate pink lemonade (the sour kind with the pulp) mixed with coconut rum. Mmmmm….. so good!!!

  6. Scot says

    By the way, if you order a Rusty Nail, make sure they use a REALLY GOOD, top shelf, single malt scotch. Ask for Glenfiddich or Glenlivet 15 year old. Please forgive me for being crude but screw the blended scotches. Blended scotches are just a crap excuse for watering down a great scotch with inferior other scotches.
    Life is too short to drink bad liquors.

    • Ashley Rogers says

      Scot, you are absolutely correct and I applaud you for knowing the difference. I’m actually scottish and me gran used to drink only the finest Scotch and I’ve had the pleasure of tasting a few very exquisite single malt’s of my own. Macallan 15 year is probably one of my favourites. I had the opportunity to taste a Glendronach 38 yr. old and it was the smoothest scotch neat I had EVER savored and I mean… truly savored. Also, a typical Macallan 20 yr or 15 yr will usually do the job quite nicely. What can I say… I love my scotch. And I’ve had a Rusty Nail a few times, they are quite a palate pleaser. Cheers!

      • says

        I usually avoid commenting on giveaways because I worry that I’ll get confused when counting, but both of you guys are awesome and now that cross-commenting is going on, I can’t resist! I’ve actually never had a Rusty Nail, but I will definitely make it a point to try one in the near future. I love me some gin and tequila, but I’m still testing the waters with scotches and bourbons, so the recommendations are greatly appreciated. (My boyfriend is a Glenlivet guy, but he usually doesn’t share!) :) Cheers to you both!!

          • says

            Guys..don’t totally diss the blends, there are some really good ones out there…look up Great King Street from Compass Box..a cracking drop. A lot of folks dismiss blends as inferior, yup sure there are crap ones…but here are crap single malts too ;) A good blender can create a symphony from malt and grain….and speaking of grain…a nice aged grain whisky can be absolutely stunning. Mmm..getting a drouth as I write this :) Enjoying reading this thread…very interesting!!

  7. says

    I’ve heard of bitters but I don’t really know what they or nor have I had them.

    My favorite drink is an amaretto sour. I love them! I am a huge fan of a drink that doesn’t taste boozy but will knock you on your butt!

    The grapefruit bitters sounds amazing!

  8. Claudia says

    I don’t really know about bitters, but they sound amazing in a little seltzer water. Your bottles are beautiful!

  9. Georgette says

    I’m a bit of a traditionalist, so I’d have to go with a Manhattan in a chilly cocktail glass using The Bitter Truth’s “Old Time Aromatic Bitters”. We got is as a part of the traveler’s set. I like mine with A LOT of whiskey (drool), sweet vermouth, and this awesome bitter that has flavors of cinnamon and cardamon. It’s like a hug on a chilly night! I like your idea of just using it in fizzy water for flavor. I have a SodaStream but don’t like their line of syrups (super fake and gross tasting…).

  10. Olivia says

    I’m relatively new to bitters, but I do love gin & tonics; your grapefruit bitters sound like they would only enhance the experience. All of your varieties sound AMAZING, though.

  11. Bailey says

    I studied abroad in Australia, and got hooked on Lemon Lime and Bitters sodas. Aside from that, I don’t venture into bitters much… However, my go-to drink is a classic Gin and Tonic, so venturing may have to begin.

  12. says

    so in college i bartended at this little pub. most of our clientele were older, college professors. there was this one professor who used to share stories with me about all of the different kinds of bitters he used to make and the drinks he would serve them in. i wish now that i would have written them all down!! i am a for sure drink experimenter (i don’t have 1 go-to drink, i am a fan of many!) and i would love to try out these bitters in a variety of ways!!

  13. Andrea says

    Born and raised in Buenos Aires – Argentina bitters are part of our culture, we mostly use Angostura or some brand beverages with and without alcohol.
    The way I like them most is with club soda, super refreshing in South Florida’s heat.
    I really like the bottles they came in and the play with light/shadows in the pictures.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

  14. Rita says

    I’ve heard of bitters a lot but never actually personally used them. I would love to get my hands on some though to spice up my many baking adventures as well as my new drink adventures (just turned 21!!!). My favorite way so far of using bitters is drinking them in an Old Fashioned – my favorite drink.

  15. eve says

    I’m relatively new to bitters, but love how they bring depth to a sugary drink, even if it’s just juice & seltzer. Recent fave is the Ruby Jack from Stanton Social in NYC – Jack Daniels, pomegranate juice, lemon simple syrup and peach bitters.

  16. starre says

    I have some blood orange bitters that I use in my margaritas. This is the coolest giveaway I’ve ever seen. I am so buying that book on Bitters. I have a fondness for old bottles and such. years ago at a flea market I found old apothecary jars with labels from a drug store in Wyo. I have them displayed in my kitchen with whole spices and teas. They have been with me through many moves. Any hobby that involves bottles with droppers and I’m in.

  17. Brian says

    I’m a huge fan of a classic old fashioned, heavy on the bourbon, light on the soda, and heavy on a really good orange bitter. Would love to win these and try some different uses.

  18. Danielle says

    I’ve never tried bitters, but I really want to and understand what all the hype is about! My go-to drink is the gin rickey…I need to start being more adventurous, I think.

  19. Nocona says

    I have never had my own personal jar of bitters, but I adore the thought of having those beautiful bottles on hand to use when my guests request a fun cocktail. I have however used a few drops with a spoonfull of sugar to rid hiccups. It worked like a charm!

  20. Allison says

    I love a good ginger mojito, with homemade ginger mint simple syrup. I’ve been wanting to try some authentic tiki recipes, from the 30s and 40s, a lot of which call for different types of bitters!

  21. Andrea says

    The bitters look lovely! The pear and root beer sound so creative and unique.

    I recently came across some chocolate bitters, which I gave as a gift to a friend. At home for myself, I just have some tried & true blood orange bitters. Just the thing for my Manhattans.

  22. sarah says

    One of my favorite ways to use my own homemade Sour Orange Bitters is with Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Luxardo, and a little dry vermouth in the perfect Brooklyn Cocktail. yum…

  23. says

    I am relatively a novice to using bitters at home aside from angostura bitters for my pretty much nightly old fashioned and peychaud’s bitters for the occasional sazerac. I have mint and grapefruit bitters I am still messing around with. However, I found a recipe for a margharita that asked for tequila, simple syrup, lime juice and orange bitters. I kinda never want a margharita any other way now.

  24. Eric says

    My favorite bitters are Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters by Bittercube; a few drops added to some blended scotch and Drambuie makes for a wonderful sipper! I’ve also recently become a big fan of the Bitters book. I picked it up on a recent trip to Seattle and within 30 minutes was standing at one of the few places in the USA where you can find a large selection of bitters; DeLaurenti Specialty Wine and Food at the Pike Place Market. I have actually just started to steep a test batch of my own apple pie bitters and would be privileged to try you variation on apple bitters!

  25. says

    Homemade bitters varietals? Sign me up! I normally just use the standard angostura bitters, but I can definitely imagine how the subtleties of these different bitterses could pep up a simple gin & tonic–not to mention more complex cocktails. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  26. says

    Oh wow… yeah. I did college in Albany NY as well. I remember all that.. and Fountain Day. Those were… days.
    But my fave bitters are: 1) I will second your Bitter Truth Celery Bitters, but for my Bloody Marys. 2) BT Orange Bitters in my vesperesque Lillet+Gin cocktails.

    • says

      Fountain Day! Wow, I think I actually managed to block that wondrous event from my mind, though it certainly deserved a mention in my college rant . . . good grief. A friend of mine was in class one Fountain Day when some wasted guy stumbled by and decided to chuck the slice of pizza he had through the open window. It hit a poor girl right in the face.

      I think The Bitter Truth makes some of the best bitters around. Their Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters are stellar, especially for making a straight up pink gin. :)

      • says

        I’ll have to give that a try as I very much dig gin. I remember the fountain day where a frosh was interviewed by the TV station and said “We have a saying here in Albany, when the sun’s out you drink.” A bunch of students went to the hospital as well. I always ended up with the profs who had quizes and tests on that day, and I was enough of a nerd to take it seriously. Heh.

        • says

          Oy, yup. I think that might have been the same Fountain Day that caused them to instate some much-needed restrictions for subsequent years (like not being allowed into the festivities unless you had UAlbany ID, since kids were actually traveling to Albany from other colleges to party!). I remember seeing a video a year or two ago of a ton of drunken idiots down on Hudson St. on St. Paddy’s Day just vandalizing cars and trashing the street. The video made it on the news, and the dean cancelled that year’s Fountain Day as punishment. Bwahahahahaha.

  27. Karin says

    I’ve honestly never heard of using bitters in anything but beverages. I’m going to have to try a few of the suggestions above. I do love me a good mixed drink tho!

  28. Megan says

    I love bitters! My boyfriend and I always experiment using different kinds in different cocktails. I never thought to use them for cooking or baking though. Should be fun!!

  29. meredith says

    I love lemon lime spritzers – the rootbeer bitter sounds so yummy!!! Thank you for the opportunity – fingers crossed!

  30. Mack says

    I love bitters! I recently tried these Jamaican jerk bitters that were super spicy, they’re awesome in tiki drinks!

  31. Catherine says

    I’ve never had any bitters to use in cocktails at home, but I’m a big fan of Bloody Marys and Manhattans. Two friends and I went to the Meadows in Portland to buy some gourmet salts, and tasted many of their large variety of bitters. I don’t remember the brands, but was quite intrigued by celery bitters for my Bloody Marys, rhubarb because I love rhubarb, and orange for everything! Alas, I only came home with black truffle sea salt.

  32. bruin says

    i don’t know much about bitters either but i’m always up for a kitchen project and i *adore* root beer!

  33. Sid says

    Hmm..lets see. I personally love a dash of Orange Bitters in an old-fashioned. And only recently came across celery bitters.
    And try this – stick a green chilli (taking care to remove the seeds first) in 90 ml of vodka and place in freezer for 20 – 30 mins or so. Dont leave it for a few hours – trust me on this! Then remove chilli, add ice & unsweetend orange juice (like a regular screwdriver) with a little Angostura or even lemon bitters. I call it the South Indian Screwdriver…

  34. Matt says

    Chocolate chipotle bitters-

    I first tried using them in a Manhattan with bacon bourbon, you’d think it’d be good, but there was just too much going on with the bitters and the bourbon and bacon and it didn’t quite work out.

    That got refined down to a Manhattan with the bitters and rye in place of the bourbon- bit more of a winter drink than a summer drink though with the “warm” flavors

  35. says

    What a fantastic giveaway! You pretty much nailed it when you talked about bad first experiences with cocktails. I know what you mean about the fascination–I don’t drink tons of cocktails, but I find the topic fascinating and have been thinking about buying Bitters for some time now, in fact. Now with your recommendation, I may finally take the plunge. Thanks again, and I’m crossing my fingers…

  36. says

    the only reason i’ve had bitters was with a hugely horrid case of hiccups, and bitters on a lime slice worked wonders, but as i glean thru recipes i’ve come across the use of bitters. would love to have the chance to try before i buy. have most of the herbs already if i want to make me own. i also love a wonderful scotch to sip on occasionally.

  37. Carol Meadows says

    Add me to the giveaway list. I’m becoming intrigued by bitters and making my own. I made a mean manhatten from the Old Mr Boston book when I was my dad’s ‘bartender’ in the 50′s. I like the idea of just a spritzer to really appreciate the taste of the bitters.

  38. says

    oh, i love bitters! i have never thought about making them myself but may have to tackle that in the future. would love to try what you have whipped up!
    xo

    e

  39. Kate says

    Great giveaway! I always fall back on my Manhattan addiction with Angostura bitters and extra sweet vermouth. Haven’t experimented with making my own bitters, but I LOVE infusing my liquor cabinet with local fruit and veggies. Part of my farm share has even ended up floating in vodka and bourbon.

  40. Alex says

    Never used to like bitters, until I had a home-made bacon old fashioned at a bacon themed party. Orange bitters of course… Smokey, sweet, yet refreshing. Great drink!

  41. Andrew Welton says

    I also love mixing bitters with soda water, and I’ll often throw in half a lemon, and sometimes a dash of raspberry syrup or a frozen strawberry for color and a hint of sweetness. I like it that Angostura with a lemon tastes a lot like Coke, but without all the sugar and other nasties.

    I’ve been meaning to make my own bitters for a while. I tried once, but I couldn’t get the flavors balanced, and I’m still on my library’s wait list for Parson’s book. I’ll be coming back to read your tips more closely when I try again!

    My favorite cocktail has got to be the Manhattan, with a good rye (equal parts Delaware Phoenix’s baby rye + Dolin vermouth has been my favorite of late) and Peychaud’s bitters (or lately, Reagan’s orange). But there’s nothing like an old fashioned for bringing out the different effects of different bitters (Laphroaig with Peychaud’s and raw brown sugar is fantastic).

  42. Rohan says

    Bitters have always intrigued me but I have never known how to fully appreciate the complex flavors locked inside them.. I have had a bottle of Angostura bitters for years that I have occasionally splashed in a Gin and Tonic or a Manhattan. I look forward to following your blog and learning more about bitters. Cheers!!

  43. says

    My partner & I have been into infusing our own liqueurs and creating unique cocktail recipes for quite some time, and so naturally we decided to try making bitters! The result was definitely bitter, but more watered down than concentrated, making it more of a digestif than a sparing additive.

    I’m excited to try celery and rhubarb bitters!

  44. Paul says

    Just started getting into homemade ginger simple syrup and trying different soda and mixed drinks. Pulled out an old bottle of angostura bitters because one of the drinks called for “bitters”. Thought there might be a couple of bitters, Didn’t even think there were a whole cadre of possibilities. Thanks for the blog and giveaway. Looking forward to learning more.

  45. Mac says

    How fascinating. I rarely read an entire blog, but yours pulled me right in. We do have an occasional drink, but I’m no expert mixer, by any means. I am, however, very interested in how drinks are mixed, and this is something I might just have to try my hand at. Thank you so much for sharing.

  46. tina says

    ahhh… bitters…

    i grew up with it and still love it today!
    bitters and soda with lemon has saved me many a nights in the bar! always having to hold a drink can lead to, well… being drunk… but this yummy concoction is so much better than a hangover!

    recently i had an amazing margarita with fresh grapefruit juice and housemade grapefruit bitters. how much yummier can it get?

    looking forward to trying more flavors!!!

  47. amy says

    an old fashioned is one of my favorite cocktails and i would love to try one made with the root beer bitters!
    i bet the pear one would go nicely with some bloody mary mix too.

  48. Lisa says

    Thank you for this post! I tried bitters for the first time last year at a raw foods restaurant in a cocktail. It involved apple cider, lemon juice, some 10 year alcohol, aged barrel bitters, angostura, and cubes of iced black tea. Both my husband and I were astounded at the flavor. It prompted me to look up bitters, which I find fascinating!

  49. Sara Passman says

    I love a drink I discovered at a local bar, the Bourgeois Pig, called the Orange Buck. It’s orange-infused vodka, fresh orange juice, seltzer and orange bitters topped with a Luxardo cherry and an orange slice. It looks and tastes like the greatest orange soda that ever existed. The bitters give it a flowery, herbal flavor that keeps it from being too sweet and cloying.

  50. Sara Passman says

    Oh! And after that, I bought my own orange bitters and I made a bacon old-fashioned. I fat-washed a mason jar of bourbon with bacon grease, and used it along with maple syrup and the bitters. I topped it with an orange twist and a piece of candied bacon.

  51. says

    Hi Carey,

    Amazing post – I can’t believe you got so far with making bitters in such a short time. I’ve collected many of the same ingredients you mention and would love to discuss some of the technical aspects more if you have time.

    Question: have you tried using glycerin? Definitely interested in the different extraction characteristics, but haven’t found an easy source to get the raw product.

    One quick tip – many home bitters makers use a buchner funnel because other filtration methods are such a pain. I use an aeropress coffee maker with a jury-rigged 1-micron oil filter hacked into it. Great results with herbs and spices, simple, and fast.

    As for my favorite use for bitters – I’d have to go with the Peychaud’s in a Sazerac.

    • says

      Thanks, Kevin! I’m so glad you reminded me about your aeropress filtration method. (I’d actually thought to include it when I first began to organize the post in my mind, but then I started writing and it turned into the longest post ever. I was so mentally exhausted by the time I got to the filtration part the I completely forgot! I will definitely add that in.)

      I am curious about glycerin, although I haven’t had a chance to experiment with it yet. I have read that the extraction you get from glycerin is not as good as what you’d get from a high-proof alcohol, but I’ve also read that alcohol and glycerin extract different things. So one may have a benefit over the other depending on ingredients and what you’re looking for in the final product. I will say that I’m a bit wary of it due to the fact that it is somewhat sweet on its own. That’s not so bad when you’re using plenty of other strong ingredients, but I think it could be problematic when it comes to subtler flavors. (Fee Brothers, for example, makes glycerin-based bitters. I was so excited to get my hands on a bottle of their Rhubarb Bitters, but it has since sat untouched since the first day I tried it. It’s overly sweet, in a children’s medicine kind of way. On the other hand, I love their Old Fashion Bitters, which have a lot more going on flavor-wise.)

      If you’d like to chat more, feel free to email me! I’m gearing up to start a few more batches, and it’s always good to have some extra inspiration. :)

  52. says

    This is so fascinating. I have really been wanting to learn more about cocktails lately – I don’t have a clue when it comes to bitters yet, but I recently experimented my way into a meyer lemon / rosemary / honey syrup for making a drink with gin that I like to call the Fat Betty.

    Thanks for taking the time to share so much! I know when it comes to technical things like this people tend to point to articles on more informational sites, but it’s always nice to hear things explained from a more familiar voice.

    EM/H

    • says

      Oh lordy, how I love lemon + rosemary + honey syrup!! (A.k.a., magic gin vanishing syrup.) Another syrup that’s great with gin is grapefruit + thyme + agave. :)

  53. says

    Oh wow, loving this post. It occurs to me that the infusions I make in my 190 proof organic grain and grape alcohol for natural perfume are basically bitters. Can’t wait to try them out in drinks and food, what a fabulous idea. Thanks so much!

    • says

      Thanks, Roxana! That’s so true — they’re essentially the same thing, just minus the sweetener. And I am now pondering the idea of using my bitters as perfume, although the sugary component might make that less than ideal. Still….they smell so good. :)

  54. Grace says

    Congrats on your new venture! The coffee pecan and rhubarb sound intriguing. My favorite bitters are Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters in a cocktail of my own creation which I named the Neon Rose: 1.5 oz. gin (a nice clean one like Beefeater or Plymouth, not crazy on the botanicals), .5oz Cocchi Americano, a couple healthy dashes of the bitters. Stir with ice for 30 seconds, strain into a perfectly frozen small martini glass, garnish with flaming orange twist. One mighty fine cocktail! Obviously, I’m a little biased =)

  55. Hettar7 says

    I’ve heard of and been interested in Bitters before, but I didn’t really know that you could make it yourself. Makes me want to get the ingredients and start concocting.

    • says

      It’s so much fun! Especially in the winter, when there isn’t much else to do except spend all day monopolizing the kitchen. (Which I say as a non-skier/boarder living in the northeast.) :)

  56. says

    I am quite fascinated about bitters lately and your post is really helpful. Thanks also for the recommendation on the books. You are the first post I’ve read who actually have book recommendation on this.

    • says

      I’m so glad that this is helpful! (I really went all-out with my tips, since I learned a lot from diving head-first into the process.) Definitely check out some/all of the books–they’re awesome resources! :)

  57. eve says

    I just wanted to tell you that I’ve been having a great time experimenting with your bitters, mostly to enhance a cocktail (grapefruit bitters in a classic margarita). My latest concoction has been the best – rye whiskey, hibiscus syrup, meyer lemon juice and a big dropperful of your rhubarb bitters. Thanks so much for the opportunity to play!

  58. Matthew says

    Love your site–just found it tonight. I am new to bitters and look forward to trying more in the future.
    so far I enjoy everyone I have tried– Celery bitters in a bloody mary is good–
    Would like to make a rosemary bitters–prob for a gin and tonic

    • says

      Thank you, Matthew! Rosemary bitters would be lovely (especially in a G&T). I’m working on putting together some smokey bitters now using smoked cardamom pods. I think they’re going to be awesome. :)

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  1. [...] Homemade bitters (Petite Kitchenesse). [...]

  2. [...] cocktails unique. I tampered with the idea of making my own bitters (after reading articles such as this one and several books from the library) but the ingredients were obscure and I never did get around to [...]

  3. [...] found Reclaiming Provincial when searching for bitters recipes. If I could choose to get a drink with any blogger out there, it would be Carey. That girl [...]

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