Creating Signature Bitters

Bitter Book - Making Your Own Bitters

Behind any great cocktail bar these days is a large assortment of bitters, from orange and celery to spicy mole.

While you can now buy a wide range of these artisanal products, many bartenders make their own tinctures from an array of obscure herbs and exotic spices.

But you don’t have to be a mixologist (or scientist, for that matter) to brew your own bitters. We asked Brad Thomas Parsons, author of the exhaustive new book Bitters, which will be released on Nov. 1, for tips and recipes.

Some of his favorite bitters call for fall classics cinnamon and allspice. “A couple drops can totally change a drink,” says Parsons. “It’s a liquid, alcoholic spice.”

So to get you started on your DIY odyssey, try making Parsons’ Apple Bitters or Pear Bitters, which work well with brown spirits. A few dashes instead of traditional Angostura can turn an Old Fashioned autumnal.

Wondering where to pick up all those strange ingredients you’ll need? If you can’t find them locally, Parsons suggests checking out Dandelion Botanical Company and Kalustyan’s. Thankfully, you can order online, and both ship to anywhere in the US.

Apple Bitters

Contributed by Brad Thomas Parsons

INGREDIENTS:

  • Peels from 6 medium to large (preferably organic) apples
  • Zest of half a lemon, cut into strips
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • .5 tsp Allspice berries
  • .25 tsp Coriander
  • .5 tsp Cassia chips
  • .5 tsp Chinchona bark
  • 4 Cloves
  • 2 cups High-proof bourbon
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Rich simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water)

PROCEDURE:
Place the apple peels, lemon zest, cinnamon, allspice, coriander, cassia, chinchona bark and cloves in a 1-quart Mason jar or other glass container with a lid. Add the bourbon, making sure all the ingredients are covered. (Add more bourbon if needed.) Seal, and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 2 weeks, shaking once a day. Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a clean 1-quart jar, squeezing the cheesecloth to release any excess liquid. Seal the jar and set aside.

Transfer the solids to a small saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Add the contents of the saucepan to another 1-quart Mason jar, seal and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight, for 1 week, shaking once a day. Strain through cheesecloth until all solids have been removed and add the liquid to the bourbon mixture. Add the rich simple syrup and shake to combine. Let stand for 3 days and strain through cheesecloth again to remove any debris. The bitters will last indefinitely, but for best flavor use within 1 year.

Pear Bitters

Contributed by Brad Thomas Parsons
INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Bartlett pears, cored and coarsely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon, cut into strips
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • .25 tsp Allspice berries
  • .25 tsp Black peppercorns
  • .5 tsp Chinchona bark
  • .25 tsp Callamus root
  • 4 Cloves
  • 1 Vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped out (use both seeds and pod)
  • 1 (3-inch) piece Fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups High-proof vodka
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water)

PROCEDURE:
Place the pear, lemon zest, cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, chinchona bark, callamus root, cloves, vanilla and ginger in a 1-quart Mason jar or other glass container with a lid. Add the vodka, making sure all the ingredients are covered. (Add more vodka if needed.) Seal, and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 2 weeks, shaking once a day. Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a clean 1-quart jar, squeezing the cheesecloth to release any excess liquid. Seal the jar and set aside.

Transfer the solids to a small saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Add the contents of the saucepan to another 1-quart Mason jar, seal and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight, for 1 week, shaking once a day. Strain through cheesecloth until all solids have been removed and add the liquid to the vodka mixture. Add the rich simple syrup and shake to combine. Let stand for 3 days and strain through cheesecloth again to remove any debris. The bitters will last indefinitely, but for best flavor use within 1 year.

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Comments

  1. How high is “high proof”? I something like Wild Turkey 101 good enough or do we have to go higher?

  2. High proof like Everclear – at least that’s what I’ve read in my research.

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