Recipe: Homemade Bitters

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For this recipe, you shouldn't use a vodka brand that you wouldn't drink straight. For the bitters blend, I soak the ingredients for two days (you can taste the bitterness when its ready). For the aromatic blend, I soak things for 10 days and then cook the ingredients for a few minutes in water, after removing them from the alcohol. I then add them back to the alcohol and let the mixture sit for another five days to squeeze out the last drops of flavor.

You can order the herbs and spices online at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Basic Aromatic Blend

    • 2 tablespoons dried orange peel
    • 1 tablespoon dried lemon peel
    • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
    • 1 tablespoon caraway powder
    • 1 tablespoon anise seed powder
    • 1 tablespoon cassia bark
    • 25 ounces vodka

Macerate ingredients in the vodka for 10 days.

Remove ingredients from the vodka and cook them in five ounces of water for a few minutes. Then return them to the vodka and allow to macerate for an additional five days before straining.

Basic Bitter Blend

    • 1 tablespoon each of gentian root, dandelion, and quassia bark
    • ½ tablespoon wormwood
    • 1 cup of vodka or other high-proof spirit

Macerate the spices for 48 hours in the spirits.

Remove the solid ingredients, cook them in five ounces of water for a few minutes, and return them to the blend and allow to sit for an additional 48 hours.

Final Step:

Blend the above infusions at preferred ratios, adding flavoring agents, caramel, water, and sugar as desired. You can make flavoring agents by steeping fruits, spices, or other aromatics in alcohol or by making a syrup, such as by cooking fruit with sugar and water.

To read Derek's article about making bitters and adapting this recipe to meet your own flavor preferences, click here.

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Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
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