Entrepreneur. Cocktail and spirit champion. Old world wine provocateur.
Anyone who has ever had a Manhattan without Angostura Bitters knows the value of that little bottle. Those magical drops can add depth, flavor and balance to your cocktails. Most people are probably familiar with Peychaud, Angostura, and Regans Orange, the most popular brands of bitters and the most vital to a few of the classic cocktails.
But these days, there are all sorts of bitters out there. The good folks at Fee Brothers have a whole boatload of flavors including grapefruit rhubarb, peach and more. And nowadays you can find numerous other brands over at Cocktail Kingdom.
While most of these bitters have their place at the bar (you’ll run into a few that aren’t worth your time or attention), the best way to make a unique cocktail is to make bitters on your own. It’s easy and fun and it will add depth and flavor combinations that are unique to your drinks.
The most difficult item to procure when making your own bitters is the bittering agent. To make this a bit easier on you, here are a few options you can use. My bittering agents of choice are wormwood and bitter orange peel, although you have a lot of options, including:
Milk Thistle Seed
Bitter Orange Peel
Bitter Lemon Peel
The best place to find these ingredients is often at a homebrew store. The ingredients are common for beer brewing, so you can often find these items in stock and ready for you. If you live in or around the Annapolis/Baltimore/Washington DC area, check out Annapolis Homebrew.
Here is a basic recipe for orange bitters to get you started.6 oz high proof vodka or grain alcohol 6 tsp orange peel, chopped 1.5 oz ginger peel, chopped 1/2 cinnamon stick 5 whole cloves 1.5 tsp bitter orange peel
Take the vodka or grain alcohol and add the bitter orange peel. Seal it and let it sit for two days. After two days, strain out the bitter orange peel and discard.
Add the remaining ingredients to the liquid (which should have a nice bitter kick to it), seal it up and leave it in a dark corner for 10 – 14 days. Strain everything out and you have yourself some flavorful, complex orange bitters!
After the 14 day rest period, you can continue to add flavors to your bitters. If you want more orange, add more orange. If you like that spice and cinnamon flavor, leave the cinnamon stick and cloves in the liquid longer. This is a flexible process and that is the great part about making your own bitters.