For as long as the cocktail has existed, bitters have played their role as a critical ingredient.
The right bitter can transform a cocktail from ordinary to extraordinary, and creating your own bitters can make that transformation even more magical.
The most significant benefit to making your own bitters, as with any home-made bar ingredient, is control. Not only can you adjust which flavorings and additives you’re working with, but you can also be sure of exactly what’s going into your cocktails. This versatility allows you to create specific flavors for the exact products you use ” consider the potential of bitters perfectly crafted for your house spirits. You can perfectly match your bitters’ notes to the notes of your whiskey and etc.
As customers return to bars and restaurants, there are a few trends to expect that custom ingredients like bitters can help you take advantage of sales opportunities. To start, after so long at home, consumers are looking for the spectacle of hospitality; having a collection of house-made cocktail enhancers will help build up the performance behind the bar. Second, with so many consumers becoming their own bartender ” custom bitters will keep them surprised. The average consumer spent the last year learning about cocktails and how to make their bar favorites, they understand how bitters transform a drink, and they’re ready to try (and spend) on new and inventive takes they can’t make at home.
If you’re not looking for a DIY solution, there are countless Bitters brands of all sizes creating unique flavor ranges. Along with the classics like Angostura and The Bitter Truth, there are countless other small makers building out weird and interesting new bitters blends. Even if you make you’re own, it’s worth looking into the varieties on the market as a first step in flavor research and development!
Choosing what flavors to work with is probably the hardest part of making your own bitters! There are a few ways to plan your palette; one is to start with the spirit you’ll be working with, consider its notes and what flavors would complement and strengthen it. Alternatively, start by creating something unique, and then you can create a cocktail based on your brew.
What you need:
- Two Sterilized* 1-Quart Jars
- High-Proof Spirit
- Herbs, Spices, Fruit Peels, Roots and any other flavorings
Start by combining all of your spices and flavorings in one of your sterilized jars, cover with spirits, and let sit for about two weeks. During this time, you will shake the jar to agitate the mix daily. After two weeks, use a cheesecloth and a strainer to strain the spirits into a clean jar and seal. Add the solids to a small pot with water and heat; once hot, put the entire mixture back into a jar and let both jars sit for another week.
Once enough time has elapsed, strain both your spirits and water into a container together using cheesecloth to remove as much sediment as possible. If the mixture looks cloudy, strain again. Next, sweeten the mix to your liking using either a rich simple syrup, molasses, maple syrup, or even honey. Once sweetened, let the mixture sit for three more days. Finally, if desired, move to sterilized dropper bottles and get mixing!
*Although you’ll be working with a high-proof alcohol (usually Vodka or Whiskey), it’s always a good idea to take the extra time to sterilize any jars and lids you’ll be using to store product. There’s nothing worse than waiting on steeping a long product like bitter only to find that it’s been spoiled by mold or bacteria.