As Tom mentioned in our post about the bitters-heavy Seelbach cocktail, we’ve really been getting into trying different kinds of bitters and experimenting with the way they work with different drinks. When we first decided to branch out our bitters collection, we discovered that most of the bitters stocked by our local markets were laden with food coloring and other artificial ingredients. Luckily, we were able to buy a variety of natural and organic bitters online. However, this also gave us the idea to try making our own.
When I started looking around at bitters recipes, I discovered they were mostly a mix of herbs and spices (with at least one bittering agent) steeped in grain alcohol. So, for our first batch of bitters, I decided that rather than following an established recipe, I would make my own, based on a mixture of herbs that I already knew very well. These are the herbs that I use to make a tea when I’m sick; I figured they were also appropriate because many of the original bitters recipes were used for medicinal purposes.
- licorice root
- dried peppermint leaves
- dried sage
- dried lemongrass
- eucalyptus leaves
- cayenne pepper
I got all the herbs at Herbiary in Reading Terminal Market, which is an added bonus because all the herbs are certified organic. I used Everclear for my grain alcohol, since it is flavorless and high proof; it is available at some Pennsylvania state stores, though sometimes not in the section one would expect (I’d expect to find it with the vodka, but one time we found it shelved with the bourbon).
I put all the ingredients in a mason jar, agitated the mixture daily for 2 weeks, then strained it through a coffee filter. We bought some dropper bottles from The Boston Shaker and used those to bottle it. We were pleased with how it turned out, though I’m not sure how effective the licorice root was as a bittering agent; next time I might add some quassia chips and/or gentian root to see how much of a difference it would make to the flavor.
We described this batch of bitters to our favorite bartender, and he said “sounds like that’ll cure what ails ya,” so we decided to call them Healing Bitters. I actually used them quite a bit with green tea when I was feeling under the weather, and found the result quite soothing.
Initially we weren’t quite sure how to use them in a cocktail, but our friends over at Rex 1516 came up with a lovely cocktail, the “Pan’s Elemental,” using our bitters along with rum, lime juice, and cardamaro.