Homemade Bitters Update

We’ve made many more batches of bitters since our post last summer about our first batch of bitters, so we’re long overdue for an update.

Our next batch was citrus bitters, based on the Regan’s Orange Bitters No.5 recipe, but with clementines and tangerines as the citrus, and few variations on the spices that make up the aromatics. It was fun to watch the color and flavor develop, knowing that the ingredients we used were all natural. These have turned out to be popular among friends and family, so I continue to make a few batches every winter when citrus is in season. These are great in a manhattan or an old-fashioned cocktail.

Citrus bitters

My most exciting bitters, in my opinion, have come to be known as my signature, or “Holly” bitters. They are a little Christmas-y due to cinnamon and warm spices, though that was not my original intent. The key ingredient in Holly bitters is unsulphured dried apricots from a local farm, Highland Orchards. After being steeped in alcohol, the apricots become delightfully caramely. These bitters are fairly versatile but work nicely in bourbon-based drinks.

Making “Holly” Bitters

Starting with last fall and continuing into this year, I’ve started making celery bitters, using fresh celery from the local farmers’ markets in the brief window that they’re in season. I prefer very leafy celery, as I like to use equal parts leaf and stalk. Heather Rodkey at Rex 1516 composed a lovely brunch cocktail, The Refresh, made up of cucumber vodka, celery bitters, and sparkling wine.

Celery bitters in progress

The Refresh at Rex 1516

Other notable bitters batches include:

  • Cherry bitters, made with dried cherries from Highland Orchards
  • Apple bitters, made with fresh apple peels from Beechwood Orchards
  • Hellfire bitters, made with dried chili peppers and Green Street coffee beans
  • Aromatic bitters, my attempt to make a homemade cross between Angostura and Peychaud’s. These are a work in progress; I’m now on my third batch.

Aromatic bitters in progress

I’ve also experimented with bitters inspired by figs, groundcherries, rhubarb, herbs de provence, lemon, mole, coffee-pecan, rose petals, and black cardamom, all of which have been interesting in their own ways, and almost all of which feature local ingredients. Most of my recipes are my own, but I’ve also been heavily inspired by recipes from Serious Eats and Brad Thomas Parson’s Bitters book. We also have a Pinterest board for tracking bitters recipes we run across.

At any given time, I’ve usually got a batch or two of bitters in progress. I’ve acquired approximately 100 types of herbs along the way, including various bittering agents and aromatics. Our apartment is now full of mason jars and little bottles, but I’ve tried to keep them from completely taking over our kitchen. It’s turned into a fun hobby!


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