Homemade Carrot Bitters

I got the idea for making carrot bitters after reading Sean Brock’s Heritage cookbook, which Tom got me for Christmas last year. Brock’s book includes a recipe for Wild Carrot and Orange Bitters, in which the wild carrots are gathered while they are flowering, when the root itself is quite bitter. Since I don’t have access to bitter wild carrots, and the carrots I get at Philadelphia farmers’ markets are quite sweet, I instead decided to take Brock’s basic idea (carrots and orange peel), but add the bittering agents and aromatics that can be found in the Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 5 recipe.

Carrot bitters in progress

In one mason jar, I combined:

  • 1/2 cup fresh carrot, grated
  • zest of 1 tangerine (I prefer tangerine over orange)
  • 3/4 cup neutral grain spirit (Everclear)

I added the aromatic & bitter ingredients to a second mason jar:

  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp quassia bark
  • 1/4 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dried ginger root
  • 1/4 tsp grains of paradise
  • 1/8 tsp gentian root
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup neutral grain spirit (Everclear)

After 10 days, I strained and filtered the bitter/aromatic mixture (mason jar #2), discarded the solids, and added the liquid to the jar with the carrot mixture. At this time, since there was room in the jar and I wanted it to be more carrot-y, I added about 1/4 cup more carrots (this time sliced rather than grated – no good reason other than I was lazy and curious).

Carrot bitters in progress

I steeped the remaining mixture for an additional 11 days (it had been in progress for a total 21 days thus far). At that point, I strained the entire mixture and retained the carrot solids, pouring the liquid into a clean mason jar.

I put the carrot solids into a small saucepan and added 1/2 cup water, then brought it to a simmer for about 5 minutes (the liquid reduced by about half). I let the mixture cool until room temperature, then added both solids and remaining water to a clean mason jar, and let it steep for another 3 days. After 3 days, I strained the solids and discarded them. I filtered the remaining water mixture several times, then added it to the alcohol mixture.

I let the final mixture sit for another 4 days, then filtered again, and bottled. At this point it was basically ready to use. However, I found that over the next couple weeks, more solids continued to collect at the bottom of the bottle. I found myself filtering again every week or so, until about after a month, it finally seemed to be done settling.

Overall, this took 1 month until it was ready to use, but the additional settling and filtering brought it to more like 2 months for a final product.

So, the final product? I love it. Unsurprisingly, given the recipe I followed, between the aromatics and the fact that it contains citrus peel, it has many of the same characteristics as orange bitters. It can be substituted for orange bitters in many cocktail recipes. However, it has this additional earthy, vegetal characteristic, which makes it really fun. It is kind of mellow, though, too, so it might need some additional dashes to get the same oomph.

Completed carrot bitters

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