If bitters aren’t already on your radar, it’s time to change that. Bitters are an alcoholic (usually) infusion of various botanicals that add a subtly bitter or bittersweet twist to cocktails. These simple flavorings can add a layer of complexity or a pop of flavor, and they couldn’t be simpler to make once you understand how they’re put together.
Tinctures vs. bitters
You create bitters by combining different tinctures, which should each be created individually for best results. Steeping each ingredient separately helps you control the flavor and strength of each tincture. We showed you the basics of making tinctures in another article.
Balancing your bitters
The best bitters aren’t all bitter — they’re balanced by floral, fruity, earthy and sweet notes as well. The more bitter your bittering agent (the bitter ingredient you use), the more you should consider balancing it with other flavors. Remember that you make tinctures of your sweet ingredients too. Dumping straight honey or molasses into a bitter will make it way sweeter than is the point of bitters.
How to make homemade bitters
- Mason jars and lids
- Dropper bottles (for storing bitters)
- Mortar and pestle/spice grinder
- Vegetable peeler
- Select the flavors you’d like to combine, paying attention to the need for depth and balance.
- Make a tincture of each individual flavor by putting equal amounts of alcohol and the flavor into a Mason jar. Tightly close the lid, and let it sit at room temperature in a cool, low-light place. Check the flavor every few days to see where you are. Word to the wise: When tasting your tinctures and bitters, put a couple of drops into an 8-ounce glass of water to get a more accurate idea of what flavor it will truly impart. If you taste it straight, it will taste so strong you might stop steeping earlier than you’d really need to.
- When the tincture tastes just right, strain it over cheesecloth into a bowl, and then put it back into a clean Mason jar until all the tinctures you need are finished.
- When you’re ready to make your bitters, combine them a little at a time until you get the right balance, tasting by putting a few drops in a glass of water (make sure you change the water each time you taste).
Before you go, check out our slideshow below: