There’s nothing more intriguing at a bar than seeing a line up of bitters with well known brands or a row of mysterious dark dropper bottles with house made concoctions.
Bitters are often referred to bartender’s salt and pepper. They add flavour, complexity and balance to many cocktails. Perhaps the most famous of all is the paper-covered Angostura Bitters used in countless cocktails and Peychaud’s Bitters, an essential ingredient in the Sazerac and Vieux Carré.
Bitters are usually made from high-proof alcohol, above 50% ABV, which has been infused with spices, roots, barks, nuts or fruits. The variety is endless and for the home bar enthusiast, the good news is you can make your own at home.
Orange Bitters are one of my favourites, they add a touch of citrus and complexity to cocktails. I particularly like to use it in a dry martini. To make your own orange bitters, you need to get your hands on a neutral high alcohol white spirit above 50% ABV – gin or vodka would do – and basic ingredients that are easy to find. You also need a little time and patience to allow for the ingredients to infuse into the spirit.
How to Make Orange Bitters
Recipe adapted from Jack Daniel’s Singular Moments
Makes 500 ml
- zest from 4 navel oranges
- zest from 1 lemon
- 4 green cardamom pods, bruised
- 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon whole white pepper
- 5 dried kaffir lime leaves
- 3/4 teaspoon gentian root
- 1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 2 cups high proof vodka (> 50% ABV preferably)
- 1 cup water
Equipment: airtight glass containers, muslin or cheesecloth, glass dropper bottles
In an airtight glass container, combine the zests, cardamom, coriander, white pepper, lime leaves, gentian root and fennel seeds with the vodka.
Swirl to combine and keep the container in a cool dark place for two weeks.
Shake the jar once daily.
After two weeks, strain out the solids and set them aside.
Strain the liquid again through a cheesecloth to remove any particles and store again in an airtight container.
Place in a cool, dark place for another week.
In a small saucepan combine the solids that were set aside with the water and bring to boil over medium to high heat. Simmer on low for 10mins covered.
Remove from the heat and cool. Pour contents into a separate airtight container and let it sit for a week.
After a week, strain out any solids remaining in the water mixture and then add to the original liquid.
Bottle into dropper bottles for storage.
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