By Lynnie Stein / March 6, 2021

Bitters

Add a little kick to party drinks

Bitters are staples in manhattans, easy to prepare and great gift giving for the cocktail lover or herbal bitters for an immune boost.

Make the recipient a special blend – excellent for wedding favors’.

Herbal bitters are an excellent way to restore harmony to the digestive tract by improving the flow and quality of digestive juices from the stomach, pancreas and gall bladder.

Boozy + Non-Booze

The most used alcohols to make herbal bitters are organic gin, vodka, rye and rum.

Vegetable glycerin, kombucha or vinegar can be used for non / low booze options.

However, it must be food-grade vegetable glycerin.

Glycerin has a sweet taste and can be a little off-putting when combined with lighter, fruitier flavor’s.

For maximum flavor extraction and preservation, use a high-proof liquor — at least 100 proof or 50% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Conventional vodka is made from grain sprayed on average at least 7 times with chemicals; these chemicals are found in our water supply and food chain. Wheat, barley and rye are the common vodka bases, making some people toss up their conventional cosmopolitan. But some of the organic vodka brands work for people on a gluten-free diet.

However, some experts say the distilling process removes gluten from the alcohol, meaning that there is little to no risk for a severe reaction. Always seek out non-GMO corn and if in doubt check organic gluten-free varieties like Fair Quinoa.

There are two dancing steps to making bitters.

The first step is to extract the flavours out of the ingredients by steeping in high proof alcohol or vegetable glycerine or kombucha.

How Long to Infuse? Depending on the botanical, infusing time may range from a day to several weeks. Regularly smell and sample each tincture or infusion; it will be ready when it strongly conveys the ingredient.

To smell: put a couple drops of the infusion in your palms, rub them together, and hold your hands up to your nose.

To taste: put a couple drops in a glass of still or sparkling water.

If you taste it straight bear in mind it will be rather intense.

Rule of thumb: The extraction process takes about one week for dried bitter roots/bark and dried herbs and spices, and about four weeks for dried fruits and dried vegetables.

The second step is to be creative and experiment with combining different extracts to create your mix of bitters.

So have fun and feel free to come up with a bitter blend that compliments specific tastes.

In general, you should use whole ingredients rather than ground, as they are easier to strain. You can chop ingredients or coarsely crack to expose more surface area for infusing.

While you can use any combination of edible wild foraged foods, herbs, fruits and spices, some popular choices for bitters:

Spices + Herbs + Flowers; allspice, aniseed, caraway, cardamom, cassia, celery seed, chilis, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, juniper berries, nutmeg, peppercorn, star anise, ginger root, saffron, black walnut leaf, calamus root, cinchona bark, devil’s club root, gentian, liquor ice root, mugwort, Oregon grape root, orris root, sarsaparilla, wild cherry bark, wormwood, quassia bark, artichoke leaf, barberry root, milk thistle seed, gentian root, angelica root, burdock, horehound

Chamomile, dandelion, hibiscus, hops, lavender, lemongrass, mint, rose, rosemary, sage, thyme, yarrow

Fruits; fresh or dried citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit), dried fruit (apples, cherries, figs, raisins)

Nuts; almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.

Beans; vanilla beans, cacao nibs, cocoa beans, coffee beans

Bittering agents usually make up 10 to 50% of the blend and may include plants.

Aromatic and flavour agents round out the bitters and may include just about any herb, spice, flower, fruit, or nut.

Give your creativity free wings!

Also use organic ingredients when possible, especially when it comes to fruit peels. The hearty and thick consistency of orange peel, unfortunately, makes it prone to accumulation of toxins. Only organic citrus peel should ever be consumed, as the pesticides can seep into the peel and it may not be possible to truly remove them through washing.

In addition, bitters may be lightly sweetened with simple syrup, caramel, molasses, raw honey, or other sweeteners. They may also be diluted with distilled water, bringing the final product no lower than 80 to 90 proof or 40 to 45% ABV.

There are two main ways to make bitters.

One method is to combine all your botanicals and infuse them in liquor together. The other method is to make a separate infusion or tincture of each botanical and then blend them to taste.

Tincturing separately can give you more control over the outcome.

Some examples:

Lavender Bitters

We love Lavender – combines beautifully with many fermentables from adding to second fermentation of kombucha and tibi/water kefir or added to tibi apple jellies or kefir ice-cream and coconut yoghurt creations and bitters.

Lavender is effective in reducing anxiety, tension headaches, nervous exhaustion and digestive issues.

Bitters: 20 parts lavender, 6 parts orange, 2 parts vanilla, 1-part ginger

Vanilla beans offer a sultry batch of bitters, perfect with a classic Manhattan. Or, combine with fruits and herbs, cherry vanilla and cacao bitters.

Vanilla Bitters

1 litre of 80- to 90-proof vodka

8 vanilla beans chopped or split lengthwise

1 tablespoon Roasted barley

2 teaspoons cut gentian root

2 teaspoons hulled cardamom

1 teaspoon cacao nibs

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

Place all ingredients except molasses in a litre-sized jar, seal the lid, and allow to infuse at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks, agitating the jar once per day.

Once the flavors are fully extracted, remove the solids using a fine strainer or unbleached coffee filter and stir in the molasses, to taste, until completely dissolved.

Store bitters in small, 2- to 4-ounce dark brown glass bottles with dropper lids.

You can also skip the first step and buy already made extracts.

Bloody Mary Bitters

2 tablespoons Quassia Extract

3 tablespoons Fenugreek Extract

2 tablespoons Chile Extract

3 tablespoons Celery Extract

1 tablespoon Lime Extract

Key Lime Pie

3 Tablespoons Lime Extract

2 Tablespoons Gentian Extract

2 Tablespoons Cardamom Extract

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

1 and 1/2 Teaspoons Lemon Extract

Orange Bitters

12 parts orange peel, 2 parts gentian, 2 parts cardamom, 2 parts coriander, 1-part allspice, 1-part cloves

A few dashes of grapefruit bitters can put a so-so sparkling wine cocktail into fabulous territory or turn a Gin and Tonic into a bright and balanced thing of beauty. Of course, a few dashes can also liven up plain fizzy water.

1 1/2 cups 100-proof vodka

Peeled zest from 1 grapefruit

Peeled zest from 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms

4 dried juniper berries

1 fresh sage leaf

1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons cut gentian root

1/4 cup light rum

2 ounces simple syrup

Place grapefruit and lemon zest in a sealable glass jar with the vodka. Seal and shake, then let the mixture steep overnight in a cool, dark place.

Add the rum, lavender, coriander, juniper, sage and gentian root. Seal and shake, then let this combined mixture steep for 10 to 12 days in a cool, dark place.

Strain through cheesecloth-lined sieve. Then bottle by filtering through a coffee filter. Add simple syrup to the bottle. Seal and shake, then let rest for 1 day.

Store at room temperature for up to a year.

To make simple syrup,

combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.

Cool before using.

Simple syrup will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For lovers of rum – try mixing with sweet potato fly.

Sweet Potato Fly is a fermented sweet potato drink that will remind you of ginger ale (aka ginger beer).

The drink is rather sweet and very refreshing.

Love and bacteria, Xxoo Lynnie

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© 2021 Lynnie Stein