- Bitters are a necessary ingredient in many classic or contemporary cocktails used in the same way as you would add spices or seasoning to your food during cooking.
- It helps to balance the flavour and add depth and complexity to the final product.
- Whenever you feel that cocktail is dull or missing something in the most cases the answer is bitters.
- Bitters helps to marry ingredients together, balance slightly sweeter drinks or add spicier more aromatic feel.
Bitters are simply bitter and aromatic herbs and spices (roots, barks, fruit peels, seeds, flowers) infused or tinctured in high proof alcohol.
Different brands and flavours of bitters
Different flavours and brands of bitters work well with different types of spirits and cocktails, therefore, need to be used with care.
Surely the most well-known and widely used aromatic bitters were invented in 1824 and use the same recipe until today. Angostura bitters work as an enhancer of flavours of ingredients in the drink and bring out the best in them without masking their true flavour.
The same league as Angostura in terms of quality but with a lighter body, sweeter taste and more floral aroma (anise-forward flavour). An essential ingredient for Sazerac cocktail. Created in New Orleans around 1830 as a secret recipe.
Fee Brothers has been around since the mid-19 century making a wide range of different flavours.
Another very popular brand which took a different path and is based on glycerine rather than ethanol. They may use artificial flavour or colouring in addition to natural one.
Regan’s Orange Bitters
A famous bartender Gary Regan has already released his Regan’s Orange Bitters No.6. when he partnered with Sazerac company. These bitters work especially well in whiskey-based cocktails.
The Bitter Truth
Bitters founded by two bartenders in Munich Germany in 2006. The Bitter Truth helped to open the door to the current bitters revival when they released some well-made flavours of bitters.
Adding a new layer of citrus zing and complexity to most of the classic or contemporary white spirit based cocktails. A perfectly balanced sweetness in citrus-heavy drinks.
Since 19th century The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters were the first celery bitters to be offered commercially on the market as a cocktail ingredient. Celery bitters enrich cocktails with unusual flavours and work especially well with grassy spirits. The Bitter Truth celery bitters offer complex palate with aromas of lemongrass, orange peel and ginger.
Deep chocolate notes are supported by classic bitter flavours and accented with a hint of spice. The Bitter Truth Chocolate Bitters play exceptionally well with sweet Vermouths and all kinds of aged spirits.
Why homemade bitters are better
Making your own bitters is an exciting experience when you sample each infusion. Then you can tell how the flavours of herbs, spices and fruit peels used are evolving and how they interact with each other.
1.What botanicals to use?
Bitters usually comprise of Bittering agent (Gentian, Angelica or Wormwood) and the other botanicals for aroma and flavour(Spices, Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, Nuts)
Commonly used botanicals:
Allspice berries, Anise seeds, Caraway seeds, Cardamon pods, Cinnamon, Citrus peel (Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit), Clove, Coriander seeds, Fennel seeds, Juniper berries, Lavender, Lemongrass, Nutmeg, Star Anise
If you really want to get into botanicals I highly recommend to read a book Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
2.Create your botanical mix
There are two ways to do that either you take all the botanicals and infuse them with the neutral spirit together or do the separate infusion or tincture of each botanical and blend them together according to taste. I personally prefer the second method which gives you more control over the outcome.
3.Making the infusions
For the best extraction and preservation use High Proof spirit at least 100 proof or 50% alcohol by volume (ABV).
You will get the most neutral flavour using grain alcohol (such as Everclear) or high-strength vodka. You can as well experiment with high proof rums and whiskies for additional flavour.
Infusing time depends on each botanical and it may range from day to a couple of weeks. Regularly sample the tincture for the best result.
What do you need?
High-proof spirit(at least 100 proof or higher)
Distilled water for diluting(optional)
Knife, Peeler and zester for fruits,
Clean mason jars or other containers for making tinctures
Fine-mesh strainer or coffee filters for straining
Mortar and pestle for cracking spices
Labels for labelling tinctures
Dropper, pipette, or syringe for blending
Large and Small funnels
Clean bottles for finished bitters
See particular recipes guided with more details.
Citrus Bitters(Grapefruit, Orange, Lemon)