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Nov 5, 2010 06:55 PM

Bitters - sources, recipes?

I live in an Angostura-only town, and my long-hoarded Fee's Orange has run dry. <single, slow tear> So I'm thinking it's mail-order time. What are some of the best mail-order sources for bitters? I'm also open to good, tested recipes, since making my own still feels like a bit of a leap of faith - it seems like a lot of effort and hard-to-source ingredients to pour into a bottle of something that is going to require a LOT of cocktails to use up if the final result sucks (and if it does suck, I WILL still drink it... I lie in my bed once I spend time and money making it). I'm set for Angostura and Peychaud' me fill in the sizable blanks. Especially for good brands of orange paraphrase the poetic genius of Frank's Red Hot, I put that s**t in EVERYTHING.

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  1. The Boston Shaker. Excellent selection. Great, knowledgeable staff. It's near me, so I can taste these in person. Does a big mail-order business. If you have no convenient local source, this is a great place to shop. Here's a link right to their bitters pages (4 pages worth):

    1 Reply
    1. Basic orange bitters are easy to make if you can track down sour/seville oranges (often available at Latin American food markets). I just zest the oranges and cover the zest in overproof rum - I might toss in part of a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves. Let seep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, then strain into a bottle. You can dilute with water if necessary.

      For mail order, I got bitters and supplies from the Barkeeper in LA:

      7 Replies
      1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

        Um...let's just say that no, I can't track down seville oranges where I am currently living. Small town, no ethnic markets of any sort without traveling at least an hour. :) Although it is almost the right season, so maybe I'll keep an eye out on my next long-distance grocery trip to give homemade a whirl. In the meantime, I'm currently waiting less than patiently on an order from I only ordered 3 different bottles...for now. I am rather impressed with my restraint.

        EvergreenDan, thanks for that rec - great site, I see many orders in my future. This time around, though, I just HAD to have the tobacco bitters that I found on the CK site. :)

        1. re: Wahooty

          Wahooty-- Chow has some great bitters recipes!

          I have tried the orange and grapefruit bitters and they were both delicious and easy to make. They do indeed take some odd ingredients-- but I also come from small town non-ethnic and a trip to the healthfood store scorec me all the more difficult to find items. (albeit a long trip- but worth it!) Or consider calling a friend who might live closer to where items are available and ask them to send it to you?

          1. re: Wahooty

            Okay, my order arrived today. And I figure I might as well post this here, since nothing came up in my search...the Snakebite tobacco bitters are nothing short of amazing. Even with cheap bourbon and old vermouth, I am seriously thinking this may top the most expensive Manhattan I have ever had (and that one was mind-blowing in its own right). I can only imagine what it would do to good booze.

            Adriane, I know. I need to suck it up and start playing with recipes. It's the bulk that scares me off - most recipes seem to produce a lot, and I am the sort that can't read a recipe and just do it without tinkering (I have yet to make Jeffrey Morganthaler's recipe for tonic without messing with it). The part that scares me is the not having any idea what I'm doing when I tinker, which I inevitably know I will do, and ending up with a lot of not-so-great bitters, which I will only use a few drops at a time. But point taken, I will dutifully head to the one health food store in town to see if they have gentian. Or mail-order it. Just as soon as I finish this manhattan...

            1. re: Wahooty

              If you mail order, try, they have practically everything.

              In working on my bitters recipes I made small infusions of each botanical separately so I know what they taste like. (I now have well over 175 different infusions/tinctures in my 'flavor library') I used 14 grams of botanical to 200 ml of 190 proof neutral spirits for consistency.

              This is a year old post about what I had, I added a lot since then.

              1. re: JMF

                I don't know why I never thought of doing this - this is fantastic advice, JMF, thank you.