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Preserving bitters, liqueurs, etc.

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I'm hoping I can get JMF or the other hard-core infusers around here to give me some ideas.

A while back, I started tinkering with making bitters, and my favorite at the time was a riff on Jeffrey Morgenthaler's grapefruit bitters recipe. It was fantastic, and everybody I shared the stuff with loved it. Of course, a liter of bitters goes a LONG way, so two years later, I still have quite a bit. It still tastes nice, but has lost a lot of the fresh, aromatic grapefruitiness.

This year, I have been going a little nuts on the extraction front - I have made a pile of extracts and am enjoying mixing them up in various concoctions to make all sorts of bitters, and some of the leftovers will be turned into liqueurs when I have all of my bitters figured out.

Is there a way for me to keep the volatiles in the extract/liqueur/bitters longer? Commercial brands seem to be able to make products with a much longer shelf life. Glycerin? More sugar? Anything?

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  1. When you made Jeffrey Morgenthaler's grapefruit bitters did you use pure grain alcohol at 190 proof/955abv.?

    One way to keep volatile oils stable is to start with DRIED citrus peel and other botanicals. Fresh ingredients will absolutely change flavor profile over time due to oxidation and other factors, and this must be taken into consideration.

    Two, citric acid, and preservatives. I use citric acid at times. I haven't used preservatives yet. Glycerin is used more to improve mouthfeel, and to cover up poor spirit quality.

    With bitters, using dry botanicals makes shelf stable tinctures that are good for at least a year. Also starting with overproof spirit for the infusion, and keep as high proof as possible. I thin at least 40%abv/80 proof. Yes, there are ones lower on the market, but commercial companies have other options, including preservatives.

    Homemade liqueurs are hard to make long term stable. Very fine filtering helps. Use dried botanicals., high sugar content, and high alcohol content.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JMF

      Thanks so much, JMF. I can't get 190 proof locally, so I've been using 150 proof for my extractions, but I think I'm still ending up well over 80 proof after any dilutions in the bitters. My liqueurs usually come out pretty close to that mark. I'll pay more attention to that though just to be sure, as well as the filtering.

      Sounds like my current instinct is the way to go - just make things in smaller batches and use them up faster. But out of curiosity, what kinds of preservatives might be used?