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Feb 13, 2014 03:45 PM

Best flavors to try when creating my own bitters

My neighborhood bar has a set of homemade bitters crafted by one of the bartenders friends. Each of them has a unique taste with some hinting at orange while others reference chocolate or even rosemary. If you make your own bitters please post a photo of your set up and what ingredients you like to use. I'm curious what ingredient set options are out there!

EDIT: I am less concerned with how to get started and more interested in the range of flavors that are possible and some photos from people who are actively creating their own bitters!

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    • + 10 CHOW users
    Answer Selected

    To address your other statement, "If you make your own bitters please post a photo of your set up and what ingredients you like to use."

    There are hundreds, no more like thousands of botanicals that can be used to make bitters. I currently have 225+ botanicals, all infused into their own separate 190 proof tinctures. I use these as a Flavor Library so I know what they taste, smell, and look like individually; before I mix several or many together to make bitters. Here's a small peak at my lab when I first started to set it up five years ago; showing around 110 botanical tinctures, and in the center an Erlenmeyer flask, Buchner funnel, alcohol hydrometer, neutral spirits, etc..

    • + 6 CHOW users

    I would say grapefruit or orange is the best place to start - very widely useful, so while you're getting your feet wet you're at least making something that is easy to use up. This was one of the first batches I ever made, and I'm still working my way through it a couple of years later, but it goes over very well with everyone I have tried it on:
    JMF gave me some advice when I first started, which was to make a lot of individual extracts rather than complete recipes, then blend to taste. So while I don't have a picture of my setup, imagine a small dining room table littered with Mason jars, swing-top bottles, and dropper bottles, and you've got the idea. Add a filter flask and Buchner funnel for filtering, and you've got the whole picture.

    • + 6 CHOW users

    To specifically address your question of "what ingredient set options are out there". (Anyway I assume a question. No question mark was actually used, only statements made.)

    Bitters can be broken down into several types/styles, and many subsets.
    Aromatic like Angostura.
    Citrus like orange or grapefruit, etc.
    Bitters based, which are bitter as their main component, focusing on strong bittering agents like gentian, wormwood, cinchona, etc.
    Floral with a more aroma based direction using some type of flowers/blossoms like lavender, rose, hibiscus, etc.
    Savory/Herbal like celery, sage, rosemary, tarragon, anise, etc.
    Spicy where the heat of chiles is a major constituent.
    Confectionary where chocolate, cinnamon, and baking spices are dominant.
    Exotic where the main ingredients are rare or very different than in other styles.

    Subests are whether the flavor is more important, bitterness is, aroma, or any other denominator you choose.

    • + 3 CHOW users

    I recently had cucumber bitters in a drink and loved it. I'd be interested in hearing how one makes one's own bitters. The specialty ones I've seen are outrageously expensive (something like $20 for a small bottle).

    • + 2 CHOW users

    Grapefruit bitters in sparkling wine is a popular drink choice among my friends, so perhaps grapefruit? Probably not much different of a process than orange, but a different flavour.


    So you only want to know what our bitters making set-up looks like and ingredients we use?

    Or do you want a primer on how to make bitters?

    Or how to decide what type, style of bitters or ingredients to use?


    I saw rhubarb bitters the other day and thought that sounded delicious. My mind of course went immediately to this thread.