A few months ago, we came across a great book by Brad Thomas Parsons called Bitters, with step by step instructions for making your own bitters along with some classic drink recipes. Although we were no strangers to bitters, we had never really thought about what’s actually in them. As it turned out, it’s simply a combination of herbs and spices with some additional ingredients thrown in for flavor. Oh, and really high proof alcohol.
I had many of the spices on hand for baking (so many of them are common flavors for biscotti as well). Most of the others were were able to pick up at our local middle eastern market.
We started with a test taste of a number of commercial bitters available at our local grocery store, just to get a sense of the different variations. I’m glad we did—-as it turned out, the individual flavors were much more distinctive in our homemade versions.
We ended up making three separate batches—house bitters (similar to the classic angostura bitters), orange bitters, and coffee pecan bitters.
For the latter, we toasted pecans and Jonathan coarsely ground some coffee beans for the mix.
The other recipes used for Everclear (yes, they actually sell that in liquor stores) but the coffee pecan bitters called for Wild Turkey 101 for a richer flavor.
We labeled all the mixes and then simply let them sit for two weeks. A quick shake every day helped blend the flavors. After two weeks, Jonathan went through a boiling and straining process designed to concentrate the flavors. We found that that although the individuals flavors were more distinctive, we ended up using more in each drink—perhaps because we’re enjoying the taste so much.
We designed a classic bitters label complete with an image of the goddess Columbia, whom I’ve always wished was the official personification of our city.
Our reward for a job well done—the finest Manhattan I’ve ever tasted.
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