I’m totally in love with these DIY kits for making your own bitters. The problem with making your own bitters is that some of the spices are expensive and difficult to track down. (You cannot get gentian root in the spice section at Safeway.) So this company called Dash Bitters has put kits together with infusion jars, bottles, funnels, cheesecloth, and assorted spices.
You, of course, should feel free to experiment and add your own secret botanical ingredients.
and they sell refills, so you don’t have to buy the bottles every time.
Good stuff! Oh, and by the way, if you’re super into bitters, the book to get is called–well, Bitters. Brad Parson wrote it. It’s a fine and beautifully illustrated book. Check it out.
And if you’re looking for more make-your-own bitters ideas, this series of posts on Adventures in Cooking will get you going, as will this list from Organic Gardening. I’ve also got a Pinterest board going with more recipes for DIY bitters and other infusions.
And of all the homemade bitters recipes available online, I think this one is the clearest and easiest to follow.
The most essential ingredient in any batch of bitters is — well — the thing that gives it its bitterness. Traditionally that bitterness comes from some sort of tree bark or root. It’s usually quinine, from the cinchona tree, or angostura, from the angostura tree, or gentian root (from–yes, you guessed it — gentian plants. Gentiana lutea, to be exact.)
None of this is easy to grow in the garden, or even in a spice shop, which is why I like the bitters kits so much. But you can add some garden-grown ingredients to bitters. Just be sure to dry them thoroughly first–fresh herbs can add a nice flavor to infused vodkas, but they get slimy and nasty fast, and give off some weird flavors if they’re left to soak too long. Dry them first, which gets the moisture out and leaves behind some strong flavors that work well in bitters. Such as these, always in dried form:
Coriander (cilantro seeds)
Rose hips or petals
Juniper berries (Use Juniperus communis; some other species are toxic)
Wormwood, Artemisia absinthum