Bitters, found in classics like the Manhattan and Sazerac , are a high proof infusion of roots, botanicals, fruits or seeds originally used for their medicinal value. Taken alone as a health tonic, bitters are difficult, given the intensely bitter taste. Add them to water (or a cocktail) and BAM! I’m feeling better already! During the late 1800s, every bar had bitters on the back bar. Throughout the temperance movement, bitters still had a “medicinal” presence, after which they faded into near oblivion.
With the cocktail revival, bitters have come back with new manufacturers in the marketplace. My bitters adventure began with a book: Brad T. Parsons’ Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, which clarified ingredients and their roles and how to get various end results. The book is a must-read for cocktail enthusiasts, not only for bitters recipes but for a history of cocktail culture.
The key to making bitters is using the highest proof base spirit available, over 100 proof minimum. For example, 153 proof Diesel vodka, if you want the base to be neutral or 126 proof Wray & Nephew rum if you want a sweeter profile. Whiskeys and bourbons are great too. The high proof ensures as much flavor as possible extracted from your tree bark, fruit and nuts. Try the recipe below, or make up one of your own. Happy Tippling!
TRC Mole Bitters
For the Bitters:
1/2c roos roast trc blend coffee beans
1/2c cocoa nibs
Peel from 6 honeycrisp apples
3 dried poblano peppers
1/4 tsp quassia chips
1/4 tsp gentian root
1/4 tsp wild cherry bark
2 c Diesel grain neutral spirits
For the Demerara Simple Syrup:
1 cup demerara sugar
1 cup water
Add bitters ingredients to a large mason jar and cover with enough alcohol to submerge solids leaving an additional half inch of alcohol. Store in a dark place and shake daily. After four weeks, strain solid ingredients through cheese cloth and set the alcohol aside.
For dilution liquid: place strained solid ingredients in a pot and cover with four cups of water. Boil for about 15 minutes to infuse the flavors into the water. Cool and place in a separate jar for up to 3 days. Strain liquid through cheesecloth, discarding solids. Mix equal amounts of the strained alcohol and strained dilution liquid together.
For demerara simple syrup: heat 1 cup of water with 1 cup sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Cool and add ½ cup syrup to the diluted bitters mixture. At this point, check for clarity. If solution is cloudy, strain through several layers of cheesecloth until desired clarity is reached.