Basic Homemade Bitters Recipe

Basic homemade bitters recipe

​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 2 hrs
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 2 cups (189 servings)

Bitters are essential in the bar and a key ingredient for many cocktails from the Martini to the Sazerac and beyond. While it is great to have popular brands like Angostura or Scrappy's in stock, it's actually quite easy to make your own using this basic bitters recipe.

Homemade bitters is easy but it will take about 25 days to complete your first batch of bitters. The joy of having your very own bitters is worth it. The best part is that you can personalize the recipe to your own taste using a variety of herbs and spices. 

The recipe below is for an aromatic-style of bitters with an emphasis on orange and it is great for overall use in a variety of cocktails. Of course, you can add or subtract ingredients as you like.

Y​ou can ​even use commercial brands of bitters as an inspiration to guide you on the next batch. Add more orange or try something a bit more unique like a dominance of celery, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, mint, or peach.

Ingredients

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this homemade bitters is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for infusing.

Infuse Alcohol With Herbs and Spices

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for alcohol infusion
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Place the spices in a mason jar and cover them with grain alcohol.

    Mason jar
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Seal the jar and let the mixture stand in a cool, dark place for 15 days.

    Seal the jar
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Give the jar a good, vigorous shake once a day.

    Jar
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Strain the alcohol through a cheesecloth into a clean mason jar to separate the liquid from the dry ingredients.

    Herbs strained
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Once the majority is strained, gather the cloth into a ball and squeeze it to release as much liquid as possible.

    Gather cloth
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Save the strained alcohol infusion for later. Label the bottle so you don't mistake it for something else.

    Mason jar and label
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Infuse Water With Herbs and Spices

  1. Muddle the strained ingredients to break up all of the seeds and create a fine mixture (almost a slurry or paste).

    Muddle spices
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Place this mix into a saucepan and add 4 cups of water. (You may not use all of this, but it's good to have on hand.)

    Spices in saucepan
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower the heat and allow it to simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes.

    Cover pot
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Pour this mixture into the original jar, cover, and allow it to sit for 5 days.

    Pour mixture into jar
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Again, shake vigorously once a day.

    Shake jar
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Strain the water through a cheesecloth, discard the dry ingredients.

    Strained liquid
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Measure your alcohol mixture, pour it into the original jar and add equal amounts of the infused water.

    Measure liquid
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  8. Save the excess water for cutting.

    Save strained water
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Caramelize Sugar for Sweetener

  1. Place the sugar in a small pan over medium to high heat.

    Sugar in saucepan
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Stir constantly and allow the sugar to caramelize until it becomes liquid and dark brown.

    Stir with spoon
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

    Remove saucepan from heat
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Combine Three Mixtures

  1. Add the sugar to the alcohol and water mixture (the sugar may solidify for a minute, but it will dissolve).

    Jar in liquid
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Seal the jar and allow the mix to sit for 5 days.

    Lid on jar
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Once again, shake daily.

    Shake daily
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Strain again and pour into a bitters bottle or small decanter with a tight-sealing lid.

    Bottle with bitters
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Cut the bitters with the extra infused water (or plain water) by measuring the volume of bitters you have, then add half that amount of water. For instance, if you have 1 cup of bitters, add 1/2 cup of water.

    Pitcher of liquid and bitters in jar
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Your bitters can be stored for up to 12 months and there is no need to refrigerate it.

    Bitters
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Use in your favorite cocktail and enjoy!

    Make a cocktail with bitters
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Tips

  • Recycle an old bitters bottle or use a small bottle with a drip spout and a lid.
  • Use a funnel to get your bitters into a small-mouthed jar.
  • Grain alcohol? Look for Everclear or the like. These are typically 190 proof (95% ABV) or more. You can also use a 100-proof vodka if you like.
  • Because this process requires many steps over a few weeks, you will want to keep track of where you are. An easy way to do so is to print out the directions and check off each step as you complete it.