Chocolate Bitters Recipe

Homemade Chocolate Bitters

The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Infuse: 336 hrs
Total: 336 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 100 servings
Yield: 1 cup

While you can buy them, making chocolate bitters at home is a simple process and a fun way to add your personal twist to cocktails. Bitters are concentrated flavor enhancers that give drinks a subtle but lively boost. A fantastic accent for drinks like the old-fashioned, chocolate bitters (sometimes called cocoa bitters) add a rich chocolate taste to the mix.

Processed chocolate is not a good option for liquor infusions, so you'll use cacao nibs instead. There's no cooking involved, and you'll simply infuse the flavoring ingredients in high-proof liquor for a couple of weeks. Alcohol over 120 proof (60 percent alcohol by volume) is preferred, though 100-proof will yield nice results. Bourbon (or another whiskey) creates a dark background that's ideal for the rich chocolate and spice flavor, but you can use vodka if you prefer.

Cacao has a natural bitterness similar to unsweetened dark chocolate. For more chocolate flavor look for roasted cacao nibs. As for the botanicals, gentian root is the primary bittering ingredient, while wild cherry bark adds a sour and somewhat sweet tone to the chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon. Optional ingredients like cardamom for spice and wormwood for more bitterness add to the complexity. But it's the citric acid that intensifies all of the flavors and makes this homemade recipe taste more like commercial bitters.

This chocolate bitters recipe yields about eight ounces. It typically doesn't go bad, and you'll use just a few dashes at a time, so this recipe can handle countless cocktails. The average bitters bottle holds almost two ounces, and extra bottles make an excellent gift for cocktail-loving friends.


  • 1 1/2 cups (360 milliliters) high-proof bourbon whiskey

  • 1 cup (120 grams) roasted  cacao nibs

  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise

  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

  • 1 tablespoon (4 grams) gentian root

  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) wild cherry bark

  • 3 green cardamom pods, optional

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried wormwood, optional

  • 1/8 teaspoon citric acid

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a quart-sized jar, pour the whiskey, and then add the cacao nibs, split vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, gentian root, and wild cherry bark, along with the cardamom pods and wormwood, if using. Seal, shake, and let infuse for 2 weeks in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar daily.

  3. Once the infusion flavor reaches your desired intensity, strain out the botanicals using a fine-mesh strainer lined with a layer of cheesecloth.

  4. Add the citric acid and stir until dissolved.

  5. Bottle the chocolate bitters in small jars with a tight seal and store them at room temperature.

Recipe Tips

  • Cacao nibs are often sold at natural food stores, and you can purchase the botanicals from online stores. While you might be able to find them in either ground or powdered forms, this recipe is designed for the cut and sifted versions because they're easier to strain from the liquor.
  • Weighing the ingredients using a metric kitchen scale is more accurate than using volume measurements. It helps ensure each batch of bitters tastes the same and lets you fine-tune the taste if desired. The amount of wormwood needed is less than one gram and won't register on most scales.
  • To taste test bitters, add a few dashes to a splash of plain seltzer water (club soda works). Or, before straining, draw the liquid into a straw by covering the top with your finger while the other end is immersed, then place a few drops on your tongue.

How to Store Homemade Chocolate Bitters

Dark glass bottles are the best choice for storing bitters. If you use clear glass, keep the bottle in a dark drawer or cupboard. The high-proof alcohol and citric acid are preservatives, so these bitters have an indefinite shelf life as long as they're not regularly exposed to air.

Recipe Variations

  • You can use whole cacao beans (one cup or 145 grams). Nibs are smaller pieces, so the surface area infuses more flavor into the liquor; extend the infusion by a few days when using beans.
  • High-proof vodka or neutral grain spirit are good substitutes for bourbon.
  • For the simplest chocolate bitters that use common ingredients, skip the botanicals and use only the cacao nibs, vanilla bean (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract), and cinnamon stick. Unlike a drinkable cocoa-infused whiskey, infusing it for two weeks will extract more bitterness from the cacao.
  • To make mole bitters, cut a dried ancho chile pepper into small pieces and add it to the jar two days before the infusion is done.

How to Use Chocolate Bitters

Chocolate bitters are very versatile and can be used in almost any cocktail, including the whiskey Manhattan. They're best when paired with dark spirits such as whiskey, brandy, and aged rum or tequila. Some cocktail recipes, including the Oaxaca old-fashioned, early autumn, and Woodson's confidence "cocktale" call specifically for chocolate bitters. They also make an excellent substitute for mole bitters, and you'll get interesting results when mixing them with other flavors, particularly orange bitters.

Who Makes Chocolate Bitters?

Several companies that produce bitters make chocolate or mole bitters as well. It's a very popular flavor that you can find from Fee Brothers, Scrappy's Bitters, and The Bitter Truth, among others. Even Angostura, which is famous for aromatic bitters, makes cocoa bitters.