Our pantry, freezer, and fridge are stocked with organic whole foods. I feel incredibly fortunate to have access to such high quality ingredients, many originating here in Vermont and some from around the globe. Cooking everything from scratch (and barely ever eating out) allows us to spend more on the raw materials, making incredibly high quality meals quite affordable.
Then one day out of curiosity I took a peek at the Angostora Bitters ingredients panel from our cabinet… Alcohol, water, sugar, gentian, natural flavorings, carmel color and added colors. Not the worst things in the world, but I realized that I could do way better! Why hadn’t I thought of making my own bitters before now?
It turns out, making bitters is incredibly easy. Simply steep ingredients like citrus peels, herbs, or spices in vodka, strain, and enjoy! But what to steep?
Inspired by great new companies, like Urban Moonshine and Salud Bitters, I wanted my bitters to be functional and delicious. I had also been meaning to take advantage of the collection of herbalism resources I’d been accumulating.
Browsing through my books, I started to list combinations of herbs, spices, and citrus peels that would promote health or ease ailments. I’m no herbalist, so I don’t guarantee results. I know that herbal remedies need to be used regularly over time to be effective and I’m not planning on having bitters every day. The herbalism lens, however, was useful to me in concocting some intentional blends from millions of possibilities.
A simpler option, of course, would be to start with single or two-ingredient bitters. Orange, cardamom, or ginger bitters would all be great all on their own. I was ready to make a project out of it, however, so I pulled tons of ingredients out of the cupboards and got to work.
I filled each jar about 1/3 of the way up with herbs, spices, and peels (dried ingredients will expand and you want everything to stay below the level of the vodka). I then filled each jar with vodka, labeled each with its ingredients list, and let them sit in a dark corner of my kitchen. I shook them daily (sort of… on the days I remembered). After two weeks, I strained and rebottled into old hot sauce jars. Perfect for pouring small amounts!
Though my concoctions were blended without really knowing how they would taste, I love the unique flavor of each one. I now have a diverse selection on hand for adding to seltzer, water, or cocktails. What an easy way to upgrade this versatile cupboard ingredient!