Aromatic Bitters


It's fun to make your own bitters, and it takes relatively little effort—just some time to allow the flavorful aromatics to infuse the alcohol. This citrus-spice batch will go nicely with all of your favorite cocktails that call for bitters, or add a few dashes to a glass of seltzer for a refreshing thirst-quencher. If you'd like, you can divide the mixture between a few dropper bottles and gift them to your cocktail-loving friends. 

Homemade Bitters
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Christina Daley
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
19 days
Makes 1 cup (about 4,731 drops, or 384 dashes)


  • 1 cup 100-proof grain alcohol (such as moonshine)

  • 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds, toasted

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted

  • 1 tablespoon dried chopped dandelion root

  • 1 tablespoon chopped quassia bark chips

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted

  • 3 (3- x 1/2-inch) orange peel strips (from 1 orange; white pith completely removed)

  • 2 (3- x 1/2-inch) grapefruit peel strips (from 1 grapefruit; white pith completely removed)

  • 5 cup water

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar


  1. Place alcohol, cardamom, coriander, dandelion root, quassia bark, caraway, orange peel, and grapefruit peel in a pint-size lidded glass jar; cover tightly with lid. Store in a cool dark place (between 60°F and 75°F is ideal) until alcohol is strongly flavored with the aromatics, at least 14 days or up to 1 month, gently shaking jar once per day to agitate the aromatics.

  2. Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth, and set over a second pint-size lidded glass jar. Pour alcohol mixture through strainer into jar; reserve solids. Crush and grind solids using a mortar and pestle, or place in a resealable freezer bag and mash with a mallet or bottom of a skillet until mixture is coarsely ground. Stir together ground aromatics and 1/2 cup water in a small nonreactive saucepan; bring to a boil over medium. Remove saucepan from heat; cover and let steep at room temperature until water is infused with aromatics, 7 to 10 minutes.

  3. Add infused water mixture to alcohol mixture in jar, cover tightly with lid, and return to cool dark place until the mixture is even more flavorful, at least 5 days or up to 2 weeks, gently shaking jar once per day. Pour mixture through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer into a glass bowl or jar; discard solids.

  4. Cook sugar in a small skillet over medium, undisturbed, until sugar is completely melted, is amber in color, and develops a nutty aroma, 4 to 5 minutes. Quickly and carefully, add caramelized sugar to infused alcohol-water mixture. The caramelized sugar will solidify. Whisk gently until sugar is completely dissolved, a minute or two.

  5. Pour bitters through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer into a clean pint-size lidded glass jar (or into small dropper bottles); discard solids. Cover tightly with lid. Bitters can be stored in a cool place at room temperature up to 12 months.

Related Articles