Introduction: D.I.Y. Angostura Cocktail Bitters

Picture of D.I.Y. Angostura Cocktail Bitters

Most of us have heard of Angostura Bitters, and probably have an aged bottle in our pantry somewhere for use in the occasional Manhattan or other classic cocktail. But what are Bitters?

Bitters are the bartenders' secret. They are liquid concentrations of flavors. Some of them have dozens of botanicals -- spices, herbs, obscure roots, leaves, flower buds -- collected, concentrated, extracted into an alcoholic base. Liquid alchemy, steeped in history, folklore, and mythology -- these wondrous and obscure concoctions have come into their own.

A revolution that started with microwbrewed beers and then graduated to microdistilled vodkas, gins and other artisan small-batch products -- now has a new competitive ground: the bitter. The world's best restaurants and mixologists are making their own bitters and using their unique properties -- lemon bitters, spiced bitters, chocolate bitters, even sriracha bitters -- to drive a new level of signature drink.

So, can you make your own? Absolutely! Tracking down the ingredients can be somewhat of a treasure hunt. This recipe also requires a little TLC and patience. 

I've tweaked the original recipe inspired by the book " Bitters" by Brad T. Parsons.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of bitters or making your own. 

Keep an eye out for my signature chocolate bitters. They should be ready soon! :)

cheers!

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

Angostura Ingredients:

2 tbsp dried orange peel

zest of 1 orange

1/4 cup sour cherries

2 cinnamon sticks

1 vanilla bean- seeds scraped 

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 cup quassia chips

2 juniper berries

1/8 tsp cocoa nibs

pinch of black walnut leaf

1/2  tsp cassia chips

1/4 tsp wild cherry bark

1/4 tsp orris root

Rich Syrup:

2 cups turbinado sugar

1 1/2 cups  water

Equipment:

5 quart size mason jars

cheesecloth

2 funnels- one small/ one large

12  1oz boston round bottle w/ dropper


Most of the spices and herbs can be found online at Star West Botanicals  & Mountain Rose Herbs.

Bottles can be found at Speciality Bottle

Note: one of the ingredients I left out from the original recipe was cardamom. The cardamom adds a really pronounced flavor to the bitters. I definitely recommend adding 5 cracked pods to this recipe. 




Step 2: Prep Ingredients & Start Batch

Picture of Prep Ingredients & Start Batch

Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out. Add the seeds and the bean to the mason jar. Zest an orange and remove any remaining pulp from the zest. Add them to the jar. Add all the other ingredients except the rye, water & rich syrup. 

Next, add two cups of the rye to the jar. Add more rye if necessary until all the ingredients are covered with liquid. 

Cover the jar and store at room temperature for two weeks.  

**** shake the jar 1-3 times a day for two weeks*****

Step 3: Strain the Liquid

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Remove the cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean from the jar and set aside. Line a clean mason jar with a funnel and place a cheesecloth on top. Pour the liquid into the jar. Squeeze the cheesecloth tightly to remove any excess liquid. I used a lime squeezer to get all the liquid out. Repeat until all the sediment is removed. 

Cover the jar and set aside. 




Step 4: Boil the Soilds

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Add the solids from the cheese cloth along with the cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean to a medium sized saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Next add both the liquid and the solids to a clean mason jar. Cover the jar and store it at room temperature for 1 week. Avoid direct sunlight. 

****shake the jar daily for one week****

Step 5: Make the Rich Syrup/ Strain & Combine

Picture of Make the Rich Syrup/ Strain & Combine

Make the Rich Syrup:

Rich syrup is really similar to simple syrup it just has more sugar. 

Add two cups of turbinado sugar and one cup of water to a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Stir to combine the sugar with the water. The mixture will be really thick at first. Remove the pan from the heat the second it starts to boil. Let the mixture cool completely and refrigerate.  The rich syrup should last up to a month. 

After one week, strain the jar containing the solids and water into a clean mason jar using the cheesecloth/ funnel method. Repeat until all the sediment has been filtered out. 

Discard the solids and add this liquid to the jar containing the original rye solution. Add two tablespoons of the rich syrup to the jar and shake the jar to incorporate the syrup. 


Set the jar aside at room temperature for three days. 

Step 6: Skim Excess/ Strain

Picture of Skim Excess/ Strain

After three days, skim off any excess debris that floats to the top of the jar. Next, strain the liquid one last time into a clean mason jar using the cheesecloth/ funnel method. 

Step 7: Bottle the Bitters

Picture of Bottle the Bitters

After three weeks and three days, they're finally ready to be bottled. 

Pour the liquid into a small measuring cup. Get your bottles ready. Place a small funnel into each jar and fill to just below the brim. Place a dropper top on each bottle. 

The bottled bitters may settle and become cloudy over time. just shake the bottle before use and they will be fine. They will last indefinitely, but best if used within a year. 

Share with your closet friends & family!

Cheers!

Comments

o_nerka made it! (author)2016-09-29

I recently made a few different aromatic bitters recipes in books and online and compared the results. I was pleased with how the recipe turned out, although I deviated somewhat. I used Rittenhouse Rye (50% ABV) in place of Jim Beam, and subbed cinchona for quassia. The flavor is pretty similar to Angostura, although a little bit more cinnamon flavor.

shancre (author)2012-11-03

Quick question for you.

I wanted to make a Tulasi/ginger/lime flavor concentrate to be mixed with club soda.
My 'victims' would be furious if i made them unwittingly partake of alcohol.

1. Can I use dry tulsi leaves for this?
2. Is there any way to do w/o the alcohol?
3. If alcohol is a must, can it be removed from the solution/syrup later?
4. If it can't is there any flavorless alcohol that can be used instead?

ata1anta (author)shancre2016-03-08

A high-proof alcohol is good for extraction. Everclear is the classic one to use, I use a 160pf vodka, Devil Springs.

TrishW8 (author)2016-01-04

I thought an important ingredient in Angostura was gentian root, but that's not on the list, unless it's under a different name and I missed it? Thanks, especially interested in gentian right now.

ata1anta (author)TrishW82016-03-08

She's also missing cinchona bark. However, these could be perfectly serviceable bitters on their own. I haven't made these, but I have made many other bitters from the 1800's. I haven't read the book she references, but he could have sourced his angostura recipe from Charles Baker's Gentleman's Companion, which has a version.

ZirnitraElan (author)TrishW82016-01-10

Hi Trish,

I am also concerned since the Angostura Bitters description from the actual bottle is: "A skilfully blended aromatic preparation of gentian in combination with a variety of vegetable colouring matter" and as to the ingredients the exact herbs and spices are only alluded to by use of the term "spices" and "natural aromas", but Gentian is surely a crucial ingredient when making a DIY version of Angostura Bitters? Gentian root is the main ingredient in Angostura Bitters and not only due to its taste and aroma being somewhat bitter, hence the term "Bitters"!, but also due to the many medical and health benefits of Gentian in herbal medicine. These range from digestive problems - hence Gentian's use in the German after-dinner digestif "Underberg" which a German acquaintance of mine uses after meals - to reducing fever and hypertension (high blood pressure), alleviating muscle spasms and sinusitis and certainly Angostura Bitters does aid digestion and alleviates stomach cramps by a combination of both the Gentian root and the alcohol. Alcohol, in mild amounts, is well known to alleviate excessive peristalsis and hence stomach and abdominal cramping and the associated pain. Therefore, I do believe Gentian root is an important ingredient in both Angostura Bitters and naturally any DIY version. The question then becomes how much Gentian root, and when to add it? And why has it been omitted from the ingredients of the otherwise excellent directions for the D.I.Y. Angostura Cocktail Bitters by Imnopeas?

N.B. Gentian is also used to treat wounds, malaria, cancer, and parasitic worms although it wouldn't be recommended in the form of bitters by herbalists for these conditions.

pbarreragnu1991 (author)2016-02-03

Good day. I'm from Uruguay, and here we do not have the following products: juniper berries, wild cherry bark, black walnut leaf and orris root. You know products that are similar? For example, I thought instead of using black walnut leaf, using common walnut. Change juniper berries for basil or by nutmeg. Also change the orriz root by angelica root. Please give me your comments or corrections. Thank you. Apologies for the hassle.

TheresaS3 (author)2015-04-08

I just finished my first batch using this recipe. My mother owns a restaurant in Wisconsin where old fashions are a staple in their diet. This recipe is a dead ringer for angostura. The only thing missing is the color which is important in the industry. I'm going to play with some caramel color and orange color to get that classic rusty hue that customers expect. My question...many recipes say that Everclear makes a better catalyst. Have you tried that instead of the rye?

lmnopeas (author)TheresaS32015-04-14

The caramel color is a great idea to achieve the orange color. Let me know if it works. I haven't tried using Everclear. It would be good to experiment with both and see which one you like better. Keep in mind that's it's a long process, but well worth it. I used vodka for my chocolate bitters and that batch came out amazing.

Do you maker Shrubs in house as well?

mixer225 (author)2015-03-26

Do you know how they make Shibitters? Its my favorite, and taste different than typical bitters. http://www.shibitters.com/

jhill12 (author)2012-07-14

Thanks for this wonderful recipe! I'm thinking of making and gifting this for the holidays. I would also like to ask permission to sell this at a farmer's market I go to, would that be okay with you?

Also when a few questions about the ingredients list:
I'm assuming you meant to put "1/4 cup quassia chips"? the list just says "1/4 quassia chips"

And for the cinnamon sticks (I'm purchasing through Rose Mountain) are you using the Cassia Sticks or the Sweet Sticks?

And must I use Turbinado Sugar? Could I possibly use Cane Sugar instead or any other type?

Thank you again!

lmnopeas (author)jhill122012-07-14

I updated the ingredients. I did mean 1/4 cup. Don't forget to add a couple cracked cardamom pods as well. Go with the Cassia sticks.

Turbinado sugar is unrefined and has some of the brown or molasses like flavors. If what you mean is cane sugar that is amber colored and unrefined, absolutely! Don't use the standard refined white sugar. Demerara is another good option.

As for selling these, there are certain steps you have to take in order to sell them legally. The farmers market may have their own rules about the sale of bitters because they contain alcohol. Check out this website and it will guide you in the right direction.

Good luck!

mikeasaurus (author)2012-07-13

Awesome, I always wondered what made my Manhattans so tasty!

lmnopeas (author)mikeasaurus2012-07-13

thanks! just a couple drops works wonders!

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