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Bitters: Booze with Bite

Elevate your cocktail game by crafting homemade, seasonal bitters.



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For a stronger citrus flavor, add a few lemon or dried orange peels to the finished bitters for a week or two. Double strain when finished. Photo by Cali Godley.

Traditionally added to such classic drinks as an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, bitters are a concentrated, aromatic flavoring element—crafted from botanicals, spices, or fruits—that provides a cocktail with a little extra oomph. Casey Carr, the bar director at Lafayette’s Batch and Brine, says he “geeks out” and makes his own bitters using seasonal ingredients to create the perfect sip. Here, Carr offers his take on citrus-​infused bitters that are guaranteed to kick your drink up a notch.

 

Chamomile–Citrus Bitters

Yields approximately 5 ounces.

  • Peels from 3–4 fresh lemons
  • 1 bottle 40-proof vodka
  • 4–6 ounces dried orange peel
  • 4 ounces coriander seeds
  • 1 bottle Everclear
  • 2 chamomile tea bags
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup water

Get three 8–12-ounce mason jars. In jar No. 1, submerge lemon peels in vodka; seal and label. In jar No. 2, submerge dried orange peels and coriander seeds in Everclear (or other high-proof grain alcohol); seal and label. In jar No. 3, submerge tea bags in Everclear; seal and label. Store jars in a cool, dark place for the allotted amount of time: jar No. 1 for two weeks; jar No. 2 for five days; jar No. 3 for two days.

At the end of each time frame, strain contents into another container to separate infusing ingredients from liquid before pouring the liquid back into its original, labeled jar.

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a light simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is clear. Remove simple syrup from heat. Once cool, store in an airtight container.

After all liquids are infused, combine 2½ ounces from jar No. 1; 1 ounce from jar No. 2; 1 ounce from jar No. 3; and ½ ounce of simple syrup in another container. Over a separate container, place 2–3 coffee filters inside a funnel, then pour mixture through them. This may take some time, but once liquid has strained through, the bitters are ready for use.

 

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