BCV’s Bitters-Making Workshop

BCV had a make-your-own bitters workshop last Friday, led by BCV’s own Jesse Duclos, whose knowledge of  the history of bitters, and experience in making his own, was shared with the rest of us.  The event began with  an introduction of commercially bought versions of angostura, orange and peychaud bitters and everyone was encouraged to taste before they started concocting their own.

Jesse gave a short history lesson on bitters and how they started out as a medicine for a variety of ailments and was later introduced in an old fashioned to make drinking it more palatable.  He then talked about the bittering agent, gentian, and how it is the scientific baseline for bitterness and is one of the most bitter plants known to man.  Everyone was then let loose to make what they wanted.

Dry ingredients were in marked bowls around our conference table, and included; Dark chocolate, ancho chile, currant, cherry, cinnamon, clove, allspice, lemon peel, orange peel, coriander, cardamom, fennel, and black pepper.

At the end Jesse topped off everyone’s mason jar with either everclear or brandy.  Everclear if you wanted a stronger bitters, more pure and respectful of the ingredients chosen, or brandy if you wanted a sweeter, more nuanced and complex finished product. The jars need to be shaken every few days, and need to steep for at least a week, to infuse the flavors to the alcohol. Once ready, we will strain and store in the mason jars for use in holiday drinks!

There was a range of final results, and the fact that everyone had old-fashioneds in hand while creating, the results were probably all the more interesting for it! Below are two bitters recipes used, one for the traditional angostura, and one for a more creative mole bitters.

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving from BCV!

Angostura Bitters:(note-recipe makes a lot, may want to halve)

  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle grain alchohol, such as Everclear 151
  • 40 drops gentian extract
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 (11/2 inch) piece fresh ginger, cut in half
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves
  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove lemon zest in strips, leaving the white pith behind.
  2. Combine lemon zest and all remaining ingredients in a quart jar with a tight fitting lid.
  3. After 10 days, strain alchohol from spices and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid in a dark space.

Mole Bitters

This recipe is a little looser, and is one that was made at the workshop. The amounts of each ingredient can vary, depending on your preferences. In this case brandy is used as the base. Add as small amount of each of the dry ingredients below to a mason jar. Add brandy, filling to halfway. Store for about 10 days, strain, and use!

Dry Ingredients: dark chocolate, cinnamon, chili, currant, cherry, orange peel, coriander, black pepper

Just for good measure, here is a cocktail recipe using mole bitters:

Mezcal+Mole

  • 2 oz. mezcal
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 oz. green Chartreuse
  • 2 dashes mole bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If using a particularly strong mezcal, consider adding a little more vermouth.