In the past 15 years, cocktails have gotten more and more complicated. Mixologists behind the bar can make creating a drink look like chemistry, rather than an adult beverage. But you don't need mint-infused vapor to make your drink. If there is a beneficial addition to your liquor cabinet next to simple syrup, it's bitters.
Bitters are an alcohol mixture that includes flora items. The bitters provide an aromatic to your drink of choice. Some bitters were used as an early medicine. It's rather cheap and inexpensive. The only thing this is going to cost you, is a bottle of grain alcohol, an orange, and a lot of patience.
My cocktail of choice for using homemade bitters is the Old Fashioned. It's simple, sophisticated and doesn't have twenty different ingredients.
3 oranges, peeled
1 bottle of 200 proof alcohol
- Using a peeler, peel the orange, exposing the zest of the orange, omitting as much of the pith (the white furry stuff) as possible.
- Put the peel into the bottle of alcohol, seal, and give it a good shake.
- Find a place to put the bottle, and let it sit for six months.
- Every week or so give the bottle a shake to agitate the peel inside.
- Also give it a test every month to check for the orange concentration. The longer it sits, the more flavor you are going to get.
3 oz Kentucky Bourbon
2 dashes of orange bitters
Put ice in your favorite tumbler. I like to use the big ice cubes. This way the ice doesn't melt fast and doesn't dilute the cocktail. Add a splash of bitters. You really only need a little bit. Add the cherries, and then my favorite part, the Bourbon. Fill it a third to halfway, and enjoy this great cocktail that's making a comeback!
If you find you won't need full bottle of bitters, you can bottle them in little jars with screw tops. They make nice holiday gifts.
It should be noted that you can used almost any kind of flora or spice to flavor bitters. You can try vanilla bean pods, or even tossing some cinnamon sticks will provide a nice punch to your drinks.
Experiment with different flavors to achieve different results. Through experimenting with flavors we can change the way we build cocktails and highlight flavors. The Chopping Block covers this in our new cocktail classes with Mixologist Tim Williams of Pour Souls. Choose from Mixology 101 or The Perfect Old Fashioned.