Bitters are to cocktails are what salt is to seasoning food. Bitters add a whole other element of flavor and dimension to even the simplest drinks. With a Rum & Coke you will see a slice of lemon, lime or even orange changes the flavor, so imagine if it were a more complex ingredient like aged lemon or orange bitters? My favorite in a rum and coke is a Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters, talk about yummy delicious… try it!
So the first approach to becoming a Fizzicist, Mixologist or a Bartender is to first understand how spirits are made, and what flavor profiles they have, and what they are mixable with. The basics are obvious by their names: Rum & Coke, Vodka & Tonic, Gin & Ginger Ale; Jack Daniels & Coke, etc etc. But now you need to recognize more complex cocktails, the originals from a hundred years ago that requires bitters.
The most popular bitters are: Agnostura; Peychauds; Fee Brothers; and then of course you have a long line of others which has formed in recent years which are worth their weight, such as BIttermans, BIttercube, Scrappy’s, and the list goes on. It would first interest you to create your own bitters, which is very easy.
Basically you get all the components you love and should contain at least, one element of bark, one of sweetness, and one of herb. So, my first attempt was cinnamon bark, some vanilla beans, orange rinds and of course you later add raw sugar, water and allow it to macerate.
You take your herbs, bark and ingredients and you bruise and put into a Ball or canning jar. Fill it with a high proof spirit like Everclear (190 proof or 95% alcohol) and you let it sit for 2-3 weeks, shaking it at least once a day until you clearly see it change color. Remove the herbs and put into a pot and boil with fresh, clean spring water, reduce to a simmer, and then strain that liquid into a new separate jar. Add an equal amount of sugar and/or simple syrup, so your mixture should be half infused water, and half sugar/simple syrup. Again shake, put aside for a week, then combine with your existing infused spirit. Shake vigorously, and do that every day for the next week or so. Now what you should have are home made bitters. Put them in smaller bottles with shaker tops, and they make great gifts, because, let’s face it, you probably won’t go through that many bitters in a year, and you should always use them within a year.
Simple enough, no? And, your friends if they are cocktail enthusiasts will appreciate it, and if not, tell them its an excellent cocktail enhancer and see if they agree.