I finally caught the bug, and I am trying my hand at making my own bitters. This is my first attempt and I want to approach the task the same way a wine maker, or a spirits blender would. Instead of throwing a bunch of ingredients together and letting the infusion start, I am creating multiple single ingredient infusions that I can have flexibility with many different types of bitters. I can also use these single ingredient infusions in cocktails to help support other flavors.

This week I am starting to infuse the ingredients I will be using to build my flavor library.

Before creating your own flavor library, make sure to read Darcy O’Neills Warnings on Infusing Tobacco. The warnings can apply to the most seemingly harmless ingredients as well, like cherry and peach pits. Be careful when making any infusions or extractions and know the ingredients you are working with especially if you are serving these to guests.

Tips for Creating your own Flavor Library:

You can use many different kinds of ingredients for these tinctures, but if you’re planning to create bitters, be sure you have at least one or two bittering agents in the mix.

Where to get the Goods:

Some ingredients were harder to find than others – here are the places I went to gather our ingredients:

  • Ethnic markets – I always try to buy spices at local ethnic markets, as they often have a great variety and really reasonable prices.
  • Farmer’s markets – we’re fortunate to have year-round farmer’s markets in our area.  That’s where I picked up most of the fresh items including citrus & lemongrass.
  • The local Grocery store – yes, quite a few ingredients were readily available at the grocery store.  Things like cinnamon, citrus and Ginger were pretty easy to find.

Storage & Containment

I used these glass spice jars for my flavor library, but you could also use any glass or other non-reactive container. (Affiliate link)

Tips for the Infusion Process:

  • Make sure all ingredients are submerged under the alcohol- you don’t want rotted material to enter your infusion.
  • Follow the same rules as infusions regarding storage and daily maintenance.
  • Record all the weight of infused material on the back of the jars. You want to be able to recreate any of your masterpieces.
  • I use old spice jars to create very small batch infusions.
  • I’ve used 151 proof neutral grain spirit to extract as much flavor as possible.
Remember: Different ingredients will infuse at different rates, so taste them frequently so you can stop each infusion at the right time!

Here’s a list of ingredients that we are currently infusing:

  • Lemongrass
  • Cinnamon
  • Wormwood
  • Pomegranate
  • Mint
  • Hibiscus
  • Celery
  • Lime
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Cranberry
  • Chamomile
  • Cinchona Wood
  • Clove
  • Ginger
  • Persimmon
  • White Pepper
  • Rooibos Chai
  • Star Anise
  • Sichuan Peppercorn
  • Black Peppercorn
  • Wasabi
  • Apple
  • Cucumber
  • Lavender
  • Coffee
  • Nutmeg

That’s a wrap!

In a couple weeks, we’ll come back to this topic and start blending these flavors to make our own bitters and tinctures.  Be sure to keep an eye out for that.  In the meantime, let us know what your favorite bitters ingredients are in the comments!

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.