A dash of spice added to cocktail recipes old and new, aromatic bitters, or simply "bitters" as they are commonly known, are a concoction of alcoholic herbs and spices that add a dash of heat and interest to otherwise boring cocktails. Bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts can save money by making their own bitters using a few easily found ingredients.
Determine which alcohol to use for the spirit base of your drink. A high proof grain alcohol with little or no flavor of its sown is perfect for making bitters. If grain alcohol is illegal in your area (due to high proof content), consider a high proof vodka as a viable alternative. You need one bottle of grain alcohol.
Choose the herbal content of your bitters. Common herbs for bitters include wormwood, tree bark (birch or fringe tree), dandelion, burdock, milk thistle, lavender, fennel, hops and hibiscus. Most herbs are available from online suppliers as well as brick-and-mortar herbalists. Purchase small bags of each herb until you perfect your recipe.
Pick the spices for your recipe from traditional ingredients such as cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, allspice, anise, cloves and juniper. Like the herb list, just choose two or three of the spices for the bitters and experiment with flavors after making a first batch.
Grate a lemon with a cheese grater to extract the zest. Only the yellow rind is needed for making bitters. Consider freezing the rest of the lemon for future baking use. You can also add the rind of oranges and grapefruit to add more depth to the citrus aspect of the bitters.
Place equal amounts of chosen herbs and spices into an air-tight glass jar. Choose a jar with dark-colored glass and one that has a rubber seal on the lid and shuts completely and tightly. Many kitchen stores stock pickling and spice jars that work perfectly for bitters.
Pour grain alcohol on top of herbs, spices and lemon rind, covering everything completely and filling to a few millimeters above the rim of the jar.
Seal the jar and store for two weeks before use, making sure to shake the jar at least every other day to aid the natural infusion process. The idea is that the alcohol will take on the flavor and scent of the herbs and spices.
Filter the herbs and spices from the alcohol by pouring through a strainer with a coffee filter in the bowl. This will prevent small pieces of herbs and spices getting into the alcohol, and leave you with a clear bitters mixture that can be stored indefinitely in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.