The Eleven Mixologists have been on a serious bitters crusade lately; in fact, we’ve been making our own homespun versions of these cocktail accoutrements that are rooted (pun intended) in medicinal practices. But what precisely IS a bitter, you ask? In essence they are very stylized, concentrated liquor essences that are added to cocktails to give them deeper and more complex flavors. They were once used as medicinal tonics, but through the generations bartenders started using them as a way to intensify cocktails.
Bitters contain three flavor components: a dried bitter root or bark, dried fruits or vegetables, and dried spices or herbs. The combination of these three profiles guarantee a nearly infinite variety of styles and experiences.
For the recipes listed below, I procured burdock root and dried spices from Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville and The Bentonville Tea and Spice Exchange across from Tusk and Trotter in Bentonville. Daniel Swisher, Eleven’s head mixologist, has been mix matching and working like a mad scientist of sorts to create a score of pretty, thoughtful, delicious drinks…the most popular of late being the Warhol Flower Gimlet comprised of London dry gin, apricot brandy, simple syrup, several dashes of our house-made lavender bitters, and one whole hibiscus flower.
In order to make bitters at home, you need to infuse a combination of botanicals and high-proof alcohol.
Bittering Agents: Burdock root, dandelion bark, gentian root, licorice root, wormwood, calamus root, wild cherry bark, and orris root are all great places to start.
Flavor Agents: Try any combination of allspice berries, anise seed, caraway seed, cinnamon, citrus peel, clove, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, hops, juniper berries, lavender, lemongrass, nutmeg, rose hips, sarsaparilla, or star anise.
We hope you’ll try your hand at making your very own homemade bitters. Enjoy..!
Eleven Lavender-Spiced Bitters 1 cup Everclear 1 small orange 4 tablespoons burdock root 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 2 teaspoons dried lavender 2 cinnamon sticks 1 piece fresh ginger, cut in half (approx. 1 ½ inches) 5 allspice berries 5 whole cloves 1 tablespoon honey dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
Red Licorice Bitters 1 cup Everclear 1 small orange 4 tablespoons burdock root 1 tablespoon cardamom pods 2 tablespoons fennel seeds ¼ cup dried cherries or cranberries 1 tablespoon clover honey dissolved in 2 teaspoons of hot water Technique Remove the orange zest in strips with a microplane or vegetable peeler. Combine the zest with the aromatics and herbs in a small mason jar. Pour the Everclear over the top and add in the liquid honey and about 1/4 cup of juice from the orange. Cover tightly and store at room temperature. Allow to steep for at least three weeks. After the steeping process is finished, strain into a clean jar. Keep in a cool, dark space until ready for use.