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How to Make Bitters (and The Perfect Old Fashioned Cocktail)

Learn how to make bitters to keep in your home bar! These orange bitters are perfect for making a great Old Fashioned. It’s a simple recipe that you can tweak to make it your own.

How to make homemade orange bitters

If you have been following along on our cocktail adventures, you know we’ve really been loving creating and testing gin cocktails these days!

Well friends, we’re about to mix it up a bit. (Pun completely intended.)

Let’s take a little break from those delicious gin cocktails (yes, even our famous Bee’s Knees) and try something different! We’re doing to learn how to make bitters, and all about the cocktails that utilize them as an ingredient.

What Are Bitters?

Basically, bitters are an alcohol or spirit that’s been infused with fruit, spices, herbs roots, or other botanicals. The alcohol in bitters is typically very high proof and neutral.

I heard once that “salt is to food as bitters are to cocktails.” Essentially, bitters are used as a sort of cocktail seasoning.

They’re added to various cocktails to not only enhance the flavor of the cocktail, but combine their own flavors to bring a more complex and elevated element to the drink.

It’s a fun way to experiment and level up your home mixology adventures!

What Types of Cocktails Do You Put Bitters In?

You might most notably think of the Old Fashioned (see below for a great recipe!) when you think of the types of cocktails that you put bitters in. And you would be right!

Some other cocktails that make great use of bitters are the Manhattan, Sazerac, Negroni, and even Martinis.

Although it might seem like when you’re adding bitters to a cocktail, the recipe doesn’t call for much at all. But even a small amount has the effect of balancing a cocktail and bringing out its best!

They work well for balancing sweet and sour, and aligning and accentuating flavors.

The Perfect Old Fashioned Cocktail

There are a few special things you’ll need to make a classic, perfect Old Fashioned!

Ingredients and Supplies

  • sugar cubes or 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 dashes homemade bitters
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • orange peel
  • large ice cube
  • optional: Luxardo Cherries

Old Fashioned cocktails are best served with an oversized ice cube. I like this ice cube tray for large, spherical ice.

  1. Place a sugar cube or sugar in an old fashioned glass and saturate with bitters; add the water.
  2. Muddle or stir until dissolved.
  3. Add ice to the glass (either one large sphere or a handful of smaller cubes) and pour the bourbon over.
  4. Garnish with an orange slice (gently squeeze the peel to release the citrus oils into the drink) and a cocktail cherry if desired.
How to make homemade orange bitters

More Cocktail Ideas

Be sure to bookmark and try all of our easy cocktail ideas! This is a great way to start your home bar and build on your mixology skills.

A Great Homemade Gift

I love using this recipe idea for a really cool and unique gift! Learn how to make bitters and gift them to a cocktail connoisseur in your life.

There are lots of occasions that might be perfect for giving these homemade bitters as a gift!

Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. If there’s a father or mother figure in your life, this can be a fun gift idea for them. Then on the big day, mix them a cocktail using your homemade bitters.

Bachelor Parties. Mix a bottle of bitters for a bachelor or all of the groomsmen or women. Such a fun personal touch!

Wedding or Shower Favors. If you’re celebrating a couple that loves cocktails, homemade bitters would be a great favor at a wedding or shower!

How to make homemade orange bitters

Ingredients for Homemade Bitters

Here’s what you’ll need!

  • Everclear grain alcohol
  • four oranges
  • 1 tablespoon each of whole allspice, whole cloves, whole allspice, coriander and cardamom seeds
  • 4 ounce dropper bottles
  • knife and cutting board
  • large glass bottle
  • coffee filter or cheesecloth

How to Make Your Own Bitters

  1. Start by drying your orange peel. Peel four medium oranges and cut the peels into thin strips. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about one to two hours at 225 degrees, or until they are curling a bit at the edges and dried. Alternatively, if you have a dehydrator, you can dry your peels in that.
  2. Put two cups of Everclear and your orange peel (cooled) along with all of your spices in a glass container. Seal tightly and set in a cool and dry area.
  3. This mixture will sit for up to a month! You can swirl the jar every so often to agitate and mix the ingredients. If you like, test every few days for flavor saturation. Add a few drops to a glass of water to dilute it and do a taste test.
  4. Once you’re happy with the flavor, strain all of the solid ingredients out by pouring the bitters through your coffee filter or cheesecloth.
  5. Fill your dropper bottles with the homemade bitters and keep or give as gifts!

Print Out a Label for Your Bitters Bottle

For more information and to download a free label for your orange bitters, check out this post.

Cheers!

I love this recipe because you can put your own flavor spin on it and tailor it especially to the recipient if you’re giving it as a gift. If you try it be sure to rate our recipe below! xoxo

How to make homemade orange bitters
How to make homemade orange bitters
Yield: Bitters

How to Make Bitters (and The Perfect Old Fashioned Cocktail)

How to make homemade orange bitters

Learn how to make bitters for your home mixology recipes!

Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Everclear
  • 1 tablespoon each of whole cloves, whole allspice, coriander seeds and cardamom seeds
  • 4 oranges

Instructions

    1. Start by drying your orange peel. Peel four medium oranges and cut the peels into thin strips. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about one to two hours at 225 degrees, or until they are curling a bit at the edges and dried. Alternatively, if you have a dehydrator, you can dry your peels in that.
    2. Put two cups of Everclear and your orange peel (cooled) along with all of your spices in a glass container. Seal tightly and set in a cool and dry area.
    3. This mixture will sit for up to a month! You can swirl the jar every so often to agitate and mix the ingredients. If you like, test every few days for flavor saturation. Add a few drops to a glass of water to dilute it and do a taste test.
    4. Once you're happy with the flavor, strain all of the solid ingredients out by pouring the bitters through your coffee filter or cheesecloth.
    5. Fill your dropper bottles with the homemade bitters and keep or give as gifts!

Notes

Bitters are great for Old Fashioned cocktails! Try your bitters in this recipe:

  1. Place a sugar cube or 1/2 tspsugar in an old fashioned glass and saturate with3 dashes of bitters; add 1 tablesppon water.
  2. Muddle or stir until dissolved.
  3. Add ice to the glass (either one large sphere or a handful of smaller cubes) and pour 2 oz of bourbon over.
  4. Garnish with an orange slice (gently squeeze the peel to release the citrus oils into the drink) and a cocktail cherry if desired.

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10 thoughts on “How to Make Bitters (and The Perfect Old Fashioned Cocktail)

  1. Pingback: DIY - Homemade Father’s Day Gift Ideas | The Craftables
  2. Hi!
    Very informative post on making home made orange, loved this guide very much! Thanks a lot for sharing an useful guide with us.

    Keep it up!

    Thanks.

  3. WOW, learned from your post how to make orange bitters, very useful post for me! Liked it very much, you explained very clearly!
    Cheers!

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