Recipe: Homemade Bitters

The secret to turning a drink into a cocktail? A splash of homemade bitters.


homemade bitters

When it comes to old classics or modern twists, cocktail aficionados have raised the bar. Long gone are the days of rum and Coke (unless it’s homemade cola and small-batch rum made in Brooklyn, of course), and the difference these days is almost always about bitters. They’re the ballast behind an interesting cocktail, adding a je-ne-sais-quoi to balance sweet, sour or flat-out boozy. Top restaurants create their own: it’s not out of the ordinary to see esoteric roots, herbs and spices soaked in jars of high-proof alcohol in restaurant bars, ready for a bartender’s experimentation. The more elusive the ingredients the better, and some recipes can take a month to complete (which is their cachet, naturally). What follows is a cheater’s bitters that can be quaffed within the hour and will keep for weeks... if it lasts that long.

Grapefruit Saffron Campari Bitters
1 grapefruit zest (no white pith) and juice
1 pinch saffron
2 cardamom pods (smashed)
6 whole pink peppercorns
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 cup vodka
1 cup Campari

Place grapefruit zest, juice, saffron, cardamom, peppercorns, water and sugar in a saucepan and simmer 5–6 minutes to make a syrup. Let cool, add vodka and Campari, and store in a clean jar. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour and use within 4 weeks. Try it mixed with ice, vodka and soda, or add a dash to a flute of Champagne or prosecco.

Find more easy, make-at-home recipes and great meal ideas here!