Making Bitters

Darcy O'Neil :: June 15, 2006 1:50 PM

Herbs for Making Bitters
Well the components for making my own bitters are slowly arriving at the doorstep. The buchner funnel arrived a few weeks ago and this is obviously to filter the bitters. Because it uses a vacuum to pull the liquid through a very tight filter, this will help with product stability and prevent “drop out” in the future. The herbs have arrived and to start I will be working with about 20 herbs and spices. Some of the herbs include gentian, burdock and milk thistle. But I’ve also located some “secret” herbs, now I sound like a KFC restaurant. The reality is that I want to try the herbs first to see how they work out. I’ll be using a number of spices including cinnamon and cardamon. And finally to make this product unique, instead of being orange or peach bitters, they will be . . . .

Cranberry Bitters. Many times I’ve found cranberries to have a light bitter quality which is more pronounced in green, unripened, cranberries. As far as I can tell from my research, these will be the first cranberry bitters ever created. The one problem I foresee is that cranberries have a sour component that might be hard to work with, but hopefully the green ones won’t be too sour.

The methodology for making these will be just like Canadian whisky, they will be blended. Basically, I’ll create 20 individual extractions (herb + alcohol + jar) and taste them over a few weeks. Once they’ve reached a potent point, I’ll start blending them with other bitter extractions, with the hope that I can create a good quality bitter. If something doesn’t work, then the final product won’t have it. This method costs a little more upfront, but also reduces waste, and costs, by not having to deal with a bad batch.

If the final blend is too potent, then it is easy to add more alcohol to smooth it out. For the first time in years I actually have two bottles of vodka in the house. I’m not much of a fan for vodka based drinks, but as a solvent it is excellent. I’ve also thought of barrel aging these bitters, but I’m not sure, I’ll have to see how they turn out first. If they do get some aging, it will be via the el cheapo method to start. Basically I’ll pick up some toasted oak chips at the local wine making supply place.

The last thing I need to order is a couple boxes of woozy bottles with orifice reducers and caps. Once I have bottled them up I will happily trade / send a few out some for sampling. For the first batch there will be very limited quantities to go around.

Fix the Pumps
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