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making bitters and other liqueurs

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
After finding a source of wormwood, I've decided to make some bitters. For the most part, it is a pretty simple process. It really just requires patience. The solvency of high proof alcohol is enough to get the essential oils out of most of the ingredients.

This is kind of a proof of concept for me, so I'm working in small batches. I bought 750mL of grain alcohol, and aliquotted it into some canning jars (roughly 75mL / jar).

Then, using a mortar and pestle, I ground up individual spices and added each spice to its own jar. I am doing it that way so that I can mix everything to taste at the end of the process, rather than trying to get a spice blend perfect now, adding it all to one batch, only to find out it tastes horrible when it is finished.

I have to say that the vanilla aroma was amazing and wonderful. I may have to make my own vanilla extract just for fun. With expensive ingredients like this, you can really understand why making batch mistakes is not wanted.

Some other flavors I'll be trying include orange and coriander because I like citrus scents and tones. Orange peel is pretty bitter as is, so I scraped all the pith off it that I could to try to really focus on the orange flavor rather than use it as the bitter agent.

I was trying to find star anise today, but came up empty. I think one of the ethnic markets will probably have it. I'll probably wander in the one spice shop and see what else I may want to try using.

Now, I just let this stuff sit and dissolve for a while, probably a few weeks. Then I'll take a sample from each jar, cut it down to 40% alcohol, and do some tasting. From there, I'll start putting together my recipe for bitters.
post #2 of 4
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
I just had to get some tastes as the color in many of the jars is looking amazing.

1) Orange is fantastic. Sharp, citrus, bitter. . . just right. I may make a standalone orange bitters.
2) Clove spreads wonderfully and numbs the mouth quite rapidly even with just a tiny drop. Intense flavor.
3) Vanilla is amazingly flavorful.
4) Coriander really has a strong citrus flavor, but something else. Kind of a hard stop to the taste, not sure how to describe it.
5) Allspice was my final favorite. Very warming and just pleasant.

Chamomile was not ready yet. Needs more time to develop I think.

My concern now is concentration. I put droplets of each into a glass and then added some bourbon and vermouth. Not hard hitting enough to cut through that and make a balanced drink, but it was 90+% alcohol. I may try again but cut with a drop of simple syrup, just to see if it needed something other than alcohol as a solvent to carry the flavors. If that proves insufficient, then I'll either have to try evaporating some of the alcohol off without losing essential oils (maybe age in some sort of tiny wine barrel), or try to get the essential oils to come out of solution, and redissolve them in a smaller volume of alcohol.
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Yep, experiment #2 with simple syrup seems to be working, or I am just getting drunk and thinking it tastes better. Very interesting flavors, and all the herbs weren't even in there yet.
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