Citrus Bitters: Phase III (last one!)

by Madeline Popelka


Alright guys, last couple steps! It's crazy that it has been over a month since we started the bitters process. Last week we cooked the solids down with some water and let it sit at room temperature in a mason jar, shaking it once a day.

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After one week, we strained the contents of the jar through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into anther mason jar. I actually had to filter the liquid through the cheesecloth two times in order to get all the sediment out.

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We added this liquid to the other mason jar, which contained the original vodka solution. We also added a couple spoonfuls of honey to sweeten it up.

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Kendall and I get our honey from a vendor at the market, Marshall’s Farm. The flavor of honey is highly influenced by the seasons, and also where the honey is collected. What’s cool about Marshall’s Farms is that the beekeeper searches out and hand selects spots in the Bay Area that will produce high-quality, delicious honey. They have an amazing Orange Blossom Honey (which I love to use in Hot Toddies), and many other wonderful flavored honeys, like lavender, blackberry, and wildflower. We used the Star Thistle Honey in our bitters. Yes, star thistle is a weed, but it makes a darn good honey!

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After we stirred the honey in the mixture, we sealed the jar up and let it sit for another three days. When the three days were up, we strained it though cheesecloth once more.

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Last step: bottle it up!

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Woohoo! We have bitters! FINALLY! Now, time to taste ‘em. Usually, when I try a liquor for the first time, I’ll pour myself a spoonful and drink it. You can’t do that with bitters—the flavors are way too intense and you’d totally kill your taste buds!

First, I wanted to smell the bitters. I put a few drops in the palm of my hands, rubbed them together to “warm up the bitters”, cupped my hands and brought them to my nose, then inhaled. I could smell a strong citrus flavor, cardamom, and coriander. Yum. This got me really excited to taste them.

I put about 8 drops of bitters in a small glass with ice and filled it up with soda to dilute the bitters. Delicious! The soda was really refreshing with the hints of citrus and spice—like a little burst of sunshine! In the future, when Kendall and I prepare a feast and I over-eat, I’ll fix myself a tall glass of bitters and soda. It’s a traditional digestif that will help settle the stomach!

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The best way to taste bitters is in a cocktail. If you try one Manhattan with bitters and one without bitters, you'll definitely taste a difference. The one without bitters will be too sweet—you need a couple drops of bitters to balance it out.

Unfortuantely, I've been super busy this week and have not had time to really experiment with the bitters. Just to test them out, I made a simple cocktail with bourbon, sugar, and absinthe. Without the bitters, the cocktail seemed a little flat and sweet. Just a few drops of the citrus bitters gave the cocktail some spice and acidity.

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This weekend I am planning on creating some delicious cocktails featuring the citrus bitters—I'll be sure to share them with you all! Cheers!