How I Create Our Bitters Flavors

How I Create Our Bitters Flavors

What goes into bitters? What makes bitters bitter? How do you come up with your flavors? I get a lot of questions about the ingredients that go into each flavor of bitters and how each flavor is different. Honestly, I love talking about flavor. It’s one of the best parts about what I do, playing around with flavors for bitters and then coming up with different ways to use them. 

Since one of my primary goals is to get you to use our bitters and not let them collect dust on your bar, I work hard to make all our flavors versatile, even if they’re a little unfamiliar, and also balanced, so that they don’t overwhelm the drinks you're making.

With that end in mind I generally start my recipe development thinking of both a flavor that would be interesting in drinks and more specifically the types of drinks I would use it in. For instance with our Grapefruit Bitters I first thought of Gin & Tonic, a Hemingway Daiquiri, and a Paloma. 

With those drinks in mind, I looked at flavors that compliment grapefruit to start building my recipe. Ginger for a little spice, coriander and hops for subtle herbaceous qualities, a touch of cardamom for warmth. Then I considered which bittering agents to use. I wanted to keep the grapefruit bitters light and fresh, so I stuck with gentian as the main bitter herb and cut out many of the others I often use. I also doubled down on the hops for an additional bitter note. We generally bring our flavors together with a touch of sugar, but for grapefruit I chose honey to add a round, lightly floral sweetness to the bitters. 

I have a long list of ingredients (read more about the ingredients we use here) I turn to when looking to build out a recipe, but I’m always hunting for more. I also look to some of my favorite cookbooks for inspiration on flavors that work well together. Our lime coriander bitters was definitely inspired by some of my favorite Thai and Vietnamese recipes.

There’s a lot of trial and error to getting the amounts of each ingredient right and deciding if it brings anything to the recipe that I’m looking for. But I approach each recipe similarly. What is my main flavor and how do I think I’ll use it? What are supporting flavors that will bring out the characteristics I’m looking for and work with the drinks I want to make? What bittering agents will work best with all the ingredients? Once I have a few test batches I also mix some drinks to see how it works in a cocktail. In addition to my original thoughts, it turns out grapefruit is my go to for lower abv drinks made with vermouth and fortified wines. It also goes really well with smokey mezcals and many amaros. 

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