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Saigon Cinnamon & Walnut Bitters Recipe

Saigon Cinnamon & Walnut Bitters Recipe

Maryse Chevriere

Saigon cinnamon and walnut bitters

Here's a kind of "starter" bitters recipe that is easy to make and super versatile. This recipe most closely resembles a basic/traditional approach to making aromatic bitters — big baking spices like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice with orange peel and raisins backed up by lots of bittering agents.

If you just use neutral grain spirits as the base alcohol (lose the whiskey, vermouth, and barenjager) and subtract the walnuts, black walnut hulls, hazelnuts, coffee beans, and cut back on the cinnamon, you've got a general "base" recipe.

Click here for the Lesson in How to Make Bitters story.

Click here for the Highland Sage cocktail recipe.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces neutral grain spirits, preferably Polmos' Spirytus Rektyfikowany but any high-proof vodka works
  • 16 ounces rye whiskey, preferably Old Overholt
  • 8 ounces sweet vermouth, preferably Dolin or Carpano Antica
  • 2 ounces honey liqueur, preferably Barenjäger
  • 10 ounces shelled walnuts
  • ¼ ounce black walnut hulls
  • 1 ounce cracked Saigon cinnamon
  • 1 ounce dried orange peel
  • 1 ounce golden raisins
  • ½ ounce quassia bark
  • ¼ ounce gentian
  • 25 cloves
  • 25 allspice berries
  • 20 hazelnuts
  • 15 coffee beans
  • 2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2-4 ounces Turbinado simple syrup
  • 4 ounces mineral water

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients except for the water and simple syrup in a large (50-70 ounces) sealable jar.

Shake vigorously once a day for two weeks and taste the mixture intermittently along the way so you can become more sensitive to how the flavor changes. Put a few drops on your hands and rub them together, the cup your nose and mouth and inhale. Others insist on putting a few drops in a glass of soda water or tasting them directly on your tongue, but I've found that the former dilutes the flavor too much and the latter destroys your palette for about 20 minutes.

For the third and fourth week, pay closer attention to your tasting notes — I usually hit gold around three and a half weeks, more than five and you're really almost past the point of no return.

Once you're achieved the desired flavor, strain the mixture through a chinois lined with 5-8 layers of cheesecloth into a nonreactive container. Add mineral water and Turbinado simple syrup to taste. Transfer into a large, cylindrical vessel and let sit for 1-3 days.

Once the sediment has completely fallen to the bottom, either decant or siphon off the clear solution near the top.


Dios Beigli (Hungarian Walnut Roll)

This walnut roll is a beloved treat in Hungary, found in bakeries all year round but especially at Christmas. It’s a yeasted roll, long and narrow, with a sweet filling — usually walnut (dios) or poppy seed — and a crackly, mahogany-colored crust.

The folks at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan shared this recipe with us, one they learned from the longest-standing baking family (five generations) in Budapest, the Auguszts. The family's use of both cake flour and all-purpose flour in their dios is a 100-year-old tradition, one that makes the bread extra tender and soft. The Bakehouse now makes beigli at Christmastime to the joy of their loyal customers and the local Hungarian community.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons (85g) water, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (88g) King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour
  • 2 cups + 1 tablespoon (248g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons (70g) lard or unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (64g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons (326g) shelled walnuts
  • 3/4 cup (84g) breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup (36g) grated lemon rind (zest), or the zest of about 6 large lemons
  • 4 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (91g) honey
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (161g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons (90g) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (76g) water
  • 1/4 cup (37g) raisins

Instructions

To make the dough: Weigh your flours or measure by gently spooning them into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.

In a medium bowl, combine the water, yeast, and cake flour. Add the all-purpose flour, butter, lard (or additional butter), confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Stir briefly, then use your hands to knead the mixture until it comes together in a smooth ball, about 5 minutes.

Divide the dough in half. Flatten each piece into a 6" square and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for an hour take this time to prepare the filling.

To make the filling: Finely chop two-thirds of the walnuts (216g, about 2 cups) in a food processor until ground (but not paste-like). Roughly chop the remaining walnuts.

Learn more

Beigli: the iconic Hungarian celebration bread

In a large bowl, use a sturdy spoon to mix the ground and chopped walnuts with the breadcrumbs, cinnamon, and lemon zest.

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, granulated sugar, vegetable oil, water, and raisins. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add to the nut mixture, stirring to combine. Spread the filling out on a baking sheet to cool.

Once the dough is chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Gently tap it with a rolling pin until it’s soft enough to roll.

Roll each piece of dough into a 10” x 12” rectangle with the short edge closest to you. Brush the edges with water and fold over 1/2” of dough on each side and on the bottom short edge closest to you.

Place half the filling on each piece of dough and spread evenly all the way to the folded edges, leaving about 1” without filling on the top (the short side farthest from you).

Starting from the short side closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down.

To glaze the beigli: Using a fork, gently beat the egg white in one bowl and the egg yolk in another bowl. Brush the outside of the beigli with the beaten egg yolk.

Loosely cover the beigli with greased plastic wrap and let them rest at warm room temperature (around 75°F is ideal) for about 40 minutes.

Brush the beigli with the beaten egg white then chill, uncovered, for 30 minutes. This step will help create the beigli's final crackled appearance.

While the beigli are chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F.

After the beigli have chilled, use a fork (or an ice pick if you have one) to make evenly spaced holes along the body and sides of the beigli. Push the fork deep into the dough fifteen piercings will be adequate. This allows steam to escape as the beigli bake, helping maintain their cylindrical shape.

Bake the beigli for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 330°F and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes, or until the beigli are a beautiful mahogany color on the exterior.

Remove the beigli from the oven and let them cool completely before serving.

Store, well wrapped, at cool room temperature for a few days freeze for longer storage.


How to Make Your Own Bitters

True booze hounds—or anyone looking to really impress their dinner party guests—should absolutely try making bitters at home, since this method can be adapted to limitless flavor combos that simply can&apost be found in stores. These also make excellent Christmas or hostess gifts for the holidays.

The Ingredients

You&aposll need three ingredients to make bitters: bittering agents, aromatics, and alcohol.

Bittering agents can include various edible roots, such as burdock and licorice root, and barks such as sarsaparilla and wild cherry bark.

Aromatics can include everything from citrus peels and dried fruit, to herbs such as mint, rosemary, and sage, to all kinds of spices. You can even use coffee beans and toasted nuts.

The alcohol should be heavy duty: think 100 proof (or 50 percent alcohol-by-volume, or ABV), at least. Vodka and grain alcohol (such as Everclear) have the cleanest flavor, though bourbon, rye, or rum can make for interesting spinoffs. No need to buy anything fancy𠅊 brand like Smirnoff will do just fine.

The Method

There are several methods for making bitters. You can combine all the ingredients at once I prefer infusing the botanicals individually and then blending the tinctures together at the end to suit your taste.

Step 1: In small jars, put one spice/herb/fruit/etc. at the bottom—one to two teaspoons, coarsely chopped𠅊nd cover with about 4 oz. of alcohol. Cover the jar tightly, and don&apost forget to label what&aposs inside!

Step 2: Shake the jar once a day to swirl the ingredients. Taste and/or smell the infusion daily—some ingredients will be infused within that first week, others may take several weeks. To taste the tincture as it ages, add a few drops to some sparkling water. If you taste it directly, the flavor will be very intense, and it&aposs hard to judge if it tastes good or not.

Step 3: When the mixture is ready, strain through a cheesecloth. Then use a medicine-type dropper (or buy those trendy little apothecary bottles with droppers) to combine flavors. Keep your bitters in a cool, dry place, and the mixtures should last indefinitely.


Homemade Cocktail Bitters

Bitters are essential in the bar and a key ingredient for many cocktails, from the martini to the old-fashioned and beyond. While it's great to have popular brands like Angostura or Scrappy's in stock, it's quite easy to make your own using this basic bitters recipe.

Creating homemade bitters is simple, though it takes about 20 days to complete one batch. Most of the time is hands-off as you wait for the botanicals to infuse the alcohol and then the water. These are nonpotable bitters used by the dash to accent beverages and food they're not meant to be drunk on their own. Be sure to use grain alcohol, such as Everclear, that's 151 proof (75.5 percent ABV) or stronger. In a pinch, a 100-proof vodka will do.

This recipe yields an aromatic style of bitters. Quassia bark and gentian root are the bittering ingredients, while the remaining botanicals—from orange peel to caraway seeds—add depth to the flavor. The recipe can be personalized by using a variety of herbs and spices to create orange or lavender bitters or fun combinations like coriander-lime.

Great for cocktails, bitters have culinary uses in sauces, soups, dressings, and pie fillings as well. Just a couple of drops can enhance the flavor of savory preparations, and bitters are used to flavor sodas and ice cream, too.


3 simple bitters recipes that will blow up your cocktail game

Making bitters at home is easy, and we have the recipes to get you started.

If you love making fancy cocktails as much as I do, you’ve probably got a bottle or two of commercial bitters sitting in your home bar right now. There’s definitely nothing wrong with that, but making your own bitters at home not only allows you to be in total control of the flavors you create, but it makes you feel pretty damn cool when your friends are raving at your mixology skills on girls’ night. But it’s not an entirely selfish endeavor. They make great gifts too.

There are two methods of making bitters. The more accurate one is to make a series of tinctures from your ingredients and combine those to make bitters. If you’re going off recipe and letting your creativity flow, that’s for sure the best way to get the right mix, since it allows more control over how much of each flavor seeps into the alcohol.

But some recipes may also call for tossing all the ingredients into the liquor at the same time. And for someone who’s experimented to create a foolproof recipe, it’s fine to go that route. But if you want to maintain your control in case you have different tastes than that person, you can still make separate tinctures, though I do recommend following the recipe exactly the first time so you know what you might even want to change.

Of course, to do that, you’re going to need some recipes, huh?

  • To make your tinctures, you need to cover your infusing agent (your ingredients) completely with high-proof liquor.
  • Don’t worry if all your tinctures don’t get ready at the same time. Once they’re strained, they’ll keep that flavor until you’re ready for them.
  • You don’t have to use all the tincture in each bitter. Just add what you think you want. Remember that the bittering infusions will be bitter, and that’s the point.
  • Before you start, read all about the process of making bitters.

Cherry-vanilla-cinnamon bitters

Cherry, vanilla and cinnamon give a hint of sweet spice to some pretty serious bitters.

  • Jar No. 1: 1 cup dried cherries
  • Jar No. 2: 2 vanilla beans, scraped
  • Jar No. 3: 2 star anise + 4 sticks cinnamon
  • Jar No. 4: 1-1/2 teaspoons wild cherry bark
  • Jar No. 5: 1-1/2 teaspoons gentian bark
  • Best liquor choice: bourbon

Steep each ingredient in liquor for up to 2 weeks, tasting every few days until you’re happy with the flavor. Strain individually into clean jars over cheesecloth, and when all are ready, combine as desired.

Suggested drinks: bourbon Manhattan, the Boulevardier, Old-Fashioned, cherry-vanilla shake

Chipotle-chocolate bitters

Sweet and smoky, chipotle-chocolate bitters will make a truly unique cocktail.

  • Jar No. 1: 2 tablespoons cacao nibs + 1 cinnamon stick + 1 whole clove + 1 allspice berry
  • Jar No. 2: 1 teaspoon dried oregano + 1 teaspoon wormwood leaf + 1/4 teaspoon angelica root + 1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • Jar No. 3: 2 dried chipotle peppers (whole)
  • Sweetener: 1/2 cup water + 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • Best liquor choice: tequila

Steep each ingredient in liquor separately for up to 7 days (the chipotle will take only 2 or 3 days), tasting every few days until you’re happy with the flavor. Strain individually into clean jars over cheesecloth. Mix the water and agave nectar well, and when all are ready, combine as desired.

Suggested drinks: Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, Rodeo Ghost, grasshopper, lemon-lime soda

Orange-ginger bitters

Angostura’s got nothing on the citrusy-spicy flavors of orange-ginger bitters.

  • Jar No. 1: Rinds of 3 oranges
  • Jar No: 2: 1 inch fresh ginger + 1/2 tablespoon lavender + 1/2 tablespoon juniper berries
  • Jar No. 3: 1 tonka bean, cracked + 1/2 tablespoon gentian root +1 teaspoon black walnut leaf
  • Best liquor choice: vodka

Steep each ingredient in liquor for up to 2 weeks, tasting every few days until you’re happy with the flavor. Strain individually into clean jars over cheesecloth, and when all are ready, combine as desired.

Suggested drinks: mimosa, Blue Moon beer, screwdriver, orange soda

What now?

Once you’ve made these, you should have a pretty good idea of how to create your own concoctions. And because of the method we’ve used of infusing things in separate jars, you can use any leftovers to create your own customer flavors. Just remember that it’s not a bitter without a bittering agent!


Black Walnut Old Fashioned

The phone is off, computer’s shut down, camera is stowed away, and everyone is coming home… the day is coming to an end. Just before I start cooking for the family, I’ll pull out a small cheese or charcuterie board, gather with everyone, poor a drink, and catch up with how the day went. It’s this time of day I love the most. Hearing the excitement of the resident six-year-old’s new discoveries and the husband’s intel on who has created a new dish or drink in Dallas.

Being a sommelier and a wine/spirits rep, he has a lot to tell when the work day is over. One day in particular, he came home and revealed that VH in Oakcliff was using black walnut bitters for a new twist on the Old Fashioned. Being that my favorite fall cocktails are Manhattans and Old Fashions, I had to check this combo out and was happy that I did! It’s just the perfect fall and winter cocktail. The only thing missing is a fireplace, which sadly we don’t have. Maybe I should build one outside — oh the stories we could tell over a fire pit!

Based off of how I create an Old Fashioned, I substituted black walnut bitters for Angostura and Demerara sugar cubes for white and created a complex flavor combination that I now favor over the traditional. So, when it’s time to shut everything off and the house fills up again, I reach for the bitters, sit down, and enjoy the stories of my family.

Black Walnut Old Fashioned

Slightly sweet and smooth with notes of caramel, orange, and roasted walnuts, this cocktail is the ultimate way to enjoy the fall. If you enjoy whisky, bourbon, and rye this is comfort in a glass. Cheers!

It all starts with splashing a Demerara (brown sugar) cube with black walnut bitters.

Muddle the sugar cube and a slice of orange zest in an old fashioned glass for about 1 minute.

Add rye whisky and stir. Then finish off with an ice cube. Serve and enjoy!


Basic Bitters Recipe

Of course, any good bitters starts with a liquor. We will use 4 cups of liquor, all together. You can, however, use all one liquor or combine different liquors. For example, you could use two cups of whiskey and two cups of rum. Or, you could use all vodka. It is really up to you. This basic recipe is a gentian-orange bitters. You can take out the gentian or the orange and add any ingredients of your choice. Chamomile would work well with this basic recipe.

Ingredients

4 cups liquor (whiskey, rum, vodka, etc.)
2 tbsp gentian root
1 tbsp green cardamom pods
2 tbsp dried bitter orange peel, or several strips of fresh peel of orange, lemon, lime, etc.)
2 cups hot water (not needed until the end)
Sweetener, if desired

Instructions

Combine the liquor and all the ingredients in a large glass jar with a sealable lid. Place the lid on the jar and seal tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and set it in a kitchen cabinet or other room-temperature place (keep away from high heat sources) for 14 to 21 days. Shake the jar well every day. The longer you rest it the more flavor will be imparted to the alcohol. Bitters are meant to be strong.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with a couple layers of cheesecloth and strain the contents of the jar into a clean bowl. Once all the liquid has strained through, gather up the cheesecloth into a ball to squeeze out all the excess liquid you can.

Set aside the filtered liquid. Place the now drained solid ingredients into a saucepan and mash them with a spoon or other instrument. Then pour the 2 cups hot water into the saucepan with the solid ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Allow the heated mixture to cool a bit.

Strain the mixture through a sieve (without the cheesecloth) into a clean bowl.

If you would like to sweeten your bitters, you can now add up to 3/4 cups of sugar, brown sugar, palm sugar, or another sweetener to the liquid. Allow the liquid to cool completely.

Combine the cooled liquid and the alcohol bitters based you strained before together. Transfer the new mix to a large clean glass jar with a sealable lid, just like you did at the beginning. Shake the jar well and let this second jar rest for another 7 days, shaking vigorously once a day.

After 7 days, stop shaking the jar (before, you introduced some solid sediments into the mixture because you didn’t use cheesecloth [on purpose], now you want to let the sediments settle, making it easy to completely filter them later). After the jar has rested undisturbed for 7 days, carefully drain and filter the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and several layers of cheese-cloth into a pourable container. Try to leave any sediments in the bottom of the jar. Your bitters are now done.

Using a funnel, pour the bitters into several small jars, like the hot sauce dasher bottles recommended above. Make some great cocktails and adding a few dashes of your bitters to taste.

This same method can be used to make any kind of bitters you would like.

Further Notes on Some Classic Bitters

You may find source advising the use of “burnt sugar” which is basically sugar that has been caramelized. If sugar is burnt enough, it will lend a bitter flavor all its own. However, old-time recipes for bitters which called for burnt sugar were only using it for color, i.e. “caramel coloring.” Brown sugar will lend color and some sweetness. Molasses can be used as well.

Stoughton’s Bitters (The First Widely Marketed Brand)

If you add colombo root (a.k.a. calumba) a very bitter root often used in aromatic bitters, and chamomile to the above recipe, and omit the cardamom, you’ll have something much like a classic bitters called Stoughton’s Bitters, which was the first brand of bitters to be widely marketed (most bitters were made individually by pharmacists at first). They were created by Richard Stoughton in England in 1712 and began being exported to the U.S. in 1730. His used a combination of brandy and some grain alcohol as the spirit base. Many existing recipes found in old books also call for snakeroot, a toxic herb better left alone.

Decanter Bitters

If you care to explore more old-time recipes for bitters, keep in mind that many of the recipes were for decanter bitters. These were not as strong and were diluted with a lot of water to make them suitable for serving by the glass. To mimic the taste but get a strong bitters, the water must be reduced and the steeping time may need to be lengthened. Jerry Thomas’ “Own Decanter Bitters” were meant to be served by the glass and the instructions given in his famous book on bartending didn’t even call for any particular period of time for steeping. He simply instructed pouring Santa Cruz rum over the ingredients and serving in pony glasses, and then replacing the rum when the bitters ran out. His used snakeroot, by the way, which is a liver toxin and illegal for sale. I would advise not to worry about matching the old-time bitters but to simply use them for inspiration in creating your own. Many of the roots and herbs used in those days, however, have been determined to be unsafe to use.

Don’t want to make your own bitters? Try one of the classic gentian-based bitters like Angostura Aromatic Bitters or Peychaud’s.


Aromatic Bitters Recipe from the Bitter Housewife

Last week, Genevieve Brazelton of the Bitter Housewife, stopped by the creativeLIVE offices (my day job) for a great set of tutorials on making your own bitters and liquors. Below is one of the recipes she shared on-air!

Aromatic Bitters Recipe from Genevieve Brazelton

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Wild Turkey 101
  • 1/8 cup dried cherries
  • 1/8 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 inch sliced fresh ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick (approx. 3 inches long)
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and seed scraped out (use both seeds and pod)
  • 1⁄4 tsp whole allspice cracked
  • 1/8 tsp whole cloves
  • 1/8 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cardamom pods cracked
  • 1/8 tsp quassia chips
  • 1/8 tsp gentian root
  • 1⁄4 tsp black walnut leaf

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients (botanicals + booze) go in the jar and sit for 2 weeks. Shake occasionally.
  2. Strain solids from booze. Set booze aside in a sealed container. Simmer solids with 1⁄2 cup water for 10 minutes. Let water and solids sit together for 1 week.
  3. Strain and discard solids from water. Mix booze and water together. Add 1 tbsp rich syrup*. Let sit for 3 days.
  4. Filter bitters through cheesecloth. Use generously.

*Simple syrup is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water simmered until sugar is dissolved. Basic directions here.


Recipe Summary

  • 2 cups overproof bourbon (such as Wild Turkey 101)
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 4 cloves
  • Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole nutmeg, cracked
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 tablespoons devil's club root
  • 1 tablespoon cinchona bark
  • 1 tablespoon chopped black walnut leaf
  • 1 tablespoon wild cherry bark
  • 1/2 teaspoon cassia chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon gentian root
  • 1/2 teaspoon sarsaparilla root
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a 1-quart glass jar, combine all of the ingredients except the syrup. Cover and shake well. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks, shaking the jar daily.

Strain the infused alcohol into a clean 1-quart glass jar through a cheesecloth-lined funnel. Squeeze any infused alcohol from the cheesecloth into the jar reserve the solids. Strain the infused alcohol again through new cheesecloth into another clean jar to remove any remaining sediment. Cover the jar and set aside for 1 week.

Meanwhile, transfer the solids to a small saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes let cool completely. Pour the liquid and solids into a clean 1-quart glass jar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 week, shaking the jar once daily.

Strain the water mixture through a cheesecloth-lined funnel set over a clean 1-quart glass jar discard the solids. If necessary, strain again to remove any remaining sediment. Add the infused alcohol and the syrup. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 3 days. Pour the bitters through a cheesecloth-lined funnel or strainer and transfer to glass dasher bottles. Cover and keep in a cool, dark place.


A Lesson in How to Make Bitters

You almost hate to hear it: Making your own bitters at home? Yeah, it's actually not that difficult.

Because there's no excuse now -- and you start to think, how could I not have been doing this all along? Ideas for black cherry-ginger, or coffee bean-cocoa nib bitters rush in.

If you're tapped in to the cocktail zeitgeist, odds are you already have bitters on the brain. (If you're not, here's what you need to know: Classic cocktails? Having a major moment. Housemade ingredients? Huge. Bitters? Über retro-chic.) So you can imagine the on-trend factor of housemade bitters, and the cocktails made with them.

"They're a kind of late-blooming extension of the classic cocktail trend that peaked about five years ago, and the more widespread grassroots, farm-to-table phenomenon that's taken place in the industry more recently," explains Dan Carlson, bartender at New York restaurant Saul. Bitters, essentially a highly concentrated mixture of spirits and aromatic ingredients, act as "a kind of nuanced seasoning that galvanizes the flavor profile of a cocktail recipe." And while they have long since played a role in the craft of making cocktails -- the still widely popular brand Angostura dates back to 1824 -- the resurgence of the classic cocktail has pushed bitters out of the old folks' home and given them a whole new wardrobe at that.

At Saul, and its sister establishment The Vanderbilt, you'll find housemade bitters without boundaries: Saigon cinnamon and walnut strawberry and Indian fennel. "When you make your own bitters you have the freedom to choose what kind of flavor combinations you'd like to anchor your recipes around. You come to respect each ingredient more fully and understand how they can act in harmony and discord with others," Dan remarks.

OK, so let's backtrack for a second. Because "not that difficult" is not to say that there isn't still some work involved -- think of making your own bitters as a sort of science project for the card-carrying cocktail geek. Is sourcing ingredients like quassia bark and gentian going to be a bit of a challenge? Sure. But consider this: One "starter" batch of bitters could easily last the average home bartender a year.

You just need to go in knowing that it's going to require some patience, and accept that it might not work out exactly as you anticipated. As Dan is quick to note, "It might sound silly, but I think you need to remind yourself that you're doing this because it's fun, and there is an element of risk involved."