Lots of fancy cocktail bars have been making bitters in house, infusing them with everything from rosemary to chocolate. They make a wonderfully aromatic addition to anything they are added to, lending a great herbal quality and pleasant bitterness.
After researching a few different recipes we got our shopping list together and made our way to the local new age herb shop. We picked up a few ounces of quassia, wormwood, and gentian, and the woman behind the counter mentioned that with this particular combination of herbs we were going to have some very healthy digestive systems. At the liquor store we purchased a bottle of overproof vodka insidiously named Devil's Spring and a bottle of rye to serve as the alcohol base.
Since mid December isn't the best time for produce we chose some Satsuma oranges, Meyer lemons, and tart dried cherries to flavor the bitters as well as coriander, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, and a few other spices.
After gathering all of the ingredients together the rest of the process is fairly simple. The herbs and bittering agents are toasted until aromatic and the fruits and spirits are placed in sealed jars to infuse for a few weeks, and agitated every few days.
A few days before Christmas we opened the jars and sampled the bitters, mixing a few drops with sparkling water to get the full effect. They tasted pretty great, all of the herbs really came through, the Meyer lemon and vodka mix was clean and fresh and the rye and cherry version tasted almost like a Manhattan even without the bourbon and vermouth.
Once the bitters were bottled and distributed the fun part began. As it turns out bitters are a welcome addition to most cocktails, from gin and tonics to bloody marys, they even make cheap beer taste better. And the woman at the herb shop was definitely on to something, bitters do a fantastic job of settling your stomach after a day or two of overindulgence.