For those of you on the hunt for an easy but well-received DIY holiday gift this season (for Manhattan lovers, perhaps), bitters are the way to go. You can use them in cocktails, sodas, and to cook with. We made four different kinds here: meyer lemon, ginger orange, chocolate, and coffee bitters. Fondly Forever was there to capture all our bitter-making fun.
Here are the details if you’d like to try it out yourself. The concept is pretty simple…
• 1 small lemon
• grain alcohol, such as Prairie Organic Vodka
• 15 drops gentian extract
• 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
• 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
• 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, cut in half
• 2 whole allspice berries
• 3 whole cloves
• a small glass bottle
1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove lemon zest in strips, leaving the white pith behind.
2. Combine lemon zest and all remaining ingredients in a quart jar with a tight-fitting lid. Close and store at room temperature. Let steep 14 days, shaking the jar every other day. The longer you allow the bitters to brew, the stronger the flavor will become.
3. Strain alcohol from spices and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid in a dark place.
Other flavors to try:
• 12 parts orange peel, 2 parts gentian, 2 parts cardamom, 2 parts coriander, 1 part allspice, 1 part cloves
• 20 parts lavender, 6 parts orange, 2 parts vanilla, 1 part ginger
• 10 parts coffee bean, 3 parts cocoa nib, 2 parts wormwood, 1 part orange, 1 part cinnamon; sweeten to taste with molasses
• 1/2 cup cacao nibs, 1 1/4 cups 101 proof bourbon, 6 cardamom pods, chopped, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped, 1 tablespoon gentian root, 1 tablespoon sarsaparilla, 1 teaspoon wild cherry bark, 1 teaspoon cassia chips, 1 teaspoon black walnut leaf, 1 cup 100 proof rye whiskey, 1/4 cup simple syrup
And since you can’t make a Manhattan without bitters, we’re sharing some tips on how to make the perfect one. It’s such a delicious beverage during the colder months of the year.
Now, of supreme importance are the quality of your ingredients. And by that we mean that your Manhattan will only be as good as the liquors you choose, so splurge a little if you can…
The Perfect Manhattan, 100 Layer Cake style
• Good quality whiskey (We’re partial to Rye but Bourbon works well too. Hudson, Templeton, Whistle Pig, and even Bulleit are great choices.)
• Carpano Antica Formula vermouth
• Cherries in syrup, like Amarena Fabbri or Luxardo.
• Orange Bitters (if you decide not to make your own, Angostura are great too.)
• Lemon twist
You’ll also need a cocktail shaker, jigger, and citrus twister. And if you’re fancy, a sphere ice cube mold.
Combine 2 ounces whiskey, 1 ounce vermouth, 1 tsp of cherry syrup, and a splash of bitters in the cocktail shaker. Fill shaker halfway with ice and cap. Shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds or until the shaker feels cold.
Now put your ice cube in a fancy cocktail glass and strain your frosty beverage into the glass. Rub the rim of the glass with a lemon twist and add it to the drink along with 2 cherries. Give it a little stir and enjoy!
Is this not the loveliest holiday cocktail? Careful, they’re tasty but strong!
Here’s to the holidays!
Styling: 100 Layer Cake / Photographer: Fondly Forever