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by Will Johnston 4 min read
Please be aware that our bitter recipes do use alcohol and are not recommended for anyone looking to abstain completely from alcohol. Our recipes are intended for 2 to 6 shakes of bitters to make a mocktail, which make the drink near .05% alcohol, and generally considered to be non-alcoholic.
We are excited to introduce to you methods for creating non-alcoholic (NA) cocktails, also called mocktails. Our mixology suggestions are based on many tried and true recipes which use infusions that you can craft at home. Basically, these are simply an alcohol base, some spices, and a couple weeks' time --and patience! :)
Bitters have been made by many cultures all around the world. The oldest known mention of bitters are from the Ancient Egyptians, making herbal wine infusions. The herbs included in bitters were traditionally chosen based on their pharmaceutical applications, and to aid digestion. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, cocktails came into fashion in England, with bitters making a star appearance. Angostura Bitters, the classic Old Fashioned cocktail bitters, were created byDr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert in Venezuela in 1824 as a cure for seasickness and stomach pain, but quickly became a classic cocktail ingredients.
BAR TOOLS: Barware and Mixology Bartender Staples
If you’re hoping to demonstrate your bartending prowess and create compelling mocktails, you’ll want some basic barware and staples. Ideally, a jigger as a way to measure your infusions and other mixing ingredients, a muddler or way to ‘muddle’ your fresh fruits and herbs. A strainer for separating the final drink and any pulp, seeds of botanicals. Also, your bar should be stocked with fresh lemons, limes, bar cherries, garnishes, straws, tonic water and fruit juices.
Our approach to making bitters is to build a base for a great mocktail. Typically you’ll want to fill a mason jar with the alcohol base and place spices and/ or fruit to infuse over time, checking it to find the flavor profile you are trying to achieve.
Store you infusion in a cool, dark place. Let it rest for 1 to 3 weeks. You can and should taste to get a sense how the infusion progresses, and make any changes, if desired. When you have achieved the desired flavor profile, strain the alcohol and remove any organic ingredients.
What you should know before you start:
STEP ONE - Choose your alcohol
For the best flavor expression, you will need 100 proof liquor. We recommend using a neutral spirit with 150-proof or higher. You can also play around with other high proof alcohols, such as 151-proof rum, 101-proof bourbon, or vodkas as long as they are at least 50 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Spirits that are 75% ABV needs to be watered down to make it a more palpable 50 percent alcohol by volume. This adds another step to your process, but you end up saving money because you use less alcohol. Interestingly, high ABV liquors usually extract faster and more efficiently.
STEP TWO - Combine spices
We recommend crushing all the larger spices, such as cloves, cardamom, caraway seeds, black peppercorns, coriander and juniper berries. This helps release the oils and bring out the flavors. You can crush them with a mortar and pestle, the bottom of a heavy glass on a cutting board, or with a muddler.
Put the dry ingredients in a jar with the spirits and let sit for at least a week, usually 7-10 days. If you are experimenting with dried fruit, this could be more like 2-3 weeks. If you are using nuts, remove the shells because they contain a lot of tannins which can overpower your flavors. Fresh ingredients such as fruit or herbs usually reach maximum potency within 3 or 4 days.
STEP THREE - Infuse, check in often
Shake the jar once a day. It’s recommended to check your bitters every couple of days --it’s ready whenever you decide the flavors are strong enough. The flavor will get increasingly bitter, so be wary of letting it sit for too long. Some people prefer to infuse all of the spices separately, but we found that steeping them all together allows the flavors to blend, making a deeper flavor profile. It is not recommended to use ground spices; for best results, use whole.
We use gentian root as our primary bittering agent, however many other traditional bittering agents can be used such as black walnut leaf, cinchona or quassia bark, calamus or dandelion root, catechu, wormwood, and angelica root. Better known bitter ingredients, such as coffee, cocoa nibs, hops, black or green tea, can also be substituted. Some people like adding sugar to their bitters, but we found it wasn’t necessary. Try experimenting with adding infused simple syrup if you are interested in a sweeter mocktail.
STEP FOUR - Strain & serve
Strain the botanical additions out of the liquid with a fine-thread cheesecloth or a coffee filter. All of recipes in our DIY Bitters Making Kit are made to fit in the provided 5 oz bottles. If stored in a cool, dark place, bitters can last a long time, but we recommend enjoying them within a year.
4 Dashes of lavender bitters
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ oz Water (or club soda)
1 ½ oz Blue butterfly pea simple syrup
1. Shake bitters, water and lemon juice with ice.
2. Pour into a tall serving glass. Slowly pour blue butterfly pea syrup over top and watch the color change.
3. Garnish with lemon slice and edible flowers such as pansy and borage flowers, or a sprig of lavender.
*Recipe from our DIY Cocktail Bitters Making Kit
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