See HERE for the first part of my experience in making bitters.
So for the past month I have been working on my bitters project, every (almost) day I shook them and occasionally took a smell. After about 2 weeks the batches with star anise smelled like straight absinthe so I decided to remove all of the anise and let the other flavors have some time to come out. After a month they did not seem to be smelling any stronger and looked like they had enough time to pull in all of the necessary flavors from the botanicals. First though I noticed that I had lost significant liquid from a few batches (I suspect my lids were not air tight and some evaporated) so I added a little more Everclear and let it mingle a couple of days.
The process that I followed for the bottling was to first pour off as much liquid as I could from the containers, pressing out as much fluid as I could, using my trusty muddler.
Once I had the liquid extracted I measured it and put an equal amount of filtered water back into the container, the idea here that the bitters at this point were essentially 100% alcohol and that would be too harsh to be good. In order to get as much of the leftover flavor extracted I heated the new water-bitters up to a boil. I used my microwave for this task since the batches were so small that I wouldn’t have been able to effectively boil on the stove.
I let the mixtures cool for about an hour to get back to room temperature and continue pulling in flavor and then repeated the same steps as before to extract as much liquid as possible and combined that with the alcohol bitters, resulting in bitters that were about 100 proof, give or take a little. The resulting liquid still had some remaining solids so to clarify I used a coffee filter and forced the liquid through to remove the little pieces.
After filtering I poured the resulting bitters into these little dropper bottles I happened to have laying around and again used tape labels to remember which is which. I liked the tape labels as they are difficult to see from a distance, and thus makes it look like I just have a “mysterious” elixir to add to cocktails.
To be honest I should have probably used a little more variety of ingredients though. For tasting I essentially just made myself some very bitters-forward pink gin, with a couple of droppers of bitters in each with a small pour of London Dry Gin. Although I would have to say that #1 was my favorite, all were somewhat similar, and fortunately they all are pretty good too! The best comparison to the flavors that I know of would be Fernet Branca, which after some research makes sense as Fernet is widely believed to use both cinchona bark and angelica root, two of my main ingredients used in most of the batches. I am excited to continue playing with these bitters, although next time I am thinking to add more fruity elements, and to definitely make more of a variety of flavors. My weird ingredient though, Chuchuhuasi seemed to work well, although I am not sure if it has any distinct flavor additions, and I have yet to discover if its other “effects” are real or not. 🙂