Making Bitters Part 1

So I have decided to take a stab at something I have always wanted to try, making bitters. This has always intrigued me and I wanted to see if I could come up with my own, unique, blend. For this I going to start with a few ingredients, some standard, some a little unusual.

Bitters Ingredients

  1. Angelica Root

This is going to be my main bittering agent at work here as it is well known for its spicy-bitter flavor and is used in the majority of classic cocktail bitter recipies that I could find.

  1. Cinchona Bark

This is an ingredient best known for containing quinine, the delicious anti-malarial, compound that gives tonic water its distinctive flavor. The bark itself is also known to be somewhat bitter so I am hoping that this will add both bittering and herbal flavor to the brew.

  1. Star Anise

Another well known flavor, as I love Peychaud’s bitters I figure that some anise would help for the flavor I am looking for, I did not use very much as I didn’t want it to be the main flavor, but I am hoping for a distinctive note of it.

  1. Cinnamon Stick

This was a no-brainier to me as it is one of my favorite bitters notes to get, and one of the reasons that I love Angostura so much.

  1. Chuchuhuasi

This is my “weird” ingredient that I had been wanting to try for this exact purpose. My first encounter with this plant was being served a brew containing it by a shaman in the Peruvian rainforest. This has apparently been used for years in the Amazon Rainforest for its anti-inflammatory, pain relieveing, and occasionally noted as an aphrodisiac. So out of those something good should come, right?

The thing with Chuchuhuasi bark is just that, it tastes like bark, so although this one may add some bitterness from the alcohol extraction, I am not expecting any good flavor from it.

  1. Cloves

Another spice well known for being a aromatic, I plan to use cloves sparingly to round out a few attempts, although this isn’t particularly a “base” flavor I am looking to have.

From my reading I have found two different methods used, putting it all together at once and steeping or steeping each ingredient separately and combining to get the desired flavor. I have chosen the first method as A) I don’t know what flavor I want overall, and B) I fear that the blended components will not combine completely, and by adding the other components I may be diluting the existing flavors. However as I expect my first guess to be incorrect I will by trying a few different ratios of the ingredients as outlined below. My plan will be to let these steep for up to a month, tasting along the way to decide when I feel that they are “ready”.

Bitters Recipes

The Combinations (these start from the top right and go counterclockwise from there):

  1. Star Anise, Cinnamon, Chuchuhuasi, Cinchona, Angelica Root
  2. Star Anise, Chuchuhuasi, Angelica Root, Cinchona
  3. Angelica Root, Chuchuhuasi, Star Anise
  4. Cinchona, Cinnamon, Cloves, Chuchuhuasi