Tiki Bitters – making your own bitters.
It’s time to make some homemade bitters folks! And why make something that you can buy anywhere when you could be making a bitters that spices up your Tiki drinks that doesn’t really exist in the marketplace? Yep, that’s what I thought too! The basic technique I’m using here can be used to make any other kind of bitters you desire so you may also consider this a Bitters 101 course. Making your own bitters is pretty damn easy in itself but the tricky part can be assembling the ingredients. A good spice supplier – either bricks and mortar or online – is invaluable but even then bittering agents such as gentian and chinchona may have to be sought out separately (all hail the internet!) but at least once you have some they will last you for years. Once assembled it is simply a case of soaking your ingredients in some strong alcohol for a wee whiley to extract the flavours. Most spices and roots are fine to use as they come but some benefit from breaking up to increase the surface area. Therefore gently crush those I’ve marked using a mortar and pestle (feel free to improvise if you lack one) taking care not to powder them. Often strong neutral alcohol is used but if we’re making a Tiki bitters we’d very better use rum. If only there were rums strong enough (heh, heh, heh…) to do the job. In the past I’ve used Mariënburg 81% rum along with the OFTD but it’s a hard one to find for a lot of you and I tend to get some funny looks when I buy it in person even though it’s only the weak export version (no, seriously). This time I subbed in Wray & Nephew overproof Jamaican white rum and it works just as well, even adding some nice funky notes to the mix. You could use other overproof rums than I have but make sure to keep the average abv north of 60% for the best results. Mix the spices and rum in a jar and give it a shake a couple of times a day. After around five days simply strain the lot through an unbleached coffee filter (twice for good measure) and funnel into a bitters bottle. You can either buy a nice bitters bottle and dasher top or save and recycle your Angostura bottles or maybe you’ll luck out and thrift a nice old perfume bottle like I did. Use your Tiki bitters in any Tiki drink you’d like to spice up either instead of or as well as the recommended bitters. Or even when no bitters are called for (we be talkin’ Daiquiris and the like here) where these wonderful tropical spices and bitter elements really liven things up.
1 tablespoon bitter orange peel.
1 tsp gentian.
0.5 tsp chinchona chips (not powder).
1 tsp cocoa nibs.
1 small star anise*.
1 Ceylon cinnamon stick (the crumbly type)*.
10 dried allspice (aka pimento) berries.*
2 green cardamom pods.*
Gently crush those marked *
Add everything to a jar containing 150ml of Wray & Nephew overproof rum and 100ml of Plantation OFTD overproof rum (see text).
Leave for 5 days shaking briefly at least daily.
Filter and bottle.
If you want to read more about bitters (including making your own) I strongly recommend Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters and Amari by Mark Bitterman (yes, that really is his name).