Just try to make your next Manhattan without that dash of bitters, and the value of this oft-underappreciated cocktail additive becomes instantly evident. This recipe is made with a variety of ingredients for a well-rounded formula that tastes great in any cocktail calling for angostura or Peychaud’s bitters.

What to buy: We used Everclear 151 grain alcohol here. Its lack of impurities and sugar allows it to pick up the flavoring elements much faster than vodka.

Gentian extract is taken from the root of the gentian flower and used to aid in digestion; it packs a potent kick.

Game plan: Simply straining the alcohol through a fine-mesh strainer will leave a few cloudy particles behind (which aren’t harmful). If you want completely clear bitters, strain through a coffee filter nested in the strainer.

The bitters will last indefinitely when stored in an airtight container in a dark spot.

This recipe was featured as part of our Bringing Bitters Back project.

  • Yield: About 3 cups
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: Under 5 mins, plus steeping time 
  • Active: Under 5 mins

Ingredients (8)

  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle grain alcohol, such as Everclear 151
  • 40 drops gentian extract
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 (1-1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, cut in half
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves


  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 tightfitting lid. Close and store at room temperature. Let steep 14 days, shaking the jar every other day.
  3. Strain alcohol from spices and store in a jar with a tightfitting lid in a dark place.