DIY Orange Bitters Recipe (2024)

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Every orange bitters has a different flavor profile, and now you can craft your own.


Marcia Simmons

Marcia Simmons


Learn about Serious Eats'Editorial Process

Updated September 29, 2022


DIY Orange Bitters Recipe (1)

In This Recipe

  • What's Available to Buy

  • Why DIY?

  • How to Use DIY Orange Bitters

Why It Works

  • Neutral grain spirit draws out the flavor from orange peels and spices.
  • Customize the variety of oranges, spices, or bittering agents you use to match your favorite co*cktails.

Orange bitters are basically my co*cktail Superman. When I've screwed up a drink by making it too sweet or gotten so close to perfection only to end up with something flat-tasting, orange bitters have swooped in to save the day. Just a drop or two can add the right depth or bridge together ingredients that aren't quite living up to their mixological potential. But orange bitters are so much more than a way to fix a bad drink—they're an essential part of so many balanced co*cktails because of their deep, citrusy, spicy, and complex flavor.

What's Available to Buy

We're lucky to live in The Golden Age of Bitters. There's such a variety of outstanding options available—from the classic Angostura and Peychaud's to wild flavors like Sriracha and Xocolatl Mole—so it's hard to remember that several years ago you couldn't even find orange bitters in a well-stocked liquor store. Now Regans', Fee Brothers, The Bitter Truth, and Angostura orange bitters are easy to get a hold of, and small-batch bitters producers are popping up like crazy.As we've discussed on SE: Drinks before,each brand varies a bit in orange flavor and spiciness, so there's an orange bitters for every occasion—and many bars mix more than one version together to make a house blend.

Why DIY?

Homemade bitters require a couple of obscure ingredients and a sense of adventure. If you're game, you'll be rewarded with a unique, versatile co*cktail ingredient that lasts for years. All you need is something to make your bitters taste bitter (usually an herb or tree bark), plus spices and other sources of flavor, and alcohol to steep them all in.

The beauty of DIY bitters is unleashing your creativity and crafting bitters that you can't find anywhere else.

There isn't much point to creating exact duplicates of what's already on the market, since bitters are relatively inexpensive and easy to find. The beauty of DIY bitters is unleashing your creativity and crafting bitters that you can't find anywhere else. I emphasized anise in the recipe I've provided here, but you could just as easily play up the cloves or add cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, or ginger for a whole new flavor profile. You could even devise a special orange bitters recipe exclusively for margaritas if that's your thing! (I'd recommend bumping up the orange and adding cardamom and cinnamon in that case.)

You'll need to get your hands on some gentian root, which is what makes bitters taste, well, bitter. (There are a fewonline sources, so this isn't such a big deal.) I also usedquassia chips, another bitter ingredient that adds a woodsy, tea-like quality to the mix. However, if you have some leftover cinchona bark frommaking your own tonicor wormwood leaves from making sweet vermouth, those are other bittering options.

Use It!

Orange bitters were essential to so many 19th-century co*cktails, so you'll see them pop up in a ton of classics like theMartinez. Add a few dashes to a martini orVesper, and you'll probably never want to go back.

Those classic drinks are pretty simple, but orange bitters also tie together more complex drinks likeSatan's Whiskers andThe Revolveror lighter, fruitier drinks like theNo. 8andBonnie Prince Charlie. While you can't (or shouldn't) drink a glass of bitters undiluted, youcanenjoy the flavor by itself: just add a few drops to a glass of seltzer water for a satisfying drink.

January 2012

Recipe Details

DIY Orange Bitters Recipe

Prep20 mins

Cook40 mins

Active15 mins

Infusing Time504 hrs

Total505 hrs

Serves576 dashes

Makes1 1/2 cups


  • 4 oranges (zest only) (see notes)

  • 1 cup 151-proof neutral grain spirit, divided (see notes)

  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves

  • 1 star anise pod

  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds

  • 1 teaspoon gentian root (see notes)

  • 1 teaspoon quassia chips (see notes)

  • 1 1/2 cups 101-proof bourbon (see notes)


  1. Zest oranges using a vegetable peeler and place peel on a cookie sheet. Bake at 100°F (40°C) until dried but not burned, about 40 minutes. Check regularly to ensure peels have not burned.

  2. Once zests are cool, place them in a sealable glass jar with 1/2 cup of 151 neutral grain spirit. Be sure this jar is large enough to later hold an additional 1 cup of liquid. Shake. This is your orange flavoring.

  3. Place caraway seeds, cloves, star anise, and anise seeds in a different sealable glass jar with 1/2 cup of 151 neutral grain spirit. Shake. This is your spice mix.

  4. Place gentian root and quassia chips in a sealable glass jar with bourbon. Shake. This is your bittering mix.

  5. After 10 days, strain the spice mix and bittering mix through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the solids. Strain again through a coffee filter into the orange flavoring jar. Do not remove the orange zest. Shake. You now have one jar that contains the strained spice mix and bittering mix along with the steeping orange zest and alcohol. Let this steep for an additional 11 days.

  6. Strain out orange zest through a fine-mesh sieve, and then strain the rest through a coffee filter into your desired container.

Special Equipment

Orange zester or peeler, fine-mesh sieve, baking sheet, coffee filter


Many stores sell dried orange peels, so you have the option of store-bought instead of drying your own. I used navel oranges, but you can try different types of oranges.

Gentian root and quassia chips can usually be found at specialty herb stores. You can also order them from Lhasa Karnak or Mountain Rose Herbs.

I used Wild Turkey 101 and Everclear 151 for my spirits base. If you cannot find these, you can substitute another bourbon and use the highest proof vodka available to you.

  • co*cktails
  • Orange
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
0g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 576
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 0mg0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g0%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg1%
Calcium 0mg0%
Iron 0mg0%
Potassium 0mg0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

DIY Orange Bitters Recipe (2024)
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