Case of the Bitters

Cucumber bitters

Ever since discovering the summer’s most refreshing, non-alcoholic drink, I’ve been obsessed with bitters.

Angostura. Peychaud’s. The more unusual the flavor, the better.

It was only a  matter of time before I had to begin experimenting with my own. Unfortunately, most recipes are more guarded than the new Star Wars set. if you do manage to find one, the ingredients probably include hard-to-find items like quassia bark, eye of newt, or Dagobah rootleaf.

Eventually, I stumbled upon Organic Gardening’s mix-and-match list of aromatics and bittering agents that are likely to be found around the house, no special order required. Here’s what went into a quart jar for my first attempt:

  • One large cucumber, sliced
  • Peel of one orange
  • One handful dried pears
  • One teaspoon peppercorns
  • One handful roasted pecans
  • One handful dandelion root, cleaned and peeled (foraged from the neighbor’s yard — surely they won’t mind)
  • One tablespoon sugar dissolved in two teaspoons of water
  • Grain alcohol, just enough to cover

After the first day, the lid came off for a sniff test. Passing the jar to Brad, the conversation went something like this:

Me: Whaddya think?
Brad: (long pause) Well, it doesn’t exactly smell like rotting food in the composter….

By Day Two, though, the aromatics had taken over, and the mixture of cucumber and orange was heavenly. We sampled a bit last night, after two weeks of steeping, and were quite happy with the progress. Since we prefer our bitters a little more, well, bitter, I’ll toss in some additional roots and peppercorns today before stowing the jar for another week.

Let’s hope the neighbors don’t sass me for digging around their yard again in search of stray dandelions.

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