How to Make Homemade Bitters (Plus, the Ultimate Old Fashioned Recipe)

You can tell a lot about a man by his drink of choice. These days, I keep flipping between a gin & tonic and an old fashioned. At home, I’ve been drinking G&Ts just because I typically don’t have any bitters around the house. That’s about to change, though, now that I have some of my own homemade bitters on my bar. (Now I am far more likely to run out of tonic than I am bitters!)

Here’s how to make your own bottle of DIY orange bitters, whether it’s for your own bar cart at home or as the perfect gift for the man in your life.

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  • four oranges
  • 1 tsp each of whole cloves, whole allspice, cardamom seeds and coriander seeds
  • 120 ml dropper bottles
  • knife and cutting board
  • vodka (or US Everclear grain alcohol if you can get your hands on it!)
  • large glass bottle
  • coffee filter
  • optional: printable download and printable sticker paper

everclear spices bottles


Step 1: Dry your orange peel. Peel four medium oranges and cut the peels into slices about 5 mm x 50 mm. Spread them evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 1–2 hours at 105°C, or until they’re dried and curling slightly.

orange peel glass bottle

Step 2: In a glass container, place 2 cups of vodka or Everclear and the cooled orange peel, along with 1 tablespoon each of whole cloves, whole allspice, coriander seeds and cardamom pods. Seal the jar tightly and set it in a cool, dry area.

liquid measuring cup jar

Step 3: Allow the mixture to sit for up to one month. You can agitate it periodically to mix up the ingredients; you can also test every few days for flavour. I recommend putting a drop or two in half a glass of water to taste test, as it can be very strong if you taste it directly.

orange peel spices glass jar

Step 4: Once the mixture reaches your liking, strain the orange peel and spices out by carefully pouring the mixture through a coffee filter.

Step 5: Fill small bottles with the mixture and give them as gifts or enjoy yourself. See the recipe below to use your own orange bitters in an old fashioned.

Step 6: If you’d like, print out our Orange Bitters label on your sticker paper, trim around the edges, and put the label on the bottles.

dropper orange bitters

To make an old fashioned:

Step 1: Place a sugar cube in an old fashioned glass and saturate with bitters; add a dash of plain water.

Step 2: Muddle until dissolved.

Step 3: Fill the glass with ice cubes and add whiskey.

Step 4: Garnish with an orange slice and a cocktail cherry.

More tempting cocktails:

Images: Ryan Foy