Orange Bitters
2 cups (500ml)
You can use vodka or whiskey, if you prefer, in lieu of the rum. Note that the higher the proof (ABV), the better the extraction of flavors, so feel free to use any of those spirits with a higher alcohol level. I made the gentian root optional but it adds a husky bitterness that I find really makes the bitters, better. You can find it at herbalists, natural foods stores, or online at Penn Herb, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Etsy. You can also play around with the spices. A bit of cinnamon, a few cloves, or perhaps a bit of star anise could be added. Be sure to filter the mixture through a coffee filter, rather than cheesecloth, which will insure that you won’t have little bits of spices in the finished bitters, which will make it cloudy.
4 large oranges, preferably unsprayed
2 cups (500ml) rum, vodka, or another liquor (see headnote)
12 coriander seeds
6 allspice berries
12 fennel or anise seeds
3 cardamom pods, gently crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried gentian root (not powder), optional
1 tablespoon caramel, optional (see note at end of recipe)
1. Preheat the oven to 200ºF (93ºC). Remove the zest of the oranges using a vegetable peeler, and spread them on a baking sheet. Dry in the oven for about 50 to 60 minutes, stirring them once or twice during drying. They don’t need to be bone-dry when done, but should have lost most of their moisture and smell orangey.
2. Pour the liquor into a clean medium jar. Add the orange peels and spices. Cover and shake. Let the jar stand in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks, shaking it once daily.
3. Strain the mixture through a coffee filter. Stir in the caramel, if using, then bottle.

To make caramel: Heat 1/2 cup (100g) of sugar with 1/4 cup (60ml) water in a skillet with a few drops of lemon juice. Cook, stirring only if necessary, until the mixture turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of water. (Careful as it may steam and sputter.) Stir until smooth. If necessary, set the pan back over low heat to help dissolve any lumps of caramel. For details on caramelizing, check out my post: How to make the perfect caramel. This will yield a little more caramel than you need, but extra will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and you can use it to drizzle over ice cream or oatmeal.

Storage: Bitters will keep for at least a year if stored in a cool, dark place.

Note: Bitters bottles, like the one shown, are available on Amazon, Bar Products and at Cocktail Kingdom.