Homemade Chocolate Bitters
Homemade Chocolate Bitters

Making your own cocktail bitters at home is easy and fun! A great beginner’s recipe, these chocolate bitters are versatile enough to use in a variety of homemade cocktails. Homemade bitters also make great gifts!

Bitters are exceptional, essential and powerful flavor extracts that transform any drink they are mixed into. They will also turn anyone who is able to make their own into a proper house mixologist.

Whether you’re looking to top off your home bar or give a gift to someone you clearly appreciate, making your own bitters is as easy as it is sexy and addictive.

Most bitter recipes are a balance between bitter and aromatic compounds. For today’s chocolate bitters use Gentian, wild cherry bark and black walnut leaf Bitter your alcohol while Cacao nibs, cardamom, vanilla bean and a cinnamon stick Add the complexity, flavor and chocolate notes.

Not to dissuade you from finding these (or other) ingredients in the wild, but they can easily be ordered from Dandelion Botanicals, Tenzing Momo, or Mountain Rose Herbs.

In general, use organic, whole ingredients whenever possible – they’re better for you and much easier to strain out of the mix.

The best alcohol for chocolate bitters

More important than the spirit you use is proof of the alcohol. Alcohol strips essential oils (and flavors and aromas) from your ingredients, and using hard liquor not only extracts more of that flavor, it extracts it faster.

While vodka is typically used for bitters because it’s flavorless and versatile, I call for a high-proof bourbon (or rye) for our Chocolate Bitters. This is a great addition to our warm flavor profiles.

You should buy the highest quality spirits you can afford, as you want the best (and best) flavor to make it all the way to bottling. Knob Creek’s 120-proof single barrel bourbonor the 100% Rittenhouse or Old Forester rye will always serve you well, especially when you have some left over.

How to Make Homemade Bitters

After you’ve gotten all your herbs, roots, blossoms, barks, fruit peels, and bitters, it’s (almost) all over except for the steeping: Combine your dry ingredients with some hard liquor and let them sit for a bit.

Since different spices steep at different speeds, the steeping time varies depending on the recipe. With this recipe, you wait a total of two weeks and add a second batch of herbs and spices halfway through the preparation. You also need to shake the glass jar that holds everything once a day.

There in that glass, the infusion becomes more pronounced, spicier and more complex day by day until – diggity doo – you have a real load of bitters in your hand.

How to Bottle Homemade Bitters

Now that you’ve put all that work into sourcing, brewing, and waiting, you’re just one well-chosen bottle away from enjoying (or gifting) these bitters.

The round glass Boston bottles with their convenient droppers and different sizes are the best combination of affordable, obtainable and usable. That means you can go with more specialty bottles too. Note that bright light can change the taste of the bitter, so dark (amber) bottles are best, or you can keep them in a dark place.

Since you probably won’t use these chocolate bitters as often as Angostura or Orange Bitters, you can aim for smaller bottles (2 or 4 ounces). If you’re giving these as gifts, a well-chosen larger bottle might make a better impression.

Specialty Bottle and Amazon are both good sources for a range of Boston Rounds, but Cocktail Kingdom has the really special bottles you might be looking for if you plan on giving as gifts or just showing off.

Other helpful equipment

  • A sealable 1 liter jar: Your glass jar may be clear, but if so, store the infusion in the dark while it ages.
  • Cheesecloth or Superbag: Filtering your IV might be the most complicated step of the process, but it’s really not complicated. Cheesecloth works fine, but you may find that superbags – very fine micron mesh bags – are more effective at clarifying and much easier to clean. Modernist Pantry is a great resource for this.

How to use your bitters

While a standard like Angostura acts as a flavorful bitter, bridging your base spirit and your sweetener, these chocolate bitters fall on the “savory” side, adding layers of complexity while boosting your base spirit.

These chocolate bitters are ideal for cocktails with brown spirits – for example with an aged rum or a good bourbon. It can even be paired with a citrus bitter (perhaps orange) to both brighten and deepen a spirit.

If you’re looking for more specific recommendations, try adding this to a Fall-Spiced Old-Fashioned, pairing it with sherry in the Chocolate Adonis, or opting for full chocolate for the Chocolate Sidecar.

How long do these bitters last?

The good news—if you’re someone who tends to use bitters sparingly—is that bitters probably never go bad. You can check them out in five years if you want, but they’ll be in there a lot longer because of the hard alcohol. Best enjoyed often. You can also.

More DIY projects!

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  • How to make butterscotch sauce
  • How to craft fruit leather
  • How to turn your kettle grill into a smoker

Homemade Chocolate Bitters

preparation time
15 minutes

total time
15 minutes

8 ounces

This recipe can easily be doubled if you want to make more bitters for gifting.


  • Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cups cacao nibs

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped out

  • 5 cardamom pods

  • 2 teaspoons gentian root

  • 1 teaspoon wild cherry bark

  • 1/4 teaspoon wormwood (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon black walnut leaf (optional)

  • 1 1/2 cups strong bourbon

special equipment

  • cheesecloth or super bag

  • 2
    Dark colored 6 ounce bottles


  1. Combine the first batch of ingredients with bourbon:

    In a large glass jar with a sealable lid, combine the cacao nibs, vanilla bean, cardamom pods and bourbon, seal tightly and shake well.

  2. Place the jar on a shelf at room temperature for a week, shaking once a day
  3. Add the remaining bitter ingredients:

    After 1 week add gentian, wild cherry bark, wormwood, cinnamon stick and black walnut leaf and incorporate by shaking or stirring.

  4. Leave the jar at room temperature for another week, shaking once a day
  5. Strain the bitters:

    After those 2 weeks, place a funnel over another clear glass jar, line it with cheesecloth or your superbag, and strain the mixture.

  6. Strain and bottle a second time:

    Clean the filter and the original glass. Strain the liquid again to get a much clearer, cleaner mixture. Using a funnel, transfer to smaller (2-6 oz), dark colored bottles. Store in a cool and dark area.

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!