A New Way to Enjoy Whisky: Make Your Own Bitters

A New Way to Enjoy Whisky: Make Your Own Bitters

There’s nothing like a guys night in—invite the boys over, pop in The Godfather, and break out the whisky. But what if your bottle isn’t the priciest your pals have ever had? We have a way for you to keep the guys from getting snarky: Add some bitters to their cocktails. “Aromatic bitters bring out the smoky, peaty flavors of a whisky, while citrus bitters may balance out the sweetness of a bourbon,” notes Peter O’Connor, Master of Whisky for Johnnie Walker. “Bitters are meant to draw out the flavors you want.”

Ready to brew your own bitters? Follow this recipe from Johnnie Walker (by the way, their Double Black is back) and Hella Bitter, and your buddies will be asking for seconds…and thirds, and fourths. (Hey, don’t blame us when the bottle is empty).

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Tip: Bitters need at least three to four weeks to macerate, so plan ahead.

Johnnie Walker Double Black Bitters
Recipe by Hella Bitter


  • 10 oz. Johnnie Walker Double Black
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 strips of orange peel
  • 1/2 tbsp raisins
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 Jamaican allspice berries
  • 1 tsp gentian root
  • 1/2 Madagascar vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/4 tsp caraway


  1. Combine all ingredients in a 1-quart mason jar and cover.
  2. Set the bitters aside to macerate for three to four weeks. Patience is key.
  3. Taste regularly to monitor the change in flavor. Once the desired flavor is reached, filter the liquid from the solid ingredients. Cut a square of cheese cloth large enough to double over and cover the top of the mason jar, and secure it with a rubber band. Gently pour the bitters into another clean vessel. Repeat the straining process a few times to ensure that there are no visible particles in the bitters. Once the liquid settles a bit more, it’s normal for some sediment to remain.
  4. Transfer the finished liquid into a bottle of your choice. Use a dropper to add bitters to your favorite cocktail. Cheers!

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