Homemade Chocolate Bitters

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

Small dropper bottles filled with cocktail bitters.
Sam Schick

Bitters are extraordinary, essential, and potent flavor extracts that transform any drink in which they’re mixed. They will also transform anyone able to make their own into a proper home mixologist.

Whether you want to round out your home bar or give a gift to someone you clearly treasure, making your own bitters is as easy as it is sexy and addictive.

The Ingredients for Chocolate Bitters

Most bitters recipes are a balance between bittering and flavoring agents. For today's chocolate bitters, you'll use gentian, wild cherry bark, and black walnut leaf to embitter your alcohol, while cacao nibs, cardamom, vanilla bean, and a cinnamon stick add the complexity, flavoring, and chocolate notes.

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

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

A variety of spices, herbs and roots to make Chocolate cocktail bitters.
Sam Schick

The Best Alcohol for Chocolate Bitters

More important than which particular brand of spirit you use is the proof of the alcohol. Alcohol will pull essential oils (and flavors and aromas) from your ingredients, and using high-proof spirits will not only extract more of that flavor, but do so more quickly.

While vodka is typically used for bitters because its flavor neutral and versatile, for our Chocolate Bitters, I’m calling for a high-proof bourbon (or rye). This is a great compliment to our warm flavor profiles.

You should purchase the highest-quality spirits you can afford, as you want the most (and best) flavor to make it through to bottling. Knob Creek's 120-proof single barrel bourbon, or the 100-proof ryes from Rittenhouse or Old Forester will always serve you well, especially if you have any left over.

How to Make Homemade Bitters

Having gone through the work of sourcing all of your herbs, roots, flowers, barks, fruit peels, and bittering agents, it's all (almost) all over but for the steeping: Combine your dry ingredients with a high proof alcohol and let them sit for a bit.

Since different spices infuse at different rates, the steeping time will vary depending on the recipe. In the case of this recipe you’re waiting two weeks total, adding a second batch of herbs and spices halfway through. You’ll also need to shake the glass jar in which everything sits once each day.

There in that jar, day by day, the infusion will become more pronounced, flavorful, and complex, until – diggity doo – you have a true batch of bitters on your hand.

A bag of ingredients for cocktail bitters lifted out of a glass bowl.
Sam Schick

How to Bottle Homemade Bitters

Now that you’ve put all that work into sourcing and infusing and waiting, you’re only a well-chosen bottle away from enjoying these bitters (or giving them away).

Boston round glass bottles, with their handy droppers and range of sizes, are the best combination of affordable, sourceable, and usable. This said, you can also go with more specialty bottles, too. Note that bright light can alter the flavor of the bitters, so dark (amber) bottles are best, or you can store them in a dark place.

As you’re not likely to use these Chocolate Bitters as often as Angostura or orange bitters, you can aim for smaller-size (2- or 4-ounce) bottles. If you’re giving these as a gift, a well-chosen larger bottle may make a better impression.

Specialty Bottle and Amazon are both good sources for a range of Boston Rounds, but Cocktail Kingdom has the truly specialty bottles you might be after if you are planning to give these away as gifts, or just show off.

Other Helpful Equipment

  • One 1-quart sealable glass jar: Your glass jar can be clear, but if so, store the infusion in the dark while it matures.
  • Cheesecloth or Superbag: Filtering your infusion is perhaps the most complicated step of the process, but it really isn’t complicated. Cheesecloth will work perfectly well, but you may find Superbags – very fine micron mesh bags – clarify more effectively and are much easier to clean out. Modernist Pantry is a great source for these.

How to Use Your Bitters

Whereas a standard like Angostura acts as an aromatic bitters, providing a bridge between your base spirit and your sweetener, these chocolate bitters fall on the “savory” side, adding layers of complexity while amplifying your base spirit.

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

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

Homemade bitters in small dropper bottles.
Sam Schick

How Long Will These Bitters Last?

The good news – if you’re someone who tends to use bitters sparingly – is that bitters will likely never go bad. You can check in on them in five years if you’d like, but because of the high-proof alcohol, they’ll have much longer than that in them. Best would be to enjoy often. You may as well.

More DIY Projects!

Homemade Chocolate Bitters

Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Yield 8 ounces

This recipe is easily doubled if you’d like to make more bitters to give as gifts.


  • Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cups cacao nibs
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 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 high-proof bourbon

Special Equipment

  • Cheesecloth or super bag
  • 2 to 4 (2 to 6-ounce) dark-colored bottles


  1. Combine the first batch of ingredients with bourbon:

    Combine the cacao nibs, vanilla bean, cardamom pods, and bourbon in a large glass jar with a sealable lid, cap tightly, and shake well.

  2. Rest at room temp for a week:

    Rest the jar at room temperature for 1 week, shaking once every day.

  3. Add the remaining bitters ingredients:

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

    A mason jar with herbs and roots for homemade bitters.
    Sam Schick
  4. Rest at room temp for another week:

    Rest the jar at room temperature for 1 more week, shaking once every day.

  5. Strain the bitters:

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

    Ingredients for Chocolate bitters in a mesh bag and dripping back into a glass bowl.
    Sam Schick
  6. Strain a second time and bottle:

    Clean out the filter and the original glass jar. Strain the liquid once more, for a much clearer, cleaner mix. Transfer to smaller (2-6oz), dark-colored bottles using a funnel. Store in a cool, dark place.

    Homemade bitters in small dropper bottles.
    Sam Schick