DIY Grapefruit Bitters Recipe

Photograph: Marcia Simmons

Grapefruit bitters do double duty, giving a cocktail a little citrus lift along with the bitterness. These bitters go especially well with effervescent drinks or tequila and gin cocktails.

Notes: Specialty herb stores carry cut gentian root, but you can also order it online from Lhasa Karnak Herb Company. Be sure to get cut gentian root and not the powdered variety. If 100-proof vodka is not available where you live, use standard 80-proof vodka. I use Ruby Red grapefruit, but you can use your favorite variety. To make simple syrup, combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Cool before using. Simple syrup will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 2 mins
Makes: 2 cups

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  • 1 1/2 cups 100-proof vodka
  • Peeled zest from 1 grapefruit (see note)
  • Peeled zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms
  • 4 dried juniper berries
  • 1 fresh sage leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cut gentian root (see note)
  • 1/4 cup light rum
  • 2 ounces simple syrup (see note)


  1. Place grapefruit and lemon zest in a sealable glass jar with the vodka. Seal and shake, then let the mixture steep overnight in a cool, dark place.

  2. Add the rum, lavender, coriander, juniper, sage and gentian root. Seal and shake, then let this combined mixture steep for 10 to 12 days in a cool, dark place.

  3. Strain through cheesecloth-lined sieve. Then bottle by filtering through a coffee filter. Add simple syrup to the bottle. Seal and shake, then let rest for 1 day. Store at room temperature for up to a year.

Special equipment

Citrus zester, mason jar, sieve, cheesecloth, coffee filter

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