Why This Recipe Works
- Muddling the celery, herbs, and spices and then agitating them daily aids flavor extraction.
- Simmering the strained aromatics with water and infusing them again contributes another layer of flavor.
It seems that cocktail bitters are getting more and more specific and obscure. Sriracha bitters? Black-and-white cookie bitters? Coffee-chipotle bitters? Yep, all three of those exist. Depending on your drinking philosophy, you may find this unnecessary and pretentious or delightful and inspiring.
Celery bitters might sound like something that hipster mixologists invented while turning everything edible into a flavor of bitters, but cocktail curmudgeons can rest easy knowing that these bitters were actually around in the 1800s. Celery bitters went out of style around Prohibition and didn't come back until just a few years ago. A few drops of this savory and unusual concoction can completely change a classic cocktail—and inspire tons of new recipes.
What's Available to Buy
If you want to buy celery bitters, you'll have to have a really good liquor store nearby, or order them online. I love The Bitter Truth celery bitters, which have a strong celery-seed flavor layered with bold citrus and subtle spice. Fee Brothers also makes celery bitters, but their version doesn't have the same earthy zip as The Bitter Truth's. I'm still dying to try Scrappy's and Bittermens, which are a little more rare though not impossible to find.
Internet magic can make a bottle of celery bitters appear at your doorstep, but shipping costs can turn a fun little splurge into a substantial investment. And you might not even be happy with what you get. The fun of homemade celery bitters is coming up with a list of demands for what you want your bitters to be like and then making it so.
While I like what's on the market right now, I was looking for a more savory and vegetal celery bitters without lemon and orange flavors popping in. I wanted some umami with the bitterness.
After cooking the solid ingredients a bit to bring out the flavor, my house had a familiar smell even though I'd never made these bitters before. It smelled a lot like instant ramen with a hint of lemongrass. Umami achieved! (And without any MSG.) I've possibly scared as many people with that tidbit as I've convinced. But just think of how totally kick-ass a little bit of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce is in a Bloody Mary. The savory side of these bitters is a wonderful thing.
If you want to make something closer to The Bitter Truth's version, you could add some lemon and orange zest along with ginger. Or you could go more herbal with some rosemary and thyme or dandelion and burdock. You can design whatever bitters you desire.
The Bloody Mary was my celery bitters muse, and the stuff is made to turn that tomato-y brunch cocktail into a masterpiece. A few dashes will also make a regular martini into something special, or change up your gin and tonic. For another option, celery bitters accentuate the vegetal, herby notes of gin as well as green tea in this gunpowder gin punch.
DIY Celery Bitters Recipe
This long-forgotten cocktail ingredient adds a nice savory boost to martinis, gin and tonics, Bloody Marys, and other cocktails.
1/4 cup lemongrass, pale green parts only, roughly chopped (about 2 stalks)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
10 mint leaves
1 allspice berry
1/2 teaspoon gentian root (cut, not powdered)
1/4 cup celery seeds
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cups 100-proof vodka
1/2 cup water
Put the lemongrass, coriander, mint, allspice, and gentian root in a sealable glass jar. Muddle briefly to bruise and break the ingredients. Add the celery seed, celery, and vodka, then seal and shake. Let this mixture steep for 12 days, shaking daily.
Strain out solids using a fine-mesh strainer, reserving the liquid in the original jar. Place the solids in a sauce pan along with the water and cook on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes. It will come to a gentle boil and the liquid will reduce slightly. Let this cool, then return all the pan's contents to the original jar. Let steep for two more days.
Strain out the solids, then filter the liquid through a coffee filter or cheese cloth. If using cheese cloth, you may have to do this two or three times until the liquid is free from debris. Store at room temperature for up to a year.
Fine-mesh strainer, saucepan, cheesecloth or coffee filter
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 0g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|