Grapefruit and Bay Bitters
One Christmas a few years back, we all got ill – a rare occurrence in our family – and Christmas was cancelled. Once we were better we finally managed to get dressed and walk to the local pub. We sat round a table, all a bit overexcited to be outside. We ordered gin and tonics – not the traditional recovery remedy, I guess – and they arrived in huge glasses, with cucumber, elderflower and spiked with the most delicious grapefruit bitters. The bitters turned a pretty standard gin and tonic into something incredible. I don’t drink that much, so when I do have a glass of wine or a gin and tonic I want it to be the best it can possibly be.
I’d never thought of making bitters before, but after a bit of research I couldn’t believe how easy they were – a few flavours left in some alcohol for a few weeks. They make a great present in a nice little bottle too. You could swap in most citrus here.
1⁄4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
a 1cm piece of cinnamon stick
1 cardamom pod, just split open
1 vanilla pod, split open 1 coffee bean
Preheat the oven to 140oC/120oC fan/gas 2. Very finely peel the zest from both the grapefruit and the orange, using a vegetable peeler, and spread it out on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes, until dry but not quite brittle, then remove and allow to cool on the tray.
Put the zest with all the other ingredients into a large jar and pour over the vodka. Leave to steep for 2–3 weeks. How quickly it steeps will depend on the warmth of the room and the potency of all the ingredients, so once you hit 2 weeks, keep tasting it and bottle it once you are happy with the flavour.
Strain the vodka through a muslin cloth, squeezing through all the last bits of liquid. Pour into a little bottle and store in a cool place; it should keep for years, as only a dash is used at a time.
To use the bitters, add half a teaspoon to a gin and tonic or to sparkling water.