According to Andrew Olsen, beverage director of J. Rieger & Co., bitters are the salt and pepper of the cocktail world. They’re the finishing touch, bringing various flavors together and accentuating everything properly.

Creating your own bitters is a great way to experiment and put a twist on the cocktails you’re making at home. These mole bitters – inspired by the classic Mexican sauce – have a strong vanilla component, with bitterness derived from coffee and cocoa powder. Spice from cinnamon and dried New Mexico chiles also hit the sides of your tongue after each sip.

Note: Once you’ve whipped up the bitters, taste the infusion right away and then every day for a week or so, adjusting the flavor as you go.

Mole Bitters

  • 15 coffee beans
  • 4 pods star anise
  • ½ nutmeg seed, grated (or ¼ tsp ground nutmeg)
  • 1 dried red New Mexico chile, seeded
  • 1 pod cardamom, crushed
  • ¼ tsp vanilla 
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon (½ stick cinnamon)
  • ¼ tsp cocoa powder
  • 2 oz Everclear, plus 3 oz water, to dilute (or 100-proof vodka)

| Preparation | Add all ingredients to a bottle or jar; allow to infuse for a week. After a week, strain solids from liquid. Add bitters to a bottle, such as one with a dropper, that will allow you to control how much you use. (We save our store-bought bitters bottles and reuse them for our own concoctions, but you can also purchase empty bitters bottles online.)

Pilsen Photo Co-op is a photo, video, styling and writing collaboration between Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden. Their work has appeared on websites for Nordstrom, Tasting Table, Refinery29, HuntStand Media and Vice.

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