Homemade Grapefruit Bitters

This recipe is a nice entry point into the experimentation-friendly world of DIY cocktail bitters. Grapefruit might just be my favorite point on the citrus triangle: in this humble pink sphere, we find orange’s sweetness, lemon’s brightness, and a unique floral citrusyness all dancing in harmony. Cocktail bitters are a perfect medium to distill all this flavor into a concentrated tincture, and it gets even more fun when you start curating spices to support and accentuate the grapefruit. Effort-wise, all you have to do is throw a bunch of things in vodka for a couple weeks, and you’re set. I store my grapefruit bitters in a pint mason jar and add a barspoon to white negronis, pretty much any mezcal-based cocktails, or even just seltzer on ice. (Homemade bitters also make nice, batchable gifts, especially if you transfer them into 4oz dropper bottles.)

A few notes. First, grapefruit has a relatively thick layer of bitter pith compared to most citrus. This is annoying when you’re trying to eat pieces of grapefruit flesh, but we’re making bitters here! The pith is a feature, not a bug, so don’t bother cutting it away from your swaths of zest. Second, the spice selection is highly customizable to your tastes and what you have on hand. I would say coriander and cinnamon are key – coriander has a nice lemony earthyness, and cinnamon adds sweet-spicy complexity – but beyond that, go wild (just err on the side of using very little of each spice, as some of them dominate quickly). For example, I didn’t use cloves, but I think adding one clove could be nice. Third, I’ve listed gentian (the primary bittering agent in Campari and many other liqueurs) as optional; if you don’t have it, add some extra pith to compensate.

Ingredients for grapefruit bitters, including grapefruit, lemon, cinnamon, coriander seed, pink peppercorn, and bay leaf.

Ingredients for grapefruit bitters.

Recipe: Grapefruit Bitters (makes 12oz)



  1. Zest the grapefruit and lemon. If not using gentian, also cut some of the grapefruit pith to use for more bitterness.
  2. Add vodka, gin (if using), citrus zest, and spices to a pint mason jar. Do not add simple syrup.
  3. Let sit for 2 weeks. Shake every few days, and feel free to open and sniff (it should gradually smell more delicious).
  4. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter. Discard the citrus and reserve the remaining spices.
  5. Make a spiced simple syrup by simmering the reserved spices in 2oz (1/4 cup) water and 2oz sugar. Start by adding 2oz of the syrup to the bitters, and add any additional syrup to taste.
  6. Transfer the completed bitters to a clean mason jar or dropper bottles. Enjoy!

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