DIY Bar: Chinese Bitters

I’m experimenting with homemade bar ingredients. It’s partially due to the stresses of teaching (no, alcohol is not a coping mechanism. No, no, it’s not….) and partially due to my itchy bartender’s fingers with no outlet.

Pre-packaged tea
Pre-packaged tea

First up, Chinese bitters. I made these on the fly, with some leftover gin and some random herbs I bought at Carrefour near our apartment. Digestive bitters were once used much more frequently than today.

After their arrival on the scene in the Medieval period, bitters were made all over the European continent and consumed as tonics, digestives, and occasionally sea sickness remedies.

In London, I took Angostura bitters every morning in hot water. I found that it helped me to wake up and shake off the long nights on the bus after bar shifts.

The tea, unpackaged.
The tea, unpackaged.

A note: bitters are alcoholic, but one never should consume more than a few drops at a time. The sheer taste would be enough to put you off that particularly stupid idea!

Here’s the recipe for homemade bitters.


Chinese herbal tea (specifically the mixed herb variety)

75ml gin

Small jar (glass only!)


  1. Open the tea and put it into the jar. Pour 75ml gin over the tea, ensuring that it is fully covered by the liquid.
  2. Shake the jar and then set it in a cool, dark place to mature.
  3. Check the bitters each day and agitate the jar.
  4. After 1-2 weeks, strain out the tea and put the bitters into a dropper or small bottle for use.

Finished product!
Finished product!

Fantastically easy, healthy, and delicious!

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