I've made bitters before, but this is my first try using rose hips as my main ingredient. I didn't have much to go on. No one I know has made them and I couldn't find much of anything by doing an internet search. So guided by my own instincts, plus a bit of past experience and using plenty of imagination, I think these Rose Hip Bitters are coming together quite nicely.
To make Rose Hip Bitters at home, you're going to need rose hips, preferably some nice healthy plump ones which are free of pesticides and hopefully free of pests too.
My friend Ashlyn led us to these, in the parking lot of a government institution in Seattle. A place that shall, from this day forward, remain nameless. In our defense the maintenance men saw us "pruning" their roses and didn't even try to stop us, so I think it's all good.
The next thing you need for making any kind of bitters is a high octane flavorless booze, which leads us to the next ingredient:
From what I've read you can make bitters many different ways, employing varied techniques and using a vast combination of ingredients. Don't believe me? Google "bitters + recipe". I've made several batches, all different and always a success. I even have a small amount of bitters left from a batch I made in December 2007. It was primarily fresh orange peels and Galen's 151 Vodka. I wish I knew what else I put in that batch but I can't find my recipe. I'll be sad when the last drop of the "2007 Orange Peel Special Bitters" is sprinkled onto a sugar cube and dropped into a flute of chilled Champagne, but hopefully that will suffice as a fitting send-off.
Okay, back to the Rose Hip Bitters.
This is what a fresh rose hip looks like.
I spilt the rose hips in half...
...then scooped the seeds out with a grapefruit spoon, because it seemed logical to me. My foraging friend laughed at me when I told her how I seeded them, but hey, I watched the Ken Burns "Prohibition" special on PBS while I was doing it, and it wasn't such a bad way to spend a couple hours. The two things seemed to go hand-in-hand in some odd way.
I started my first experimental batch of Rose Hip Bitters with one cup of seeded & stemmed rose hips...
...and put them in a quart-size Mason Jar, then added whatever I felt like adding because after all, I was wingin' it on this one.
In this case I added black peppercorns, whole cloves, allspice berries, star anise, stick cinnamon, lemon peel, cardamom pods, and gentian extract.
So now my Rose Hip Bitters* are sitting in the fridge, being kept company by Rhubarb-infused Gin - on the left - and the beginning of Cranberry Drinking Vinegar to the right. I shake the jar of bitters once a day to assist the ingredients in doing their magic.
After 2 weeks, or 2 months, or whenever I get the time, I'll filter this batch of Rose Hip Bitters into a pretty bottle with a tight-fitting lid, slap a hand-written label on it, and set it in my bar. Because of the relatively high Vitamin C content of rose hips, I might be able justify consuming it on a "regular basis" for health purposes.
I'll let you know in a few weeks how it all turns out.
*After taking this picture, I topped the jar off with Everclear, but for the sake of the photo I added just enough alcohol to show off the ingredients. No Photoshop edits on the color either; the Rose Hips are a brilliant shade of red, especially when they're sitting in grain alcohol, illuminated by the light of the fridge. Wheeeeeeeeee!