ELS/Aromatic Cycle Bitters (2016)

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We made bitters by creating tinctures using 190 proof grain alcohol and a large number of different botanicals, spices, and barks. These involved a mix of bittering agents (like gentian, black walnut leaf, quassia, burdock) and flavoring or aromatic agents (like cinnamon, or chocolate. A few agents (like hops) do double duty. The tinctures were all of various strengths.

We mixed and sampled bitters over a number evenings to try out many different combinations until we found exactly the right combinations. Once we found what we like, we usually used distilled water to dilute it down to about 50% alcohol by volume. The dilution with water (instead of glycerin) is why the bitters are generally cloudy. Although commercial enterprises often use glyericin to ensure attractive and clear bitters, and while glycerin is safe to eat, it is also a laxative. We hope you appreciate the trade-off.

A few of the ingredients are special:

  • The hop essence are made from the hops we grew at Extraordinary Least Squares and at Noah and Sarah Meyerhan's house in Ballard.
  • The mulberry was something we bought on our bike trip to Hunza Valley in Pakistan in September 2016.
  • The chocolate essence is from cocoa nibs from local chocolate producer Theo. We bought them, with money, inside the store.
  • The bottles were sourced from Dongguan in southern China on AliExpress. Will picked them up from an unmarked shipping department while in the area, rather than pay shipping. The pickup involved a confused taxi ride and direction finding with "apple bottle supplier" on wechat to the back entrance of a warehouse that apparently doesn't have a street address and instead requires GPS coordinates to reach. In the future, it should be noted that domestic shipping is likely cheaper in terms of both time and money.
  • The dropper tops were assembled with love by Extraordinary Least Squares.
  • The labels were designed, drawn, printed, and affixed to bottles by Extraordinary Least Squares. Each label depicts a bicycle whose wheels have been replaced by aromatic rings.


Although we were inspired by Brad Thomas Parson's book Bitters: A Spirited History, every recipe is an Extraordinary Least Squares original. To try them all, you'll have to find other friends who got a selection of bitters or come by our house!

Citrus Bitters[edit]

  • Grapefruit [10]
  • Orange [5]
  • Mulberry (brought from Hunza) [3]
  • Starfruit [3]
  • Coriander [1/2]
  • Cardamom [1/10]
  • Mixed bittering agents (gentian, quassia, wild cherry bark) [2]
  • Sugar (by mass) [3]

Chocolate Bitters[edit]

  • Cocoa nibs [10]
  • Cinnamon [2]
  • Tonka Bean [2]
  • Vanilla [2]
  • Sour Cherry [2]
  • Sugar (by mass) [4]

Mint Bitters[edit]

  • Mint [5]
  • Vanilla [1.5]
  • Anise [1]
  • Hops [1/2]
  • Cardamom [1/4]
  • Sugar (by mass) [3]

Old Fashion #1[edit]

  • Cinnamon [5]
  • Star Anise [2]
  • Sour Cherry [2]
  • Tonka [1]
  • Clove [2]
  • All Spice Berry [1]
  • Wild Cherry Bark [1]
  • Orange [2]
  • Bitter Walnut Leaf [1/2]
  • Sugar (by mass) [3]

Old Fashion #2[edit]

  • Cinnamon [5]
  • Sour Cherry [5]
  • Tonka [1/2]
  • Clove [2]
  • All Spice Berry [1]
  • Wild Cherry Bark [1]
  • Mulberry [2]
  • Bitter Walnut Leaf [1/2]
  • Star Anise [1/2]
  • Sugar (by mass) [3]