Destinations Magazine

How to Make: Wild Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters

By Francoisetmoi


We recently discovered a cocktail at Heyday in Minneapolis that knocked our socks off and was the catalyst for our interest in experimenting with home brew bitters. The cocktail was an ‘old fashioned’ type mixed up with wild cherry bark vanilla bitters, a bit of cane sugar and a garnish of orange zest. Oh so delizioso. Check back on Friday, as I’ll be sharing our take on that killer Heyday cocktail!

If you’re not super familiar with bitters, they’re considered to be the ‘salt and pepper’ of cocktails, adding complexity and that ‘je ne sais quoi.’ There are a billion different theories on what proportions make the best bitters (a matter of taste and preference, I guess), so after alot of research, we landed on the recipe and procedure below. 

Cherry bark vanilla bitters calls for super high proof bourbon, rye and a whole bunch of herbs that you’ve probably never heard of!  The warmth of the cinnamon, cardamom and star anise make cherry bark bitters the perfect accompaniment to winter cocktails. I can’t wait to hand these out at the Holidays!


Ingredients: We purchased most of our herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs.

  • 8 oz dried cherries
  • 3 c 101 proof bourbon (divided in two 1-1/2 c portions)
  • 6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 vanilla bean pods, slit lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/2 tbsp gentian root
  • 1/2 tbsp wild cherry bark
  • 1 c 100 proof rye whiskey


  • 3 large mason jars with lids
  • lots of cheescloth for straining
  • strainer
  • 2oz or 4oz dropper bottles
  • a funnel or a 10″ square (approx.) piece of parchment paper rolled up and secured with a piece of tape


Step 1. In the first jar, combine gentian root, cassia chips, wild cherry bark and rye whiskey. Cover and shake well.

Step 2. In the second jar, combine cardamom, vanilla (pods and scraped seeds), star anise, and 1-1/2 c bourbon. Cover and shake well.

Step 3. In the third jar, combine cherries and 1-1/2 c bourbon. Cover and shake well.

Step 4. Store in a cool, dark place for 5 days, giving each jar a good shake everyday to help the infusing process.



Step 5. After 5 days of infusing, line a strainer with cheesecloth. Strain Jar #1 (the gentian root/cassia/cherry bark infusion) through the cheesecloth into a bowl to remove the herbs, retaining the infused rye. Discard the herbs. Return the infused rye back into the mason jar and return to the cool, dark storing place.

Step 6. Wait another 5 days, and again line your strainer with cheesecloth. Strain both Jars #2 and #3 through the cheesecloth into a bowl to combine them. Discard of the herbs and cherries. Return the infused bourbon to one of the mason jars. Allow to sit for another 3 days.


Step 7. After the 3 days have passed, line strainer again with cheese cloth, and strain both liquids separately to remove any sediment.

Step 8. Combine liquids in whatever ratio your prefer. I used roughly 2/3 cherry infused bourbon to 1/3 cassia infused rye. The rye is quite potent! Once you find a combination you like, strain the mixture again to remove any last sediment.


Step 9. Roll your parchment paper square into a funnel and secure with a piece of tape. Funnel bitters into dropper bottles.



I also created labels using Avery white, printable labels and cut them down in size (with a ruler and exact-o knife) to fit the mini bottles better.  Download my label here!


Sources: The Kitchn, How Sweet Eats, Not Without Salt 



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