Homemade cardamom & saffron bitters

I have been looking into making liqueurs and bitters recently. There is a wealth of excellent information online on these topics and one that really caught my eye was Cardamom and Saffron bitters.



I love cardamom; it is a wonderfully bright and powerful flavour, but it is also very palette-cleansing. It is used as a breath-freshener in India and forms a back-bone of indian cookery, both savoury and sweet. The idea of sticking it in a drink has a great appeal.

Saffron is an interesting spicy/floral flavour that works very well in sweet and savoury, as well.

There are several recipes around the ‘interwebs’ with wildy differing quatities. In the end I went with the one with most cardamom. This, I found on Embitter (http://embitter.net/2010/12/i-prefer-to-get-high-on-life-cardamom-saffron-bitters/); so thanks to Embitter for providing.

I really didn’t need a whole litre of bitters so I scaled down the recipe to 250ml (to fit a bottle I had kicking around and to make the maths easy). It looked something like this…

Cardamom & saffron bitters

  • 250 ml vodka
  • 25 g cardamom pods (green)
  • large pinch saffron
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 clove


  • Pound the pods in a heavy pestle & mortar to split them, exposing the seeds. If you haven’t got a pestle & mortar, stick them in a plastic bag and beat them with a frying pan.
  • Mix the Cardamom, clove and bay leaf with the vodka and leave to soak for three days; agitate each day.
  • Strain the solids out and mix the saffron into the liqour; leave to soak for one more day. Strain and bottle.

This should produce a brilliant orange/red liquid. It may be quite cloudy depending on how well you strain it. I used a seive rather than a coffee filter, so mine is quite cloudy.



I also didn’t quite pay enough attention to the method and put my saffron in on day-one. I was using quite poor-quality saffron though, so it didn’t overpower the end result. I also, (due to working away) left it for six days, rather than four.

In spite of all these little errors, the resulting bitters were remarkable. The aroma is overwealmingly cardamom, and very bright and fresh. Tasted neat (a drop on the tip of a finger), it isn’t as bitter as I was expecting and was rather overpowering.

I tried a few drops in a shot of No.3 gin and the cardamom really does well against that huge stack of juniper freshness. The bright clarity of the juniper and cardamom combine to product a fresh flavour assault that is a pleasure to bear and has a tremendous nose to it.

Next up was a G&T (made with Whitley Neill gin). It took more than a few drops, maybe as much as a good-sized dash, but it really lifts the G&T. This cardamom is a good fit with the citrus flavours and marries with the quinine well. The saffron brings a slightly floral note to the whole affair.

I am really impressed with this. It is a cracking addition to a drink and adds a fantastic new dimension to some staple tipples. Expect to see a few cocktail recipes here in the near future using cardamom and saffron bitters. Give it a go and have a play.

Image attribution
Cardamom courtesy of Zoyachubby.
Saffron courtesy of David H-W.


3 thoughts on “Homemade cardamom & saffron bitters

  • Pingback: Bitter | smagsbilleder

  • February 11, 2015 at 1:09 am

    How does the saffron come through? Looking for drink recipes with saffron and saw this pairing with cardamom. I would think the cardamom would overpower the saffron. Looks interesting and I have a bunch of both so will try it. Just wondering how using less cardamom would affect it? Thanks.

    • April 21, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      The cardamom is very dominant. The saffron is, at best, a delicate undertone hiding at the fringes. If I didn’t love cardamom so much, I would tinker with the ratios to try and strike a balance.


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