Serious Eats: Drinks

DIY vs. Buy: How to Make Your Own Mole Bitters

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[Photograph: Marcia Simmons]

Not that long ago, mole bitters seemed like an exotic and strange ingredient. But now they're all over cocktail menus and I have come to consider them a drink-mixing necessity. I've always liked the combination of chocolate and spice, but being able to use these flavors to liven up my cocktails has been a revelation.

Mole bitters are best as an accent in cocktails made with aged rum, tequila, or mezcal. The bitterness of chocolate and the heat from the chili merge perfectly with the richness and smoke of the spirit for an unusual yet well-balanced drink. Chocolate and chili can be overwhelming as a main ingredient for a cocktail, so mole bitters are a great way to drizzle those flavors in with a light touch.

What's Available to Buy?

Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters and The Bitter End Mexican Mole Bitters are both excellent, but they're a bit pricey at about $20 for a few ounces. I've been able to buy them online, but you won't always find them in a local shop. Though not the same thing as mole bitters, chocolate bitters can be a good substitute. Scrappy's makes my favorite chocolate bitters, with The Bitter Truth's version coming in a very close second.

Why DIY?

I'm thrilled to be living in the Golden Age of Bitters—when Nasturtium-Cumin and Sriracha bitters can sit on my shelf next to Angostura and Peychaud's. But I just can't afford to treat myself to dozens of 2-ounce bottles at $20 a pop.

Saving a few bucks isn't the only thing that motivated me to make homemade mole bitters, though. I think the cinnamon is too prominent in the Bittermens product, and there just isn't enough chili pepper flavor in The Bitter End version. It's fun to tinker around and figure out how spicy and how chocolatey your personal concoction should be. I didn't want either flavor to dominate, but everyone has their own idea of how the perfect mole tastes. You might want to add some raisins to the mix for a little hint of fruit or use a different type of chili pepper, such as pasilla or chipotle. The process is just a simple put-it-in-a-jar-and-wait infusion, with the peppers added after a few days so that the heat doesn't overpower.

Get the Recipe

DIY Mole Bitters »

Use It!

You can add a little kick to some plain seltzer by adding a few drops of homemade mole bitters. But if you're an Old Fashioned drinker, the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, which mixes tequila and mezcal with agave syrup and mole bitters, is a must-try. Negroni fans can use their DIY mole bitters in a mezcal-based twist called Rodeo Ghost. Another stiff concoction is Telegraph's Pompadour, made with dark rum and rhum agricole along with Pineau des Charentes. Those looking for a drink on the sweeter side can try the Upgraded Grasshopper, which adds a little spice to the well-known mint and chocolate concoction, and the Sweet Corn Cocktail, a truly creative drink made with fresh corn, demerara syrup, and dark rum.

About the Author: Marcia Simmons is the co-author of DIY Cocktails: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks. She also shares cocktail recipes and tips on the DIY Cocktails blog and on Twitter @DIYCocktails.

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