Sarsaparilla Bitters are an amazing old-timey addition to your drink. They are an easy addition to bourbon drinks, but they are also surprisingly tasty with gin. Add this to your arsenal for some sweet nostalgic flavor notes.

Sarsaparilla Bitters

Sarsaparilla is a unique flavor. The ground root is highly aromatic with a sweet spicy vanilla flavor. It is  a key component of root beer and old-time sodas. Because of its complexity it works well as a cocktail ingredient. You can use it to enhance vanilla notes and tie in clove and other baking spice notes. 

Sarsaparilla bitters work well with the sweet vanilla and spice notes common in bourbon, but they also pair surprisingly well with gin as well.

Author Jay Jordan


  • zest of half an orange
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp sarsaparilla
  • 1/4 tsp dried wintergreen
  • 1 vanilla bean split
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp licorice root
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp fennel
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom pods
  • 3 cups high proof bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 2 tbsp rich simple syrup


  1. Place all the dry ingredients in a mason jar other large sealed glass jar. Cover with bourbon. Seal and place in a cool dark place. Shake the ingredients once a day. 

  2. After two weeks strain the liquid through a funnel lined with cheesecloth. Strain repeatedly until sediment has cleared out. 

  3. Add rich simple syrup and stir to incorporate. Shake jar to dissolve syrup completely. Allow mixture to rest for two to three days.

  4. Funnel mixture into a bitters bottles and label. Bitters should last indefinitely, but the flavor will fall off after a year or so.

Recipe Notes

This recipe is pretty flexible. You can swap things in and out as you like. If you don't like licorice root or star anise feel free to leave them out. You can swap for less potent anise flavors with fennel seeds if yo are inclined.

If you can find sassafras at your local herbal supply you can divide the sarsaparilla with an equal amount of sassafras. They two are closely in flavor, but combined they enhance each other.

If bitters are your thing, take a look at our guide to bitters. We’ve got advice on making bitters here. Some of our favorite bitters recipes are Strawberry Bitters , cherry bitters, or these cola bitters.

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