My first attempt at making Boker’s Bitters

Bitters tasting at Marie Laveau

Boker’s Bitters (mistakenly called Bogart’s Bitters in the 1862 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide), was supposedly created by John G. Boker around 1820, and he sold the company to his son-in-law Louis Funke in 1860. Nobody seems to know for sure, but production may have ended with Funke’s death in 1892.

There are a few old recipes around, and people like Adam Elmegirab and Jamie Boudreau have been experimenting and researching, with such good results that they decided to reintroduce the bitters to the public.

Curious as I am, I decided to give it a go myself. I compared all the recipes found in my vintage book collection, and decided to use the one from Workshop Receipts, published in 1883. I also decided to follow it as closely as possible, with a few personal twists – and the result is not bad at all!

So, what’s next? I wanted to compare it to the commercially available versions, so I went to Marie Laveau, where they made two Martinez cocktails – one with Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters and one with my own.

Before tasting the cocktails, I compared the bitters on their own. Mine was definitely heavier, with cardamom and citrus and a nice coffee aftertaste. Elmegirab’s version was lighter and more floral.

The Martinez cocktails tasted quite different, but both were very nice! My bitters seemed to have a bigger impact on the taste, though. After comparing them side by side I came to the conclusion that both versions of Boker’s Bitters worked really well in the Martinez, but in different ways – it’s just a matter of personal taste. Since I haven’t tried the “real thing”, I’m very happy with my achievement so far. Next time, I’ll probably make a few adjustments, which I hope will make it even better!

Currently, Trader Magnus’ Boker’s Bitters is available at these bars in Stockholm, with more to follow:

Marie Laveau (Hornsgatan 66)
Story Hotel (Riddargatan 6)
Svartengrens (Tulegatan 24)


  1. When I made my batch 3 years ago, I had to get the betel nut/catechu by mail. Since then, I have spotted it Indian supermarkets in town. A lot of it is unlabeled but sliced betel nut has a distinctive marbling to it.

  2. There seems to be some kind of confusion regarding catechu. I don't know if it makes a big difference, but betel nut is called areca catechu and from what I understand it's acacia catechu which should be used in bitters. Maybe you know? I ordered acacia catechu powder online.

  3. The widely distributed recipe (and that which I imagined you followed) is far
    away from original Boker's. My research dug up various pieces of information
    some of which revealed some of the main ingredients and base spirit used in
    their production.

    The Boker's company also closed in Prohibition, not 1892.

    I am almost finished an open treatise on the history of the Boker's company,
    almost three years of research has went into this and it is undoubtedly the most
    in-depth and thorough research ever likely to be carried out.

  4. Thanks for info, very interesting. I'm looking forward to more info on the history of Boker's, keep up the good work!

    Not surprised that the recipe I used is not authentic, but it's a start.. I'll probably try to make another bitters next time anyway – lots to choose from.

  5. I'm really late on the "making your own bitters"-train, I know. I'm going ahead and making my own spice-blend and ignoring the classics which maybe foolish but whatever. I have a question about method: shaken or stirred while they macerate? How finely did you grind the ingredients? When I look at old recipes they give different suggestions. Any thoughts?/Suss

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