Cocktail Hour: Magnolia Bitters

Adding a dose of floral flavor to your next cocktail

Photo: Ron Manville

Forget Angostura. Or all right, at least make room on the bar for one more bottle, because you’re going to want to batch up some of John Yeager’s magnolia bitters. The recipe comes from GRAY’S on Main, in Franklin, Tennessee, where Yeager and his wife Lindsay created a cocktail menu that reads like the contents of a Gilded Age millionaire’s liquor cabinet. Rooted in brandy, a spirit that inspired some of the country’s earliest cocktailians, it’s a list of lush creations layered with foreign tonics, fortified wines, herbs, and fruit liqueurs.

There is nothing complicated about these magnolia bitters, which were inspired by a century-old account of a bar in New Orleans that offered something similar. The central ingredient grows in forests and yards all over the South. The bittering agent, angelica root, is easy enough to find online. Drip the finished concoction into any mixed drink that could use a dose of floral flavor, from a streamlined highball to something more baroque.

How to make your own barbecue bitters


    • 1 cup high-proof vodka or neutral grain spirit

    • 2 magnolia blossoms, dried (13-17 petals)

    • 1 tsp. angelica root

    • 1 tsp. dried orange peel


  1. Combine all ingredients in a quart-size glass jar and steep for six weeks.

  2. Strain and use sparingly, adding to cocktails just a few drops at a time.

Recipe from John Yeager of GRAY’S on Main in Franklin, Tennessee