Come with me down the bitters Rabbit Hole (we have GREAT martinis!)
Infusing your own homemade bitters from scratch is not at all difficult, and it’s fun to play mad scientist with the herbs and ratios to make your own custom concoctions. Some herbalists prefer to tincture each of these herbs separately, mixing them at the end to better control the ratios and flavors. I’ve tried it both ways, and for bitters, I actually prefer the outcome of infusing all of my herbs together in the same jar. If I were making medicinal tinctures, however, I would separate the infusions to allow better versatility to mix various tincture combinations as needed.
For this recipe, I’ve chosen gentian, dandelion root and chamomile as the primary bittering agents. Gentian is primarily used as a strong bitter, but also has alternative and antibacterial properties. The humble dandelion root is a powerful hepatic (liver) tonic and detoxifier, while chamomile is a super-multitasker anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, carminative (relieving gas/flatulence), vulnerary (wound healing) and nervine (calming of the nerves).
There you go! Try experimenting with different combinations of herbs to create your own custom bitter blends. I have big plans later this spring/summer to try incorporating yarrow, dandelion, Oregon grape root and maybe some birch bark into my recipes, since these are all things I have conveniently growing (free!) next to our house.
If you really want to geek out on the chemistry and history of bitters and find recipes for making your own, I highly recommend checking out the book DIY Bitters: Reviving the Forgotten Flavor – A Guide to Making Your Own Bitters for Bartenders, Cocktail Enthusiasts, Herbalists, and More. In addition to oodles of recipes for homemade bitters, the book also contains a boatload of recipes for using your bitters creations.
For additional reading, the Weston A. Price Foundation did a wonderful piece on the history and benefits of bitters, Herbal Bitters: As Crucial as Salt in the Modern Kitchen.
Do you live near North Idaho and want to do some herbal preparations in person? Our first workshop is in May – reserve your spot now!
- 1 1/2 c high-proof neutral grain alcohol - such as 151 proof Everclear
- 1/4 c fresh grapefruit zest - packed
- 2 T fresh lemon zest - packed
- 2 T ginger root - dried
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 T dandelion root - dried
- 2 T gentian root - dried
- 2 T chamomile - dried
- 1 1/2 c distilled water
- Place herbal ingredients into a pint-sized Mason jar and add Everclear.
- Cover and shake. Store in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks, shaking the jar every couple of days.
- After a few weeks, strain through a coffee filter into a clean glass jar, squeezing to extract all of the liquid from the herbs.
- You should now have (close to) 1 1/2 cup of infused alcohol. If you're going to drop dose this in water, then you can leave it as is. If you'd rather spray it directly into your mouth, then you'll want to dilute it. If you used Everclear 151, this is 75% alcohol; to bring it down to a more palatable 37.5% alcohol, dilute with an equal amount of distilled water.
- Transfer your bitters to airtight glass bottles with reducer caps, tincture dropper bottles or spray/mister bottles.
Add to a couple of dashes to dress up water, tea, lemonade or sparkling mineral water. Take before meals or anytime the mood strikes.
* Gentian is not recommended for nursing mothers.
** Gentian may lower blood pressure
*** If you are on medications, be aware that grapefruit contains compounds called furanocoumarins that may interact with certain drugs such as statins and blood pressure meds.