I’m no alchemist, wizard or craft brewer but concocting my own extracts feels magical. The endless possibilities add wonder and mystique. And it’s so easy. The two most difficult steps in making tinctures are obtaining the supplies and patiently waiting. There’s a bit of measuring, but otherwise it’s as simple as filling a jar.
As an herb infuses in alcohol, the alcohol pulls out many of the plant’s chemicals, also called phytochemicals or phytonutrients. This creates a tincture or concentrated source of an herb’s beneficial components so just a few drops is all that’s needed in contrast to a whole cup of tea, for example. This is an advantage especially for herbs that don’t taste great, like bitters.
Craft bartenders and mixologists long ago discovered the vast virtues of bitters. At first, bitters were added to rum or other spirits to help relieve nausea and other digestion problems. It was an especially easy way to get sailors to take them. Over time, they have become key ingredients, often referred to as a cocktail’s salt and pepper. Bitters provide the perfect finish, blending and enhancing the elements of a complex drink. A skilled bartender knows that if a drink is flat or missing something, the answer is always to add bitters.
Bitters are the reason a cocktail is referred to as an aperitif or digestif. In herbal medicine, bitters are the go-to way of improving digestion. My teacher, on the first day of class, gave us five remedies that could be given to virtually anyone and make them feel better. Bitters was on this list.
I believe bitters tinctures have a place in baking similar to that of cocktails. We already use extracts like vanilla, almond, or lemon to intensify flavors. Bitters extracts can balance and round out sweetness, moderate richness, add aromatic spiciness, unite contrasting flavorings. They blend well with citrus, honey, and floral tones. They mix in with fats and provide a bit of acidity. All this and help digestion, too.
I picked these three herbal blends to tincture for their bitter qualities and to experiment with their flavors in baking. It’s going to take a while to continue because tinctures must infuse for about 4-6 weeks. Stay tuned for recipes to follow.
It would be a great time to start some of your own..please do and let me know!