Most roots are most potent in their medicinal properties in Early Spring or Late Fall. This is when the plant’s energy is down in the roots. It makes sense that in the vibrancy of Spring & Summer, energy is directed towards growth above ground, in leaves, flowers, and seeds. Now in the depth of Winter, it’s a perfect time to harness that energy in roots, and make cocktails (or tea)! To weather bitter times, here’s a recipe for homemade root bitters:
We dug, cleaned, and chopped 4 roots for this recipe. 3 plants (Dandelion, Bitter Dock, and Poke) grow like weeds in my garden, and the other (Oregon Grape) spreads happily at my daughter’s daycare.
The roots in this recipe have some overlapping benefits, but we are generally looking to strengthen the digestive system, detoxify the liver (Dandelion), promote production and flow of bile (Oregon Grape), reduce inflammation (Poke) as well as support the menstrual/reproductive issues (Bitter Dock).
First, you want to tincture the roots, which means that you will extract the medicinal properties using alcohol. You will want to use a high-proof liquor, 100 proof or 50% alcohol by volume (ABV). I like to use Vodka, it is my spirit of choice to be imbibe.
To make a tincture, the roots should be dry and preferably chopped. It is easier to chop the roots prior to drying, but either sequence is okay. Fill a mason jar or other glass container with the roots and pour the alcohol in until it covers all the plant matter. Tightly seal and wait 6 weeks, shaking the jar daily. To tailor tastes specifically, bitters will often be blended from individual tinctures in measured proportions. For our purposes, as we are not looking to replicate taste specifically, and we have varying amounts of root matter, we just put all we could gather and dry into the same mason jar.
We will be adding Schisandra Berries (anti-oxidant & stimulant), Orange Peel (relieves abdominal distension & chest congestion), and Juniper Berries (diuretic & stomachic) to this recipe. These can be tinctured and strained ahead of time as well, but the colors are so lovely, I feel they should be displayed. Normally bitters are kept in amber bottles to help prevent heat/light from destroying medicinal properties. For personal preference of visual allure, I like to use clear bottles. Keep the bottle in a cool, dark corner of your kitchen, and use it within a few months. The flavor of the berries and orange peel will be more pronounced the longer they infuse.
The other flavor accent in this recipe is agave syrup, that will offset the bitters with sweetness.
Quattro Root Bitters
Root Tincture: Dandelion Root, Oregon Grape Root, Bitter Dock Root, Poke Root Infused in 100-Proof Liquor such as Vodka for 6 weeks, shaken daily
Organic Schisandra Berries
Organic Orange Peel
Organic Juniper Berries
Organic Agave Syrup
Mason Jar or other Air Tight Glass Container
Small Glass Measuring Beaker
2 fl oz glass dropper bottles
Lay your tools and ingredients out on a clear surface.
Strain the tincture through the muslin bag over the colander and set aside.
Add the berries and orange peel into the glass bottle.
Measure out 20ml/.67 fl oz of Agave Syrup and pour into the glass bottle. This is about 1/3 of the bottle.
Fill the rest of the bottle with the root tincture using the steel funnel.
Shake the whole mixture vigorously to blend everything well.
Ta-daa – Quattro Root Bitters! Add them to cocktails, to tea, take a few drops on their own, whatever you like.
Where to Get Ingredients (if not from your own garden):
Mountain Rose Herbs based in Eugene, Oregon
Starwest Botanicals Inc. based in Sacramento, California
Feature Image: Bitter Dock Root Harvested from the Home Garden
All Photos by Ivy Chuang
For Further Reading: