Friday, April 23, 2010

Bitters Syrup

When you start thinking about herbs as a focus in your eating life, you find them everywhere. I made some tarragon white wine mustard, yesterday, for example. And dinner was pasta with peas, and a gorgeous bunch of fresh chives, with crème fraîche.

This little jar of syrup has been on my mind for a while. I've been thinking about bitters, a preparation of herbs in alcohol, which is a simple or complex operation depending on how you look at it. I opted for the simple, of course, and instead of being steeped in alcohol, I opted for a syrup. Which may or may not eventually get steeped in alcohol. (Not that syrups are any easier than a true bitters. But check out this recipe. This guy is serious.)

What I like about this syrup is that, mixed with seltzer and on ice, it's like a drink without the alcohol, and as a digestif, there are health benefits as well. Now, why bother, if there's no alcohol, you ask? Good point. I think it would be great with gin, as well. But sometimes, with lunch al fresco, you want a little something to drink but don't want to nap just yet. This is lovely. The wormwood is very bitter, so don't add any more than that teaspoon. The hibiscus give it that pretty color, and a little acidity. Think campari and soda. Go outside and sit on your café chairs and enjoy.

2 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon of nettles
1 teaspoon of wormwood
10 whole cloves
1 teaspoon of fennel seed
a stick of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of hibiscus

Boil water and steep with herbs overnight. Strain and add sugar. Boil for ten minutes. You can process this in a boiling water bath for ten minutes to make it shelf stable. Otherwise, put it in the fridge.

Serve over ice with seltzer, and lemon peel.


  1. I know what you mean, once you start focusing on herbs it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Your bitters sounds soo interesting. Shame we don't live near to try all these wonderful concotions.

  2. I read a Saveur article more than a year ago now about a master mixologist and his herb garden for making his own bitters... it's been in the back of my mind as something I'd totally love to try - but I need to consider what to plant in mine this year before I can make this one! Yours looks very nice, indeed.

  3. you're so medieval. i love it!
    i need a goblet.

  4. Ah, thats sounds like a lovely way to wile away an afternoon. Sipping, watching the monkeys play on the grass, sipping again, a soft breeze making the autumn leaves dance...just need some grass and bitters now.

  5. I have never tried Bitters but I like the idea of a nice non-boozy drink to serve lunch guests. Thanks for the continuing inspiration.

  6. Hey, nonny, nonny.

    Methinks we shouldst rest awhile under the olive trees, sipping bitters and making much ado of nothing.

  7. Gloria - It is a shame! I would love to share with such like-minded folks. That candied angelica comes to mind!

    RCakewalk - Thanks! I am really feeling the bitters pull and will probably do a real one this summer. But, like you, I'll wait until I have a big stock of fresh herbs. Hope it happens!

    Tigress - Ha ha! I made this while wearing a purple velvet gown. BYOG.

    CityHippyFarmGirl - It is a lovely way to while an afternoon away. It's Autunm now for you, isn't it?

    Yummy Supper - You're welcome. I'm glad I can inspire! It's nice to have something other than iced tea or lemonade.

    Kaela - Hey nonny, ho! Dost thou have thine goblet?

  8. Awesome! I'm thinking I need some wormwood in my garden now. That is artemesia, no? Or is there a different variant that you used? I'm also bummed I tried to order angelica seeds but everyone so far has been out and now it's late to plant. No candied angelica for me again.


    yOU KNOW, AT ONE POINT, I had over
    30 herbs in my garden, including


  10. Annette - Yes, artemesia, but I didn't grow it sadly. I want angelica, too, and hyssop! I'd like to know how your soapwort is going!

    Mamou - Health food store! And the Nettles are from Seattle, actually, from Eve.