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Wild Food Journal

Wildcrafted Cocktails: Spicebush

Field to table is all the rage these days with foraged foods finding their ways onto the plates of restaurants around the world. But have you ever tried a foraged cocktail? It’s true you can’t forage a handle of liquor, but you can forage for flavorful, unique ingredients for syrups, bitters and garnishes for regionally inspired libations.

It’s easy to make foraged extracts and syrups. Often readily available, common wild plants can be transformed into multi-purpose ingredients. Here are some of our favorites with Lindera benzoin, or our native shrub the spicebush:

+Spicebush Syrup+

  1. Boil a small cooking pot full of spicebush twig for 15 minutes to 3 hours. Strain the twigs out.
  2. Take the strong tea and add as much sugar as you have liquid. Ex. 1 cup of tea needs 1 cup of sugar.
  3. Heat gently and stir to melt sugar. Continue cooking until lowly boiling. Cook five more minutes.
  4. Cool and Strain into jars. Label with the date and contents.
  5. Store in fridge up to 3 months.

Drink Recipes

+Spicebush Sidecar+

2 oz cognac or brandy

3/4 oz Cointreau

1/2 oz spicebush syrup

3/4 oz lemon juice

Lemon peel garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker half-full with ice. Pour in the brandy or cognac, cointreau, sassafras root syrup, and lemon juice. Shake well and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with the lemon peel.

+Spicebush Toddy+

4–5 whole cloves

1 broad strip of lemon peel or wheel

*¾ ounce sassafras syrup

1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1½ ounces Irish whiskey

3 ounces hot water

+Spicebush Old Fashioned+

2 oz. Bourbon or Rye

.5 oz. spicebush syrup

2 good dashes of dandelion bitters.

1 orange peel or other citrus

2 bits of wild oregano or bee balm (Monarda spp.)

If you want to learn to forage and craft these and more, check out our upcoming foraged cocktail classes. Our first one was so much fun!


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