A few years ago, at the start of my education in herbal medicine, I started making my own medicinal-strength herb tinctures. I kept the final products in my kitchen and—I should have seen it coming—the first one lasted less than 24 hours before it became incorporated into a dish (a few dropperfuls of chamomile tincture dashed upon a local fruit and mint salad, if you’re curious).
As it turns out, plant tinctures don’t need to be medicinal-strength if you’re working with food or beverages. This also means plant tinctures don’t need to be made of extra-strength alcohol solutions, a bottle of boring, inexpensive vodka will extract the herb flavors just fine.
Because alcohol pulls out just a certain range of plant constituents (the chemicals that give plants their medicinal properties and flavors), a plant tincture may not taste exactly as a fresh plant does. Sometimes a plant tincture isn’t tasty at all, but usually, if an herb is enjoyable, its tincture will be too. Of the ones I’ve tried, alcohol tinctures that work well for culinary or drink-mixing purposes include chamomile, basil, rosemary, and cayenne, and I’m sure there are many other herbs that translate well into tincture form.
In my research for this post, I also discovered something called a fat wash, whereby a flavorful oil is mixed with an alcohol and then strained out. Similarly to a plant alcohol extraction process, the alcohol pulls out the flavorful constituents of the oil, leaving you with, in this case, bacon-flavored vodka. What a trip! Seems like a perfect float for a blood mary!
Herbal spirits, as I’ve been calling these herb (and oil) alcohol extractions, make a super fun gift or favor. They’re tasty, inexpensive and really really interesting to creative cooks or home mixologists. Packaged up in 2-ounce amber dropper bottles gives them a compelling form that is easy to dress up. Pictured here is the Casual Celebration style in grapefruit, celadon and mocha in the circle shape (size 12).
- 2-4 tablespoons fresh culinary herb, finely chopped
- ¾ cup vodka
- Combine the herb and alcohol in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cap the jar and store in a cool, dark place, shaking the jar daily, or as often as you can remember.
- Taste the alcohol after a week and allow the plant to steep longer if you prefer a stronger flavor.
- When you are happy with the flavor, strain out the plant parts—pressing the herb in some cheesecloth will extract even more flavor—funnel the liquid into a storage container with a non-metallic lid. The herbal spirits will last for about a year in a dropper bottle and longer in a capped bottle.
- Rendered fat from a few pieces of bacon, slightly cooled but still liquid
- ¾ cup vodka
- Combine the fat and alcohol in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Cap the jar and shake the contents for a minute or so, allow the jar to cool and then place it in the freezer.
- Once the fat has thoroughly solidified, remove the jar from the freezer, carve a hole in the fat and pour the alcohol through a few layers of cheesecloth into a container with a non-metallic lid.
- This extraction will last for about a year in a dropper bottle and longer in a capped bottle.
Used In This Project:
- Circle Labels • I chose the “Casual Celebration” style in grapefruit, mint and mocha.
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