Skip to main content
The PBS on-demand streaming service, WNED PBS Passport, is available in Canada! Learn More
Sarah Sorci Recipes

Yarrow Bitters

From Sarah's upcoming online gardening course: Native Culinary Herbs . 

Just a taste of bitterness on the tongue stimulates a range of digestive functions. (Read more about the digestive benefits of bitters here.) This simple tincture can be enjoyed in cocktails/mocktails, or as a digestive tonic before meals. For the latter, take ¼ tsp in a swig of water.

When making herbal preparations with yarrow, I only use Achillea millefolium–the white-flowered “species plant.” I avoid yarrow cultivars, which are often bred to have more colorful flowers.

This recipe makes a very concentrated bitter extract; a little goes a long way. I use 1 tsp (5 mL) per pint (0.5 L) cocktail or mocktail. 

If you are avoiding alcohol completely, an alternative to this alcohol-based recipe is making yarrow leaf+flower tea. (You can use the first half of the herbal syrup recipe to make a strong tea.) Freeze tea in ice cube trays, filling each receptacle halfway. Store ice cubes in a Ziploc bag. Use one cube per pint-sized beverage (or adjust to taste).

*Do not consume yarrow (or other bitters) during pregnancy. Talk with a practitioner before using bitters during breastfeeding.  

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (0.5 L) fresh or dried yarrow leaves and/or flowers, packed
  • Everclear (for fresh herbs only) or 100-proof vodka

 

Directions:

  1. Chop herb finely and stuff into 2-cup (0.5-liter) mason jar. Pour liquor into jar until herb is covered. Use a metal or wooden spoon to push air bubbles out of jar; add more liquor if needed.
  2. Cap jar with two-piece metal mason jar lid. Let sit for around two weeks, shaking every few days. If herb sticks up above alcohol, you can open jar and push it down with a spoon. (Don't worry if there are still bits of herb stuck to the sides of the jar. No mold will grow in this high-alcohol environment!)
  3. After two weeks, strain herb out of alcohol using a fine sieve, cheesecloth/thin cloth, or coffee filter. Squeeze as much liquid out of the herb as possible. Discard herb. The remaining liquid is your finished Yarrow Bitters.
  4. Store Yarrow Bitters in a cool, dark place in a glass bottle or jar. Refrigeration is not required. Will keep for many years in a bottle with a phenolic cone-lined screw cap; metal lids and dropper tops will corrode over long periods. Glass kombucha or vinegar bottles and caps are an alternative.

Basic Herbal Syrup

Simple syrup is a basic cocktail ingredient; it's made with just sugar and water. This honey-based syrup is jazzed up by the addition of aromatic herbs. 

This recipe is versatile! Feel free to prepare it with other herb leaves and flowers from your garden, such as lemon balm, lemon verbena, bee balm (Monarda didyma, with red flowers), chamomile, rosemary, meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), lavender, lemongrass, elderflowers, and more. It's fun to experiment with herb combinations. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (0.5 L) chopped fresh herbs, or 1 cup chopped dried herbs
  • 2-3 cups (0.5-0.7 L) water
  • 1-2 cups (0.24-0.5 L) honey, to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Bring water to boiling. Place herbs in a heat-safe vessel that includes measurement lines, like a quart Pyrex measuring cup, small cooking pot, or quart mason jar. (If using a mason jar, fill jar with hot tap water before using to temper glass and reduce breakage risk. When ready to use, dump out tap water and place jar on a dish towel in a break-safe location--like a pot or sink--when pouring boiling water in.)
  2. Pour water over herbs in heat-safe vessel until mixture reaches 3 cups (0.7 L). Cover vessel with lid. Steep 20 minutes.
  3. Strain herbs out of liquid, squeezing as much liquid from the herbs as possible. Combine 2 cups (0.5 L) herbal liquid with 1-2 cups (0.24-0.5 L) honey, to taste. Less honey makes a thinner syrup with stronger herbal flavor; refrigerate and use within 2 months. More honey makes a sweeter, thicker syrup that will last longer in the fridge; use within 6-12 months.

Basic Herbal Mocktail

Use this recipe as a starting point! You may wish to adjust the recipe depending on the herbs and the amount of honey in your syrup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (0.24 L) sparkling water
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) yarrow bitters, or one yarrow tea ice cube*
  • 4 Tbsp (59 mL) herbal syrup
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) lime or lemon juice
  • ice
  • herb sprigs for garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Combine water, bitters, citrus juice, and herbal syrup in a pint (0.5 L) glass and gently stir.
  2. Top off glass with ice, and garnish if desired.
  3. Enjoy!

*Do not consume yarrow (or other bitters) during pregnancy. Talk with a practitioner before using bitters during breastfeeding. Feel free to enjoy this recipe without bitters! 

Now We're Gardening! Cocktail

This light, refreshing cocktail is great for the summer months. This recipe calls for holy basil or anise hyssop syrup; feel free to experiment with whatever herbal syrup(s) you've made. 

 

Ingredients: 

  • 4 Tbsp (59 mL) holy basil or anise hyssop syrup (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) yarrow bitters
  • 1.5 oz (43 mL) gin, vodka, or tequila
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) lime or lemon juice
  • 8 oz (227 mL) sparkling water
  • Ice

 

Directions:

  1. Combine liquid ingredients in a pint (0.5 L) glass and gently stir.
  2. Top off glass with ice.
  3. Enjoy!

BONUS COCKTAIL: Anise Hyssop Gimlet

From Sarah's upcoming online gardening course, Native Culinary Herbs . 

If you love anise hyssop for its support of beneficial insects and stunning flowers, but are skeptical of all things anise/licorice-flavored, this gimlet is for you! The lime juice and gin hold their own in this recipe; the sweet, anisey flavor of anise hyssop is subtle. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp (44 mL) anise hyssop syrup
  • 2 oz (59 mL) gin
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) yarrow bitters
  • Ice

 

Directions:

  1. Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mason jar.
  2. Strain liquid out of shaker (leaving ice behind) into a coupe glass, martini glass, or whatever you have on hand.
  3. Enjoy!