Birch Bitters


Forager Liz Knight on when and how to create birch bitters.

Blink for long enough in the early spring & you’ll close your eyes to a twiggy, brown world & open them to vibrant green. The birch trees standing in our garden are filled to bursting with sap & they’ve stopped being ‘tappable’ for this year. Shame? A bit, but not that much because now the merry dance of gathering moves from the fat trunk to the fragile twigs & silky new leaves.

This is the season for Birch Bitters. I wish I could make this process sound impossibly clever & hard to do, but it’s as simple as me. You have absolutely no excuse not to do this.

Cut the last 15 cm of birch twigs – catkins, leaves & twigs, ram them into a jar & cover with vodka. If you leave them for a few days you’ll have a green, herbaous bitter but leave them alone for 3 months & you’ll discover a complex sweet (bitter) tannic warm bitter. Either way green & fresh or mature & woody, birch bitters are something to write home about (on a Paper Birch tree of course).

Birch Bitters sneak into lots of my cocktails, my favourite at the moment is ‘The Origin’ [see recipe >]

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