How to make Alexanders bitters -W/ Video

IN

The Romans can’t have travelled light as it often seems they bought much of the naturalised flora and fauna to the UK and Alexanders bitters is no exception. Here in Bristol it spread from one of the small islands out in the Bristol channel as the seeds were washed ashore. It has fared really well, a little too well in fact as it is now considered an invasive plant and groups of people will go out and pick it to rid public areas of it. Thankfully, they can never really get on top of it and we have it in abundance across the South of England.

Alexanders is one of the first plants to grow in the foraging year and it tends to be one of the edge lurkers. You’ll find it lurking on the edge of wooded areas, often growing alongside ivy. It lurks along river banks and near to water courses. I’ve never seen it grow much inland even in Bristol where it is rife it seems to stay within a few hundred meters of our rivers.

The Romans grew it as a food, some sources suggest as an alternative to celery but I think this misses the point really as it is very different tasting. The taste is floral almost perfumed, closer therefore to another cousins, lovage or even angelica.

The name Alexanders name gives a suggestion of its North Africa origins. The Romans knew it as the “pot herb of Alexandria“, Alexandria being an important Roman sea port in Egypt named after Alexander the Great.

Foraged ingredients

Alexanders is part of the Apiaceae family, (once called Umbelliferae family) and therefore some caution should be taken when picking

Foraging for Alexanders

One of the best areas to forage in Bristol is also used a gay cruising area; which certainly adds a different dimension when it comes to collecting. If foraging in these sorts of areas it is best to collect in cold or even wet weather as it saves embarrassment all round. Alexanders can also be found around the sites of medieval monasteries, riverbanks and waste ground. Being a Mediterranean plant it is rarer the further north you go.

Alexanders is part of the Apiaceae family, (once called Umbelliferae family) and therefore some caution should be taken when picking to ensure you are not picking hemlock. Hemlock smells like mouse wee and has white flowers and Alexanders has yellow flowers and smells a bit like lovage or celery. More mature hemlock plants will also have mottled or speckled purplish/red stems.  But to be a little more certain this should help.

Andy hamilton

How to make Alexanders Bitters

I used both the seeds and the shoot of alexanders in this recipe to really get a big hit of the aroma of this unique plant. It seems to get used solely for to add a little something to a Bloody Mary which may reflect my drinking habits far more than the lack of diversity. I have also tried it in a hanky panky with interesting results.

Ingredients

  • 10 leaves of mint
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
  • quarter cup alexanders seeds
  • 10 lemon balm leaves
  • half teaspoon gentian root
  • 1 alspice berry
  • Half cup alexanders shoots
  • 1 cup high proof spirit

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients into a kilner jar and leave for 2 weeks to one month.
  2. Strain and keeping the alcohol in one jar and placing the ingredients in a small skillet/saucepan.
  3. Cover with water and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Strain and combine with the alcohol.
  5. Pour into a small eye dropper bottle and use on your favourite cocktails.

The Nitrous oxide method.

Put all the ingredients into the cream whipper and blast with two charges. Strain into an eye dropper.

A note on the preferred method

Although the cream whipper is great for many things it wasn’t the greatest for this job. In my experience it works best for flowers and leaves and not for seeds nor for bark or other hard things. The liquor really needs to penetrate the pores of whatever the flavour is being extracted from to really work well.

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