I’ve talked about bitters in another post, but I thought I’d mention a similar herbal preparation called a “Kräuterlikör” which has very ancient roots in Germany going back to the mixture of medieval alcohol making techniques and Greek herbal knowledge. Hildegard of Bingen even mentions recipes for the Kräuterlikör in her writings.
Many herbal alcohol preparations are based on the idea of the tincture, or herbal material allowed to sit in alcohol so as to leach out the active chemical compounds in the plant. The advantages of this type of preparation are 1) a longer shelf life 2) the alcohol is able to release oils and compounds that aren’t water soluble 3) the alcohol itself has, historically, been connected to the healing process as well. A Kräuterlikör is basically an herbal tincture that is then diluted with water and simple syrup to form a pleasant beverage that is also a powerful healing preparation.
We all know of at least one Kräuterlikör, ever heard of Jägermeister? That’s a fine example of a Kräuterlikör whose recipe goes back to the Middle Ages.
Kräuterlikör is of course only the German name for this preparation, similar liqueurs are known all over the world. One example is Chartreuse, a wonderfully aromatic and bitter herbal liqueur from the mountains of Southeast France. One of my favorite examples of the Kräuterlikör is Schwartzhog which is distinguished from other herbal liqueurs by its use of “Sauwurz” or Gentiana lutea.
The Kräuterlikör, much like the use of bitters, is effective mostly in that it is a more palatable herbal preparation to consume as compared to a regular tincture. The Kräuterlikör, along with other herbal liqueurs, are particularly favorable because of their sweet, pleasant taste. The Appalachian and Ozark notion of the “toddy,” brought over from the British Isles, is along these same lines, a sweet, alcohol based herbal preparation that makes being ill a little easier to handle.
I make my own Ozark Kräuterlikör from native medicinal plants left to soak in vodka for a month then mixed with honey simple syrup. Here are the basic ingredients:
White Leafed Mountain Mint
Wild Cherry Bark
White Willow Bark