The idea that we can drink things that are delicious, good for us and good for the wild world is the focus of Drink the Wild, a book I developed with Austin Wines that was published in 2021.
All it takes is the right proportions of culinary mixology, herbalist tradition and your inner kitchen witch. That’s where I come in — the Traveling Elixir Fixer and self-proclaimed kitchen witch. Drink the Wild is a seasonal culmination of some of my favorite recipes from my career as a culinary mixologist, built with elixir essentials from my home apothecary. Here are some of my favorite things in or about the book:
Ginger Honey Syrup
I love to have a versatile syrup on hand at all times, and this combination of fresh ginger root, honey, cane sugar and distilled water is ideal for crafting cocktails, teas and soda water and even calming the stomach. The key to a quality result here is to source your honey locally. It’s the best thing to do for the community, but it also tastes better and has more nutritional value. Without bees and other insects, nothing in Drink the Wild would exist. Our future very literally depends on their future. Supporting the people who care for the bees is one of the simplest ways to ensure that healthy populations of these crucial pollinators are here with us forever.
I’ll never forget the first time I tried motherwort in tincture form. I remember it well because I screamed to myself, “Motherwort! Where have you been all my life?” Motherwort, which is a wild, stubborn and resilient plant, calms the waves of life. Ingesting it is like getting a big hug from your guardian angel, your favorite kitchen witch or your mother. Motherwort’s extremely bitter flavor profile (with notes reminiscent of cacao) can be overpowering, however, so I use Ginger Honey Syrup to sweeten a dried motherwort leaf tea. You can also use motherwort tincture, which I make with overproof wheat vodka, to add a chocolate note to a cocktail or elixir.
White Pine Needle Tincture
White pine is a botanical that has been used since the Middle Ages. The indigenous people of North America taught early settlers how to use white pine needles, bark and sap in a variety of ways for consumption and healing. They’re an excellent source of vitamin C and can be used for an effective preventative health ritual in the dark season of the year. Because pine trees are common and native to the Northern Hemisphere with many varieties, most Americans won’t need to go far to forage a few clusters of white pine needles for wild-crafting tinctures and teas or for an oxymel (an herbal tonic).
The Gibson Smokestack
This cocktail was born in the same city as Gibson guitars — our hometown of Kalamazoo. I developed the drink for Old Dog Tavern, a wonderful live music venue with equally eclectic food, drink and regulars, to celebrate the beloved guitar factory that was founded more than a century ago. The drink is named for the iconic brick-and-tile Gibson smokestack. May this cocktail, which features bitters, bourbon, a rye syrup and a freshly smoked glass topped with flaming marshmallows, be a timeless tribute to the famed Gibson Guitar company and to the stack’s timeless, smoky bricks.
Co-author Austin J. Wines
Drink the Wild would not exist without Wines, a writer and designer as well as a fellow mixologist and forager. In the late summer of 2021, we began our Drink the Wild writing project. We gave ourselves a 90-day timeline that revolved around the lunar cycle. Austin’s incredible writing and design skills brought Drink the Wild to life. Although he proclaims he is a “lifelong student” of mine, Austin is a lifelong friend, a true companion whom I will cherish and hold near to my heart my entire life.