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Spooky Herbal Drinks

Blustery autumn breezes blowing the fallen leaves around and the crunch of leaves under our feet add drama to the season, a perfect backdrop for Halloween! I love to get in touch with my 'inner witch' and gather some roots to make medicine and some herbal cordials. Seeing the trees, shrubs and plants shed their leaves is a wonderful cue for us to let some stuff go and hunker down to our roots and get grounded. Gathering roots like burdock, yellow dock, dandelion, marshmallow and elecampane is a great way to reconnect to the earth energy, especially when one could easily get carried away with the frenzy of the blowing breezes. I wanted to share with you some of my favorite spooky drink recipes using medicinal plants, roots and herbs. Cheers to you all!

Autumn Roots Cordial

The roots in this sipper are bitter but also aromatic and helpful for digestion. When I serve this to guests after a meal they are delighted with the flavor and surprised to learn what is in it. I think that is part of the mystique of roots. Feel free to get a little in touch with your inner witch and try some other combinations. A little fresh turmeric root can sub for the yellow dock root, if you like. Dried roots can work as well, just use about 1/4 the quantity for the recipe. Licorice root is nice if you like that flavor, although I wouldn't over-do it, especially if you on blood thinner medication or have high blood pressure. Sometimes I toss in a couple of star anise, a cinnamon stick, some cloves or a little orange zest. Let your palate and intuition be your guide!

1 burdock root, about 8” long, sliced thin

4” piece of yellow dock root, sliced thin

6 3” pieces of dandelion root, sliced thin

1" chunk of elecampane root, sliced thin (optional)

2” piece of ginger root, sliced thin

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

6 cups brandy

1 cup sugar

1 cup maple syrup

Add all ingredients except for the sugar and maple syrup to a 2 quart jar or bottle. Let it infuse for 6-8 weeks and strain. Add the sugar and maple syrup and let sit for another month until sugar dissolves. Taste and add more maple syrup if you like. Will keep for at least a year in a well-sealed bottle at room temperature.

Witchy Roots Cordial

Roots like burdock, dandelion, elecampane and ginger are great for the digestive system and this witchy concoction is a sort of DIY root beer that is wonderful enjoyed as a soda or a cocktail. Dried roots can be found at herbal shops or online, or even in your own backyard.

Makes 1 ½ cups syrup

Roots Syrup:

2 Tablespoons dried burdock root*

1 slice dried elecampane root*

1 Tablespoon roasted dandelion or chicory root*

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root

½ teaspoon dried licorice root*

½ vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 cup water

½ cup maple syrup

*Special magic: Add ¾ teaspoon edible luster dust

Simmer the roots and vanilla bean in water for 5 minutes and steep for 25 minutes. Strain, add maple syrup and chill. This syrup is delicious added to drinks and also when drizzled over ice cream.

For the drinks:

Wild Root Beer: Pour ¼ cup roots syrup over crushed ice and top with fizzy water or gingerale

The 'Goldfinger' Cocktail: 2 Tablespoons roots syrup and 1 oz Vikre 'Honor Brand' Hay & Sunshine Bourbon, Rye and Scotch blend, ginger and blood orange slices over ice.

Black and Blue Lemonade

Butterfly pea flower makes a deep blue tea that mysteriously changes color when added to anything acidic, such as lemonade. Make the ice cubes ahead of time and add them to drinks when you want to add a little color…and magic! Butterfly pea flowers are also high in antioxidants, offering so much more than just fun. Activated charcoal is available as a supplement in most natural food stores. It is commonly used for detoxification in the body. For spooky drinks it has the side benefit of creating a dramatic looking sipper!

makes 4 drinks

Butterfly Pea Flower Magic Ice Cubes:

¼ cup butterfly pea flowers (these can be found on Amazon, or

2 cups boiling water

Pour the just boiled water over the butterfly pea flowers and let steep until cooled, about 30 minutes. Strain and freeze the lovely blue tea in an ice cube tray. Keep frozen until ready to use. Use these ice cubes in drinks when you want to add some surprising color.

For the lemonade:

3 capsules activated charcoal

2 cups water

4 ounces lemonade concentrate (add more or less according to your taste)

16 ounces fizzy water

For the drink:

Fill four glasses with the butterfly pea flower ice cubes. Divide the lemonade into the glasses and fill to top with fizzy water. Add a shot of Limoncello or vodka if you want to make it a boozy drink.

The Dark Arts Elderberry Sangria

Keep your friends and family healthy with this antioxidant rich drink. It’s not overly sweet, but is full of flavor and immune boosting fruits, flowers and spices. The fruits used can change with the season and what suits your desire. Right now I am loving these late summer dark fruits. If you want to make it a little boozy, add a little splash of elderberry or elderflower liqueur, Crème Cassis or Dampfwerk Barreled Apple Brandy.

Serves 6-8

4 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried elderberries (can be found at most food cooperatives or at the Midwest Elderberry Growers Cooperative)

2 Tablespoons dried rose hips

¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers

1 Ceylon cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces

3 whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon prickly ash berries (ok to skip if you don’t have them or sub Szechuan peppercorns)

½ cup honey

1/2 cup red or black grapes, halved

4 plums, cubed or cut into small wedges

1 orange, or blood orange, sliced very thin

1/2 cup blackberries

1/2 cup blueberries

Other fruit options: fresh figs, pomegranate seeds, red pears, apples


24 ounces fizzy water

Bring the water with the elderberries, rose hips, hibiscus and spices to a simmer in a large stock pot. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan, covered until it is room temperature and stir in the honey. Strain the liquid from the elderberry mixture through a fine strainer once cooled. Add the sliced grapes, plums and sliced orange or any other fruit and refrigerate in a large pitcher or jar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Make some skewers with the blueberries and blackberries to serve with each drink. To serve, fill glasses with ice and fill half way with the elderberry tea, scoop in some of the marinated fruit and top off with fizzy water. Garnish each with a fruit skewer.

Elderberry Port Hot Toddy

Warm yourself down to your toes with this cozy drink. The elderberry syrup recipe below is easy to make and great to have on hand. If you are not inclined to make your own, you can purchase elderberry syrup at most health food groceries. Another option is to sub elderberry juice and add a little honey. The Midwest Elderberry Growers Cooperative is an excellent resource to find dried, freeze dried elderberries as well as frozen fresh elderberries or elderberry juice. They also have wonderful resources to learn more about the wonderful healing qualities of elderberries and how to grow them. Another nice brand of 100% elderberry juice is Biotta and is often at most food cooperatives or at Whole Foods.To make this a NA sub apple cider for the port or add to hot cider.

Makes one drink

3 ounces ruby port

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 Tablespoons Elderberry Honey Syrup or Elderberry liqueur

1 cinnamon stick

Water just off the boil

Orange zest

In a mug or heatproof glass, stir the port, sugar and elderberry syrup together with the cinnamon stick, leaving the cinnamon stick in the glass. Add hot water to fill, and garnish with an orange zest.

Elderberry Syrup with Dried Elderberries

During cold and flu season it is nice to have some comforting remedies to lessen the duration and symptoms of an illness as well as boost the immune system.

½ cup dried elderberries (can be found at most local food cooperatives or at the Midwest Elderberry Growers Cooperative)

1 quart water

2 whole star anise

1” chunk fresh ginger root, sliced thin

1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

6 whole cloves

1 teaspoon prickly ash berries (optional)

1 1/2 cup honey

Place the elderberries, water, spices and ginger in a heavy saucepan with a lid over low heat. Do not add the honey…cooking honey will destroy the benefits of it. Simmer uncovered for 50 minutes over low heat until the liquid has thickened and reduced. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer or a coffee filter. Cool to 145 degrees or lower before stirring in the honey. Store in sterile canning jars with lids, allow to cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator. This will keep for at least 2 months. Take a spoonful a couple times a day during cold and flu season. It is also delicious when added to drinks or even drizzled over ice cream.

Common sense statement:

As with any new food, if you are unfamiliar with how your body may react, please start small and see how you do.  Everyone has different sensitivities or allergies to foods, so be mindful of that when trying any wild edible plant. Of course when you are foraging for something that is unfamiliar to you, make sure you have at least two good wild edible plant books specific to the area you live in and check out information online as well.  I always feel most confident when I meet a plant face to face with an experienced forager.  In normal times I would love to be that person for you, but am limiting organized plant walks this year.  Please do reach out if you want to join me for a walk...I am frequently out walking in the woods and am always happy to have a friend join me. 

Some good sources for dried herbs are local herb shops such as The Medicine Tree, Jewelweed, or Present Moment. An excellent online source is Mountain Rose Herbs.

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