The Forbidden Root Botanicals Process
Our current slightly scaled up artisanal process is very much like the tiny exploratory batches. It's still at a small scale: just a liter or so of tincture, made from less than a pound of botanicals. Dried herbs and fresh citrus peel are weighed and mixed with 80° proof vodka at about a 1:5 ratio and allowed to stand at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. While some people recommend longer soak times, we find that they can draw out more of the astringent, harsh components. So, for flavor-oriented products, less time seems to give a cleaner product.
Herb mix for the Lost Botanicals Tonic Syrup:
At the end, the herbs and vodka are poured into a small filter press and allowed to drain, then the press is screwed down with as much pressure as possible (larger operations use a hydraulic press), squeezing as much of the tincture—called menstruum— as possible. After that, it is put into a special type of funnel with a perforated plate onto which a piece of laboratory filter paper is fitted. That all goes onto a large Ehrlenmeyer flask with a side-arm connected to a manual vacuum pump, and the air is sucked out to draw the liquid through the filter. We usually let the tincture stand, and decant any additional fine sediment that may settle out overnight. This becomes the flavor base; the same process is used with different recipes for all of our Lost Botanicals products.
Herbs in the press draining before being compressed:
Menstruum being filtered in the giant "Büchner" funnel:
This tincture is mixed down with different additional ingredients: simple syrup and citric acid for the tonic; different fortified wine, brandy, caramel for the vermouth; a bit of elderberry concentrate and raw agave in the bitters. As you would expect, the bitters contains a much larger percentage of the tincture than the other products, which gives it its impactful, lingering flavor. It's a pretty simple process that doesn't take any really specialized equipment to do at a home scale. If you're interested, there's a lot of information out there on the web. As always, getting hands-on with a process is by far the best way to learn about it.