Lost Botanicals Series: An Introduction
As a botanically enthusiastic brewery, we're always looking for some undiscovered gem of an ingredient as well as inspiring stories about how botanicals fit into the lives of people wherever they are, both ancient and modern. When we find something—whether it's an old recipe or just a fascinating plant, the first thing we do is make a small-scale test, often by soaking one or more ingredients in vodka, which extracts much of the flavoring material. This tincture can be eyedroppered into beer to see how it works in different styles and in various combinations. It's always surprising and sometimes truly thrilling; it's amazing what a good idea-starter this kind of random playtime can be.
As a side project, I've been exploring recipes for botanical liqueurs and bitters for the last couple of years. One objective was to get myself into the heads of the people who built and maintained this tradition over the centuries. While these products certainly contain culinary herbs and spices, a large part of their flavor profile comes from herbs that today are only used in these kinds of products, and are also employed as herbal remedies. Many of them have powerful aromas and mouthfeel sensations as well as tastes, which quite often are penetratingly bitter. The balance in these formulations is utterly different from anything I've ever worked with in beer or cooking. With some time, you become familiar with the way they're put together: balancing sweet spices, woodsy herbals, florals and fruity notes and finally the potently bitter, tannic and sometimes numbing mouthfeel effects.
Since we have a cocktail program at Forbidden Root, it seemed like a small and logical step to try to contribute some of this botanical magic into the house. I started bringing some of my historical test batches into the restaurant for people to taste, and there was enough enthusiasm to develop them further and try them out in cocktails. One thing led to another, and as we experimented, this idea seemed like something that suited our interests and expertise. So today, we're pleased to introduce Forbidden Root's housemade line of craft beverage experiences, including a vermouth, tonic water, and digestive bitters. Enjoy the experience!