Bring on the Bitters

After a long hiatus collecting dust on the back shelf, bitters are back—and they’re not just for cocktails anymore.

Here in Colorado, an enterprising bitters maker has found wild success. Shae Whitney, owner of the Dram Apothecary in Silver Plume, forages for wild herbs in her surroundings and uses them to concoct her own signature flavors. Whitney writes on her website that she’s inspired by “the idea that the inclusion of bitter herbs in our everyday diet is essential for vibrant health, mental clarity, and agreeable digestion.” Well, now, I have to say I was surprised to read that. I thought bitters were for flavoring drinks, but here was something else—they could actually be good for you!

Some people may scoff at the idea of herbal remedies, but I can’t deny what I’ve experienced and seen with my own eyes over and over again: there are medicinal properties in plants.

I remember the time a coworker once complained of indigestion after lunch. When I offered her a peppermint candy, she gawked at me and exclaimed, “I didn’t say I had bad breath!” When I explained the mint was for her indigestion, not her bad breath, she gawked at me again—but she took it. A few minutes later, she marched into my office, astounded, and said, “I can’t believe it! It worked! How did you know about that?”

The truth is, I can’t remember how I heard that mint was good for indigestion. I’d always thought the mints offered at restaurants were for bad breath, not the digestive system. Turns out—whatever their intent—mints work for both.

The thing is, as Dr. Lee notes in “Synthetic vs. Natural Vitamins,” you only reap the full benefit of vitamins when you consume them in their whole form, just as they’re found in plants and foods. It’s not as beneficial to merely take a vitamin that’s been separated from the plant, or a synthetic version of the vitamin. I’m betting the same is true for the substances in herbs, so make sure you find a reputable source, whether you take them for herbal remedies and supplements, as bitters in your cocktail, a mint after dinner, or in the form of cherry bitters in vanilla frosting, as recommended by Joe Fee of Fee Brothers. So does this mean frosting can be healthy?! Well, maybe not. But it’s still interesting to learn that the possibilities for adding bitters to your diet extend well beyond the bar.

Photo from iStock/Muenz

Samantha Prust

Samantha Prust is a freelance writer, editor, and owner of Your Editor On Call in Fort Collins, Colorado. She can be contacted at

2 thoughts on “Bring on the Bitters

  1. Samantha Prust says:

    Oh, how interesting, Phyllis! They were definitely onto something. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks!

  2. Phyllis says:

    Hi Samantha,
    Recently, I found Bitters listed as an ingredient in an old recipe for Maltese Rabbit stew. But after reading your article, I know that they were on to something back then. I didn’t know they came in flavors either. Re-working old recipes will be fun.
    Thank you for your links on Bitters.

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