Medicine AND Cocktails: How to Make Drinking Vinegars

SIMPLE (and delicious!) DRINKING VINEGARS: 

Drinking vinegars are an age-old tradition in many countries, including colonial America.  They are a great substitute for alcohol and you can use plain vinegar, or vinegar tincture for a more botanically beneficial medicinal boost.  

I like to take our vinegar tinctures and use them as a base for a summer "cocktail".  It's good for all of us to take a break from drinking alcohol, but we all need something refreshing to drink when it's hot.  

NOTE: If you are on other medications, you want to be sure to seek medical advice about contraindications for herbs and your pharmaceuticals.  If you have known medical conditions (even without medical intervention) you want to be equally cautious and do your research/seek the advice of experts.  

HISTORY: Medicinal vinegars (Vinegar Extracts) have been around since ancient times, and were an excellent way to preserve and dispense herbs before distilled spirits were known about. While the advantages of using vodka or brandy to make your herbal tinctures are many – including greater potency and longer shelf life, there are those who wish to avoid alcohol for personal reasons or due to the higher cost, making vinegar extracts ideal for them to create.

Vinegar extracts (also known as “aceta”) are weaker than alcohol based tinctures, so the required dose is higher. And, while vinegar won’t draw out as many of the beneficial components of an herb that alcohol will, it does excel at drawing minerals and vitamins from a plant. Add those extra nutrients to the already established benefits of apple cider vinegar and you have a powerful medicinal tool.  As added benefits, drinking vinegars and vinegar extracts/tinctures are safe for children, and for those who like to avoid alcohol.

Making a Vinegar Extract:

The standard formula to follow is 1 part dry herb to 7 parts vinegar. I’m not always that precise when I make herbal remedies – I tend to add a "pinch of this and that" with most of what I create (including when I bake) so, precision is not absolutely necessary.  That said, be sure to keep a notebook and keep track of what you are doing.  It's easy to forget later.  

Cover tightly, shake and store in a cool, dark place to macerate for at least two or three weeks, shaking daily if possible.  Use waxed paper or parchment between the metal lid and the glass, or the vinegar will eat away at the metal lid and mess up the whole batch.  Always use glass, never create in plastic - the acidity of the vinegar (and sometimes the herb) will eat away at and leech the plastic and destroy the tincture.

Dry herbs generally make a stronger extract than fresh and have a longer shelf life. If you do use fresh plants, be sure to store in a cool place or even better, the refrigerator.

Vinegar Extracts (aceta) have a shelf life of at least 6 months.  I also make alcohol based tinctures with fresh herbs, and if you pull out the herbs at 6 months latest, they have about a 1 year shelf life.  As a general rule, I never keep tinctures longer than I keep over-the-counter medicine.  The same principals apply - the potency wears off and in the case of plant matter, it can turn on you.

Ingredients: 

2 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar (or vinegar tincture)

2 - 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice or other fruit puree

1-2 tbsp maple syrup or simple syrup made from coconut sugar 

24 oz sparkling water 

Directions: 

* Mix the vinegar and lemon juice and add maple syrup, stir well 

* Top off with a lot of fresh sparkling water, plain 

* Give it a quick stir to mix, but don't overmix or you'll lose carbonation

* Adjust balance of vinegar to water per your taste 

* Enjoy!  This is a wonderful liver healing tonic and will give you a little boost of energy