Discover The Magic of Bitters this Holiday Season

We’ve written extensively about ways to prepare for the holidays, from tasty, healthy drinks to mindful eating. The season comes with a great deal of joy, but unless you avoid indulgence altogether or have the rare digestive system of steel, it can be incredibly taxing on your body. It can be downright impossible to keep away from foods that stress your digestive system and, heck, you just might not want to! If you plan to indulge we suggest arming yourself with a few holistic aids to help keep digestion on track rather than reaching for pharmaceutical options. Plus, there’s nothing fun about having your night ruined by indigestion and heartburn. Bitters are an incredibly effective way to ease any digestive woes and they come with a bundle of other benefits. From liver support to curbing cravings, bitters have heaps of benefits and are easy to consume. If you associate bitters with where they’re most commonly seen – the bar, you may forget that they’re incredibly healthy with a storied history of medicinal use. Fun fact, in the United States we consume fewer bitter foods than many countries. It’s time to bring bitters back to our diets (and we’re not talking about bitter dark chocolate, though that’s great too)! Read on for ways to consume bitters for health and enjoyment. 

What are bitters?

“Bitters” refers to a variety of infused alcohols, but simply put they are alcoholic spirits infused with beneficial roots, herbs, fruits, and leaves. The herbal/root element is typically paired with high proof alcohol such as grain alcohol to maximize the extraction and preservation of their flavor. Bitters are consumed in very small doses, but they pack a punch. Just a few drops will do the trick. 

Bitters for health

Existing at the intersection of function and frills, bitters have been used for both their natural healing properties and flavor for over 2,000 years. The ancient Egyptians are said to have used them, and they were a staple of the apothecary for centuries. Aside from their medicinal use, it was discovered at some point that they help make poor quality spirits taste better, and the rest is cocktail history. If you enjoy mixology, you’ve likely tasted them in a cocktail, but they also pair well with plain soda water as a mocktail and/or for upset stomachs. The use of bitters was integral to the history of the drink now commonly known as a cocktail, defined in 1806 as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters” by The Balance and Columbian Repository. With such a rich history in association with the cause of hangovers, it’s more than a bit funny that bitters are also something you can turn to when that holiday hangover hits. Bitters have known to aid in digestion, liver support (where there is food there is drink, especially over the holidays), nausea, skin health, curbing cravings, and more. 

Read on for more details on the specific ways that bitters are beneficial to your health, as well as how to use them!

Improved Digestion ~Perhaps the best known and well-documented use for bitters is their help with digestion. According to Urban Moonshine, our go-to bitters company,  you may “use them for occasional heartburn and indigestion*, sipping a small amount after a meal. Many people use them to prevent gas and bloating* by taking them before eating to ignite the digestive fire, support the production of hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes, and bile, and help ensure normal bowel habits*.” Bitter roots made with dandelion are excellent for alleviating heartburn. 

Hangover, morning sickness, and other states of nausea ~ In line with their digestive support, bitters are an excellent way to alleviate nausea. If you’re experiencing a hangover, morning sickness, or are just plain nauseous from a virus or travel, bitters can help settle your stomach. Bitters made with ginger, fennel, and angelica are excellent for this. 

Liver support ~ The holiday season with lots of sugar and alcohol is especially hard on our body’s ability to detox. Give your liver extra support this time of year!  Bitters are an excellent way to give the liver gentle support so it can continue doing its job regulating inflammation and moving toxins out of your system. 

According to our friends at Urban Moonshine, the phytochemicals in bitters directly support liver cells “by ensuring healthy antioxidant production, bile synthesis, and metabolism.”

Curbing sugar + carb craving ~ Urban Moonshine mentions in their “Five Ways to Stop your Sugar Cravings” blog on their website that “Researchers have discovered that bitter substances can block sugar signaling in the brain to soothe the sugar cravings we are experiencing…The bitter taste can have the opposite effect of refined sugar, moderating both hunger and blood sugar.” Voila! Use bitters to help curb pesky cravings for sugar and other carbs. 

Keep your skin aglow ~ Just as the holiday season wreaks havoc on our insides, our skin (which happens to be the human body’s largest organ) takes a toll. Bitters help the body detoxify faster and thus help keep your skin looking vibrant. When the liver suffers it shows in the skin! Many of the roots that are commonly used in bitters, such as dandelion and Oregon grape root, are connected to liver functionality and supporting radiant skin. 

How to consume bitters for health + brands we love.

At Rebecca’s, we carry most of Urban Moonshine’s much-beloved bitters. As mentioned, bitters also pair well with many cocktails. If you’re interested in adding them to a cocktail, you may enjoy one of these simple recipes via Food & Wine. Bitters pair well with a variety of spirits and when mixed well, you don’t need to add too much else to your cocktails! For a very simple, less alcoholic (remember, bitters are made with alcohol) tonic to ease your stomach, mix bitters with natural ginger beer and soda water.

To say there’s a large variety of bitters would be an understatement. Many prefer the extra bitterness of original herbal bitters, but we also carry apple cider vinegar, ginger, citrus, honey, and maple options that temper the bitter taste without compromising the benefits. Come see us at Rebecca’s to discover the best combination for your needs, and how to use bitters for health and flavor!