Don’t Be Bitter About Dry January: Alleviate the Pain of Sobriety with Hydrosols and Bitters

As regular readers may have noticed, I love using hydrosols to flavor my vodka, but these natural flavorings with little or no sugar, are great for flavoring water too, and hence, indispensable tools for making it through Dry January.

Be sure to get your hydrosols from reputable sources. I recommend Aromatics International and Stillpoint Aromatics. You want to make sure that they have nothing in them besides the hydrosol–just water that has been run through the still with aromatic material. The plant material should be organic–nothing is added, no preservatives–This means that they have shelf lives that vary wildly. If the shop does not offer information on shelf life, it’s probably wise not to use them internally. They are best kept refrigerated.

To learn more about the history of hydrosols, read Cooking and Cocktailing with Hydrosol. But you might want to wait till after Dry January, since we give lots of super drink ideas involving alcohol, one of which is a rose geranium martini.

Besides mixing fabulously with gin (sigh), rose geranium hydrosol is really yummy with bubbly water–true for all the drinkable hydrosols. They can also be added to a cup of hot water to make a delicious tisane that can be sweetened with honey.

I also like to add hydrosols to my water bottle–just a teaspoon or so will make a liter bottle of water taste delicious, with no added calories!

Orange Blossom (Neroli) hydrosol can calm cravings of all kinds, elderflower takes you to the realm of the fairies. And bay laurel tastes like a candy leaf has crowned your tongue. There are also blood orange, turmeric, peppermint and so many more…

Now, onto the bitters!

Perhaps there’s a little homeopathy going on, but having a bitters and soda makes bellying up to a bar or hanging out with your loser buddies who are still drinking during Dry January possible. And with so many exciting bitters happening out there, you can even get the attention of your drinking friends if you bring your own to a party, and set up your very own chemistry lab, making everyone very envious of your bubbly water!

Strongwater bitters are my current favorite. Besides being delicious, they are readily available at my Colorado liquor emporium, but don’t cry if you live in another state, because you can order them online.

Hate feeling the squareness of sobriety during Dry January? Fear not! There’s something a little bit sexy, a little bit dangerous, about the dropper bottles neatly contained in Strongwater’s Herbal Cocktail Bitters Sample Box, which contains five delicious Rocky Mountain concoctions.

Scrappy’s Bitters also has a couple of travel boxes. I love the Exotic Mini box, which contains lavender, grapefruit, chocolate and cardamom. The latter two being as delicious in coffee as bubbly water. All of them are fun to mix and match.

If you happen to be in New York, you absolutely must take yourself to Kalustyan’s. This Indian mega market has a wall of bitters. My boyfriend has spent long hours describing bottle after bottle to me. There is everything from spicy to floral to classic to crazy. It may be overwhelming, but you will surely leave with more than one bottle of something extraordinary.

But what are bitters anyway?

As discussed in The Spirit of St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, they are an extraction of aromatic molecules from roots, herbs, flowers, citrus peels, seeds–the sky’s the limit–into high-proof spirit. Vodka is commonly used in order to obtain a pure extract, but brown boozes can also be used to add complexity to the end result. The extract can take anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks, and then the booze is cut with a little sugar and water.

If you feel adventurous “Bitters” by Brad Thomas Parsons is your book. He has bitters and cocktail recipes that can appeal to every pallet, such as “Do You Believe in Miracles,” which we shared in There’s Rosemary, That’s for Remembrance.

I advise you to make your bitters in all that free time you have while you’re not drinking during Dry January and then you’ll have all kinds of fodder for exciting new cocktails to look forward to making in February!


How are you getting through Dry January? Let us know in the comments below!