The Cocktail Whisperer’s Cures: Natural Remedies for Common Ailments

As sad as it may be to admit, the Winter is coming for us – and it’s not coming alone. Oh, no.

Unless you are fortunate enough to live someplace that is sunny year-round, you know that with Winter comes a lack of energy, that general feeling of being down, and a weakened immune system. Not to mention – a host of pesky ailments.

Today, when Winter hits us this way we may run to our local pharmacy looking for miracle pills, but in the past, pharmacies gave out a very different type of medicine – the apothecary cocktail!

In his book of the same name, Apothecary Cocktails, superstar cocktail enthusiast Warren Bobrow shares some of the history of restorative health cocktails, as well as the most effective (and delicious) recipes.

Running on limited funds and working with even more limited ingredients, the pharmacists of yesteryear would use medicinal ingredients they could obtain naturally. Flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables were made into different elixirs, tinctures, bitters, and tonics – all of which were mixed with distilled alcohol to prevent rotting.

These were thought to cure a variety of ailments, both physical and psychological. People believed in their ability to soothe stomach upset and headaches, as well as to heal infected wounds and help with mood swings.

One of our favorite cocktails from Bobrow’s book is called Cold Cure #1001. It’s infused with peppermint for headache and nausea relief, as well as Benedictine, which acts as a deep-sleep aid. However, the Jamaican bitters truly make this cocktail. Widely used in folk healing, this exotic ingredient contains a fragrant mix of allspice, ginger, and black pepper.

Whether it’s the dead of Winter or the peak of Summer, next time the common cold comes around – and we all know it will – try out this natural, restorative cocktail. Bobrow suggests breathing it in deeply before taking a sip, to clear nasal passages and “speed snoozing.” You’ll mentally thank him the next morning!

Cold Cure12-ounce (355 ml) pot of hot peppermint tea

5 to 6 ounces (150 to 175 ml) Bénédictine

3 to 4 ounces (90 to 120 ml) sweet vermouth

10 drops Jamaican bitters

Prepare the pot of peppermint tea; then remove the teabags. Preheat two large mugs by filling them with boiling water; discard the water after a few seconds. Add the Bénédictine, followed by the vermouth, to the pot. Mix gently, and let the mixture sit for a few minutes. Add the bitters, pour into the mugs, and serve immediately. Inhale, soothing those grumpy sinuses. Serves two sniffling sufferers. 


240x4009781592335848At the turn of the century, pharmacies in Europe and America prepared homemade tinctures, bitters, and herbal remedies mixed with alcohol for curative benefit for everything from poor digestion to the common cold. Today, trendy urban bars such as Apothke in New York, Apo Bar & Lounge in Philadelphia, and 1022 South in Tacoma, as well as “vintage” and “homegrown” cocktail aficionados, find inspiration in apothecary cocktails of old. 

Now you can too!

Apothecary Cocktails features 75 traditional and newly created recipes for medicinally-themed cocktails. Learn the history of the top ten apothecary liqueurs, bitters, and tonics that are enjoying resurgence at trendy bars and restaurants, including Peychaud’s Bitters, Chartreuse, and Vermouth. Find out how healing herbs, flowers, and spices are being given center stage in cocktail recipes and traditional apothecary recipes and ingredients are being resurrected for taste and the faint promise of a cure. Once you’ve mastered the history, you can try your hand at reviving your favorites: restoratives, sedatives and toddys, digestifs, and more.

Whether you’re interested in the history, the recipes, or both, you’ll love flipping through this beautifully presented book that delves into the world of apothecary cocktails.