How to make spruce tip bitters

This recipe for spruce tip bitters  is a little bit of a labour of love and it will take frequent outings to the nearest wooded area as the ingredients need to be collected over a period of months. However, the results are well worth it and being outside amongst  conifer trees is known to enhance your mood.  

Pine buds

The male pine cones

In the early spring collect the male pine cones. These are the little clusters that let off a fine mist of pine of pollen when you bump into a pine tree. Put them into a small jar and cover with vodka. I’ve not had a chance to drill down the authenticity of the claim that pine pollen helps you produce testosterone yet, when I take a few shots I can feel some kind of mental change. A boost to my mood, I guess that could be said about any alcoholic drink though!


Yew, it will kill you if you pick this for your spruce tip bitters

Around mid spring you’ll notice that the spruce trees are starting to extend their needles. Each branch will have a lighter shade of green at the tips. Pick these spruce tips and add them to your pine buds vodka, if you have not drank it all by then. Just make sure you are not picking yew tips as there is a very strong chance of death if you do so. Yew tips look like the image to the left.

Leave these to infuse for a further week. Before using the mix as a basis for your bitters. You can either leave the contents in or take them out at the next stage. It will make a difference overall, there is more of a dry, resinous flavour to over infused spruce but you might like that.



Spruce tip bitters recipe


250 ml pine bud and spruce tip vodka.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
10 lemon balm leaves
half teaspoon gentian root
pinch dried wormwood
1 allspice berry

Spruce tips for bitters

Spruce tips Photo courtesy of the thirsty gardeners


  1. Put the rest of the ingredients into a kilner jar and leave for 2 weeks to one month.
  2. Strain
  3. Keeping the alcohol in one jar and place all the vodka drenched ingredients into a small skillet/saucepan.
  4. Cover with around 150ml water and simmer for 10 minutes, ensuring the pan doesn’t boil dry.
  5. Strain and combine with the alcohol.
  6. Pour into a small eye dropper bottle and use on your favourite cocktails.


Andy Hamilton

Brewer, forager, broadcaster, spaceman occasional liar

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