Making Grapefruit & Chocolate Bitters

Bitters: the Revival of a Forgotten Flavor:

Of all the flavors to grace our palate, there is perhaps none as fascinating as that of bitterness. It is a flavor that is universally despised—used linguistically to characterize pain, harshness and things that are extremely difficult to bear.

Yet, it is also a flavor used in cultures the world over to strengthen digestion, cleanse the body and build vitality—in short, considered an ingredient essential to good health.

It is unfortunate, then, that our modern diet seems to be completely lacking in the wild bitter tasting plants our ancestors considered so fundamental to their health.

Many of the diseases riddling our modern culture—from indigestion and gastric reflux to metabolic disorders ranging from elevated cholesterol to type 2 diabetes—seem to all point back to the deficiency of bitterness in our diets, and the lack of the protection and tone it imparts to our digestion and metabolic functions.


According to many, bitter herbs and foods play a helpful role in alleviating many of these conditions not so much because they act as specific remedies but because they provide components necessary to overall good health.

It is very possible that the current national health crisis could be radically turned around simply by rebalancing our palate with the medicinal virtues of bitterness.

Why do so many cultures around the world revere bitter foods and herbs, not just as supplements, but as a necessary component of health? These bitter compounds—including iridoids, sesquiterpene, lactones and alkaloids—occur widely throughout the plant kingdom. They are considered secondary plant metabolites—meaning that they serve no nutritional purpose to the plant, or for that matter, to us.

When eaten in small amounts, especially in combination with carbohydrates, the body is able to tolerate their presence; interestingly, many herbivores consume bitter-tasting plants selectively, deliberately choosing plants that are only mildly bitter, thus building up an immunity that helps protect the animal from the toxicity of highly bitter plants. This adaptation allowed us to profit from some of the beneficial roles these compounds perform in the plant, such as inhibiting the growth of microbes, protecting against oxidation, and reducing inflammation. But most important, the protective mechanism designed to expel these potentially poisonous compounds from the body became muted and changed into a highly beneficial reflex that stimulates and tonifies our entire digestive tract. Humans eventually recognized the digestion-stimulating effects of bitters, and began to apply them in the diet for this purpose, as well as to promote appetite.


When a bitter substance is recognized by bitter receptors on the tongue, a chain of neural and endocrine events begins, labeled as the “bitter reflex.”

In the stomach, the hormone gastrin has stimulated the secretion of hydrochloric acid. The acidity helps break down protein, enhances the bioavailability of many minerals (especially calcium) and destroys any harmful microbes present in your food.

It’s interesting to note that more people have levels of gastric acid that are too low rather than the opposite, due to stress or simply aging. Low levels of gastric acid contribute to poor nutrition and increased susceptibility to gastrointestinal infections.

Interestingly, low stomach acidity is associated with a variety of allergic and immune-mediated disorders, including asthma; skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea; gallbladder disease and arthritis…”

Grapefruit & Chocolate Bitters


Dried peels from 2 organic grapefruits (use the fruit for something else)
½ cup of organic cacao nibs
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh organic ginger root
1 Tablespoon organic fennel seed
2 organic vanilla beans, chopped
2 cups good vodka (organic if possible)
Local raw honey to taste (1-2 Tablespoons)


Place all ingredients except the honey into a blender bowl. Attach a lid and blend on high a few seconds.

Scrape the mixture into a pint jar or larger if needed. Attach a lid and store in a dark place for 4-6 weeks, or even longer for better flavor.

After time period is over, strain the mixture into a bowl through a sieve topped with a muslin cloth.

Add 1-2 Tablespoons local raw honey, stir well.

Bottle and label the bitters. Store in a cool dark place.

Take 15-60 drops bitters in a small glass of water after meals. Add a dash of bitters to any beverage where grapefruit & chocolate flavors are desired.

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