Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) and sweetgale (Myrica gale) are both aromatics that deserve some play in your kitchen, and one of the easiest things you can start out trying is a simple macerated liquor. Both plants have leaves that give off a great aroma, but for me personally, the seeds are the best part of both plants, and I find the aroma stronger with them. Since the seeds are smaller and more compact than leaves, it’s also easier to weigh them or measure to have good results that are pretty easy to reproduce.
I came up with this simple liquor when I read that sweetgale leaves used to be used to flavor different types of alcohol. The seeds, as I mentioned, have a much stronger than the leaves, so a little goes a long way, just a small handful of seeds will flavor a jar or a bottle. I add a small amount of maple syrup to mine, but you can omit it if you like.
The flavor of the finished product will vary a bit depending on which plant you end up using, or have access to, but it will be strongly herbaceous, piney, and resinous. I’ve had friends compare sweetfern liquor to herbsaint, and it will have a similar aroma to other liquors made from botanicals. It is a strong taste, which is why I typically dilute it with something mild like soda water. Sweetfern tends to make a liquor that has a slightly milder taste, where sweetgale will be stronger. If you have access to both plants where you live, I’d suggest you start out with sweetfern.
Fresh or dried
Either fresh or dried sweetfern or sweetgale fruit can be used to make this. Since I am harvesting so many things during the growing season, I find it easier to reach for a jar of dried fruit than fresh. Both will work.
Sweet Gale or Sweetfern Liquor
- 300 grams Vodka or about 1.5 cups
- 7 grams 3 Tablespoons Fresh sweet gale nutlets or sweet fern nutlets or 2 T dried
- 60 grams or 1/4 cup Maple syrup
- Gently pound the nutlets in a mortar and pestle to release their aroma, then combine with the vodka and maple syrup in a non-reactive container, such as a pint mason jar. Allow the mixture to macerate for a week, then strain and store in a cool dark place.
- The flavor is strong and herbaceous, so I like this mixed with soda or another lightly flavored mixer.