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On the web you can read about Emily Han: recipe developer, educator, herbalist, writer. It’s much simpler just to call her an alchemist, a natural alchemist, with a talent for selecting and mixing that I simply envy.

There have been a number of advanced cocktails books in the past few years focusing on very interesting specialties, like shrubs — combinations of fruit, sugar and vinegar offering a true 19-th century American cocktail experience.

In Wild Drinks and Cocktails, Emily does include great new shrub ideas but also squashes, oxymels, switches, tonics, bitters, and infusions. A squatch? What is a squatch? It’s a simple syrup made with fruit, cooled and then strained. The fruit fragments are sieved out, and the remaining liquid — sweet and fruit rich — is densely rich on its own. And certainly the base for cocktails of intensity.

Chapters here present a diverse array of beverage concepts:

  • Teas, Juices, and Lemonades
  • Syrups, Squashes, and Cordials
  • Oxymels, Shrubs, and Switches
  • Infusions, Bitters, and Liqueurs
  • Wines and Punches
  • Fizzy Fermentation

You may be stuck on that “oxymel” word. Or the “switches.” These are vinegar‑based components. Vinegar has been a beverage ingredient since at least 4000 BC. The oxymels are made very similarly to shrubs, except the sweetener here is honey. You’ll find recipes here for Blackberry and Thyme, Sage, and Evergreen Oxymels.

The switchel originated in the Caribbean and, naturally, uses blackstrap molasses. The classic switchel is made with molasses, apple cider vinegar, ginger and water. And it’s use? In the Switchel Cocktail where you add rum, lime juice and bitters. It’s a bit of a journey from gingerbread.

The ideas here can really be projects requiring time, lots of time. Her Crème de Jure or Blackberry Liqueur can be drunk after a “mere” one month but Emily suggests you keep it bottled and blending for a year before enjoying. I have only 11 months, 3 weeks and 6 days to go.

Other ideas awaiting your attention include:

Pink Peppercorn Syrup

Hibiscus Cooler

Citrus Squash

Honeysuckle Blackberry Cocktail

Cucumber and Mint Cooler

Plum Gin

Rose Petal Wine

Ginger Ale with Ginger Syrup and Champagne Yeast Fermentation

Blueberry Soda

If you love cocktails, and a little alchemy/chemistry to boot, then Wild Drinks and Cocktails will give you endless pleasure. Some of it immediate. Some of it delayed. Every sip, immediate or delayed, will be a well-earned reward.