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  • Writer's pictureAngie Jackson

Woodland Black Walnut Bitters recipe

Updated: Mar 6

An earthy, nutty, and robust bittered woodland staple for your home bar and apothecary.

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Eastern Black Walnut trees have a lot of strengths. They are one of North America’s most valuable and highly sought-after native hardwood trees and have long been prized by furniture and cabinet makers. There is a definitive love/hate relationship between these straight and tall trees that grow around us. Some folks collect the walnuts to craft their traditional family baking recipes. However, others detest the mess and potential hazards of rolling an ankle or getting hit in the head from falling fruit. Black Walnut Trees are also picky about the flora and fauna friends they allow in their circle of life.

I decided to take the Woodland Black Walnut Bitters recipe from "Drink the Wild: Recipes from a Kitchen Witch for the Spirited and Sober Soul" to the next level and use the syrup as the sweetener component.

The tree produces a toxic chemical called juglone, which limits the tree’s competition and guarantees more water and nutrients for itself. In the gardening and permaculture world, Black Walnut trees are certainly not the most friendly to work with, but there are many plants and trees that will cohabitate nicely. We grew abundant squash, corn, pumpkins, and zucchini crops in our first two years of gardening.

Permaculture integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that less impacts the environment. We wanted fruit trees that could cohabitate with black walnut so we planted the juglone-friendly peach tree which began producing fruit the second year. This year’s plan includes planting plum and nectarine trees to cohabitate with the peach and black walnut in our family circle of fruit trees.

Juglone-tolerant wild black raspberry canes sprinkle throughout the property while Virginia Creeper vines crawl across the fenceline giving us a living wall effect. Upcycled wooden apple crates became the ideal raised beds to grow tomatoes and eggplant, two garden staples that detest black walnut juglone. A little research uncovered a vast array of medicinal plants that co-exist harmoniously with black walnut that include yarrow, wild ginger, woodfern, sweet woodruff, gentian, hosta, peppermint, bee balm, black-eyed susan, bloodroot, lamb’s ear, violet, motherwort, goldenrod, spicebush, elderberry, and quince.

This year our small forest of Black Walnut trees gave us a gift in liquid form, a hidden treasure that we had no idea existed. Black Walnut trees can be tapped like sugar maples, so we decided to reap the sweet reward and collected more than 15 gallons of sap from four trees. This amounted to just over 3 ½ - 4 pints of earthy, nutty, and slightly bittersweet syrup reduction.

Reimagine buckwheat pancakes, Belgium waffles, and sourdough french toast with drizzles of this delightfully nutty woodland syrup treat. My mouth is already salivating and my creative kitchen witch brain is thinking about other ways to use the syrup. I decided to take the Woodland Black Walnut Bitters recipe from "Drink the Wild: Recipes from a Kitchen Witch for the Spirited and Sober Soul" to the next level and use the syrup as the sweetener component.

I used a blend of whiskey as the alcohol solvent: 70% Straight Bourbon (47 ABV), 20% Straight Rye (45 ABV), and 10% Tennesee Sour Mash (40 ABV). I wanted the bittersweet corn to be the predominant grain flavor with the secondary flavors of pepper and baking spice from the rye whiskey balancing with the finish of the sweeter Tennesee Sour Mash. Tennessee Sour Mash is a cousin of Bourbon and is slightly sweeter due to its filtration from Sugar Maple Charcoal called the Lincoln County Process.

Nature has a way of providing even through the unpredictable and extreme. In peak summer, after a lake-effect storm, I gather the fallen flora of the staggering black walnut trees above my home and dry the leaves for this recipe. Normally I use Maple Syrup as the sweetener component for the Woodland Black Walnut Bitters but after creating such a decadent nutty and woodsy syrup, the black walnut tree proves once again its strengths outweigh any aggravation we may experience from falling fruit.

Woodland Black Walnut Bitters


  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tablespoon cinchona bark

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 2 cloves

  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon gentian root

  • 1 tablespoon black walnut leaf, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon wild cherry bark

  • 16 ounces high-proof bourbon or 16 oz. diluted vegetable glycerin/water (70:30 ratio) for a zero-proof, alcohol-free version)

  • 1/4 cup sweetening agent (black walnut syrup, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. Arrange walnuts and pecans on a cookie sheet in a single layer.

  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, checking frequently.

  4. Remove nuts from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

  5. Place the botanicals and toasted nuts in a pint-sized Mason jar. Fill the jar with the spirit or diluted vegetable glycerin. Replace the lid tightly and store it for four weeks, shaking the jar each day. Store it in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.

  6. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Save both solids and liquids.

  7. Add the solids to 1 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan.

  8. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for half an hour.

  9. Strain the mixture and save the water (you can throw out the solids).

  10. Return the water to the saucepan and reheat over medium heat.

  11. Add the sweetener and stir until dissolved. Once the sweetener is blended well with the water, remove it from the heat.

  12. Allow it to cool completely, and then add the infused alcohol or vegetable glycerin mixture.

  13. Return the bitters to a quart-size Mason jar for storage and fill a dropper bottle for use. Bitters may be kept at room temperature and will last for several years.

Be sure to subscribe to find out more creative ways to use the Woodland Black Walnut Bitters in both spirited and zero-proof AF elixir forms!


​Important Notices

Do not try to self-diagnosis or attempt self-treatment for serious or long-term problems without first consulting a qualified medical herbalist or medical practitioner as appropriate. Do not exceed any dosages recommended. Always consult a professional practitioner if symptoms persist. If taking prescribed medicines, seek professional medical advice before using herbal remedies.


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