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SoCal Grapefruit Bitters Recipe

Use these foraged herb bitters to add a SoCal twist to cocktails such as an Old Fashioned.
SoCal Grapefruit Bitters Recipe
Photo by Clarissa Wei.

Servings: 1
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 to 2 weeks


1 grapefruit, peel reserved
6 toyon berries
1 black sage leaf
1 small piece California mugwort leaf
1 small piece California sagebrush leaf
1 teaspoon chopped white horehound leaves
2 whole cloves
1 whole star anise pod
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cup|237 ml (100-proof) vodka
About 2 tablespoons mild honey or simple syrup



These grapefruit bitters get their bitter flavor from white horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a non-native member of the mint family that often grows along Southern California trails. The medley also includes local toyon berries (Heteromeles arbutifolia), black sage (Salvia mellifera), California mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), and California sagebrush (Artemisia californica).

  1. Combine the grapefruit peel, toyon berries, sage, mugwort, sagebrush, horehound, cloves, star anise, and coriander in a half-pint (8-ounce|227-ml) jar. Pour the vodka into the jar. Cap the jar tightly. Store it in a cool, dark place for 1 to 2 weeks, shaking daily.
  2. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter; discard the solids. In a clean jar, combine the strained vodka with honey or simple syrup to taste. Cap the jar tightly and shake it to distribute the honey or simple syrup. Let stand for at least 1 day before using. Bottle and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Note: Depending on what you have available, the toyon berries, black sage, mugwort, and sagebrush may be omitted. Instead of horehound, you can experiment with other bitter-tasting herbs, such as dandelion leaf and root, artichoke leaf, or gentian root. Dried horehound can also be found online at Mountain Rose Herbs.

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