In my family, empirical learning is a requirement.

As a young girl visiting family in Germany, I spent much time with my grandmother, Omi, strolling through the dense forests. She would point out plants, encouraging our interaction, and I unabashedly rose to the challenge. On a particularly soggy Berlin afternoon walk, Omi pointed to a plant that looked like a type of mint with fur. “Stick your nose in it,” she mused. As I shoved my eager nose into this vibrant plant, I learned about my grandmother’s sense of humor as well as the first property one notices with this force of a plant. The tiny hairs of the fortifying stinging nettle act as a deterrent to local herbivores. Histamine is one of the chemicals released when the leaf comes in contact with the skin, so you can imagine how that nose of mine burned and itched. And that’s how I learned to approach plants more delicately.

When harvesting nettles fresh, it’s best to wear gloves, bundle them, and immediately hang them upside down, which allows the little hairs to fall off so you can access all the goodness the plant has to offer. Nettles pop up during the time of year when the immune system takes a hit. Late winter/early spring across most of the planet offers a challenge to the healthy body. Nettles will not only detoxify all the nonsense from your cellular system, but also stimulate red blood cell circulation, which nourishes the blood and offers an energy boost. The anti-inflammatory nature of nettles supports a speedy rebalance when suffering from ailments such as chronic muscle pain and rheumatoid arthritis. Albeit a prickly plant by visage, the nettle shines sweet on the inside.

Infusing nettles is an excellent approach to gaining its benefits. Using a 5:1 ratio of nettles with water will create a powerful healing remedy. Inspired by this simple concoction, I’ve created foam from the infusion to top this month’s Medicinal Mixology cocktail. Once you’ve created the infusion, simply mix in an egg white (or agar-agar, if vegan-inclined). After a few minutes of whipping, the mixture develops a lovely foam topping. Nettle is a hearty, uncomplicated herb. The more you consume, the more it will restore and invigorate the spirit.

Nettle Cocktail, with garnish

Nettle Cocktail

Nettles Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Brandy or Cognac
  • .5 Meyer Lemon, Juiced
  • .5 oz. Hibiscus Simple Syrup (1:1 organic cane sugar and water that’s been simmered with dried hibiscus flowers)
  • Nettle-Infused Foam (for Garnish)
  • Lemon Zest (for Garnish)
  • Edible Flower (for Garnish)

Preparation: Add liquid ingredients to a shaker tin with ice. Shake with fervor and strain into a glass of your choice. Top with nettle-infused foam to fill the glass. Garnish with fresh lemon zest and a dried edible flower of your choice.