Doctor Jarvis, who studied medicine in our hometown of Burlington, Vermont, was perhaps the epitome of the New England country doctor. He worked during the first half of the 1900s, helping countless patients, visiting homes of friends and neighbors, and relying on strategies that supported and nourished – the same tonic approach we favor today. But he is perhaps best known for popularizing the use of apple cider vinegar, recommending its use for a range of complaints. We may owe the recent popularity of switchel, fire cider, shrubs and other infused vinegars to the old country doctor. His popular remedy makes sense: New England is rich in apples, and every fall, pressed and fermented into cider, he had access to endless quantities of raw, natural vinegar. Ever practical, Dr. Jarvis realized that this abundant natural product (already popular with old-time Vermonters) could provide a range of health benefits.
Some of the classic uses for apple cider vinegar include improving digestion, especially the occasional bout of heartburn, and helping to keep healthy blood sugar levels stable. This seemed to us to provide a perfect match for the traditional European digestive bitters, another classic digestive and metabolic remedy. Furthermore, since apple cider vinegar’s fermentation process converts alcohol into acetic acid, steeping the right herbs and roots in vinegar provides a way to enjoy all the benefits of bitters in a preparation made without alcohol.
We wanted to rely on the time-honored bitter roots that serve as the foundation of our original formula, so we started with burdock and dandelion roots. These are also excellent sources of prebiotic starches, important for maintaining a healthy gut flora. Because apple cider vinegar has a strong sour flavor, we needed more of the powerful bittering agents – gentian and artichoke – to fully stimulate our bitter taste receptors both on the tongue and throughout the digestive tract and liver. Finally, the formula includes a little ginger spice, adding warmth to balance the more cooling roots and herbs. This balanced blend evolves from an initial vinegar sourness into a clean and noticeable bitterness that isn’t overwhelming. Lingering on the palate are final notes of bitter and ginger. The formula is safe and versatile enough to use as your go-to daily bitter tonic, and it supports digestion just the same way our original, alcohol-based bitters do: it relieves occasional heartburn and indigestion, dispels gas and bloating, encourages gentle daily liver detoxification, and supports a healthy relationship to sugars and carbs.
By using apple cider vinegar for extraction, we’ve created a new way to enjoy the bitter flavor. But apple cider vinegar bitters are more than just an alternative made without alcohol: the vinegar base is the perfect marriage for the bitter roots, as it strengthens and tonifies digestive function, balances acidity, and is extremely nutritious. We like to think that, had he known more about the power of bitters, old Doctor Jarvis might have added a few to his apple cider vinegar blends himself.