Celebrate the season with bitters

Bitters certainly sound like the quintessential 2020 cocktail component, but in fact they’ve been enjoying a resurgence as part of classic drinks for a few years now. Originally formulated as a medicinal tonic, bitters blend herbs and spices with alcohol and were marketed as digestive aids. Now we appreciate their aromatic flavors as part of many types of mixed drinks.

You can mix up a batch of bitters yourself; it’s a surprisingly easy process with just a few special ingredients you can order online. They make a great gift, too. Here,  Garden Manager Steven Schwager shows you how to make our signature holiday bitters, full of the flavors of the season.

Steven’s Holiday Bitters Recipe 


  • Zest of 1 one lemon, in strips
  • 1 tsp (3 g) dried cut gentian bark*
  • 2  tsp ( 5 g) dried cut wild cherry bark*
  • 1 tsp (3 g) dried cut dandelion root*
  • 1 tsp (3 g) dried cut angelica root*
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 Tbs brown mustard seeds
  • 8 slices fresh ginger
  • 12 dried mango slices
  • ½ cup candied ginger pieces
  • 2 cups Everclear
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 3 Tbs double-strength simple syrup
Instructions Place all ingredients in a 32-ounce glass jar. Seal the jar and shake, then set aside for 4 to 5 days, giving the jar a good shake each day. Taste it, and if it’s not strong enough for your liking, let it sit another day or two. Strain the mixture through a strainer lined with two layers of damp cheesecloth. Make sure all the solids are caught in the cheesecloth, and squeeze out any further liquid from the fruit. Discard the solids and let the liquid settle for an hour. Line a funnel with a double  layer of damp cheesecloth  and decant the liquid into small bottles, taking care to leave behind any cloudy sediment. Seal the bottles and store in a cool dark place.

* Steven purchased these ingredients from Lhasa Karnak Herb Company

Bitters are a great addition to cocktails, and you can add a splash to any drink to give it a little extra boost of flavor. Stacey Kamp, our resident mixologist, shares a recipe here for a warming ginger cocktail with holiday bitters. 

Stacey's Spicy Ginger Old Fashioned


  • Candied ginger
  • 2 brandied cherries
  • 2 dashes Holiday bitters
  • 2 oz Rye Bourbon
  • ½ oz Domaine De Canton ginger liqueur
  • 1 clementine, peeled and segmented
  • Club soda


Muddle the clementine, one cherry, one cube candied ginger and bitters at the bottom of a mixing glass.

Pour in rye and Domaine De Canton liqueur.

Add ice and stir or shake to chill.

Strain into glass with ice, splash with club soda

Garnish with a piece of candied ginger and brandied cherry.

More to explore

IRS Guidelines for Gifts from Donor Advised Funds to Support MAGC Events

Thank you for your interest in giving to the Marin Art & Garden Center events from your Donor Advised Fund (DAF) or Family Foundation.

We sincerely appreciate your generosity and support!

To ensure your gift follows the current IRS guidelines for DAF/Family Foundation support of an event, we would like to share the below guidelines with you.

  • Raffle tickets, tickets to galas and other special events, auction items, and benefits conferred in connection with a DAF/foundation grant are not permitted.
    • IRS has specifically ruled that fair market value associated with fundraising events cannot be separated, a practice known as “bifurcation.”
      • For example, with Edible Garden, if the price of the ticket is $200 and the FMV fair market value (non-tax-deductible amount) is designated to be $50, the donor must pay from sources other than her DAF/foundation for the full value of the ticket ($200) and not just for the non-tax-deductible amount ($50).
    • We recommend you confer with your financial advisor to confirm if any of these examples of how donors may still use their DAF to support an event would work for you:
      • A donor could sponsor the event, and not attend, and pay fully out of the DAF/foundation.
      • A donor could sponsor the event using DAF/foundation funds and attend by purchasing an individual ticket through non-DAF/foundation funds.
      • A donor could sponsor the event, join the event as a guest of another donor/table guest, and pay fully out of the DAF/foundation.
      • A donor could sponsor the event and host the afforded number of people at their chosen level as long as they pay for the seats at the lowest ticket price ($200 for Edible Garden) outside of their DAF.
        • As an example, a $1,500 sponsor that covers 2 guests, could pay for their sponsorship with $400 from a different source of funds, and then give an additional gift of $1,100 out of their DAF.


Please email Tod Thorpe, Director of Development at tod.thorpe@maringarden.org to discuss your gift to Marin Art and Garden Center