By Kevin Chap
For thousands of years, Eastern Europeans have been harvesting the dense masses that grow from the white birch tree known as chaga. This mushroom has been used in traditional medicines for addressing a variety of health issues ranging from heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, stomach pain, and certain types of cancer. Scientists now confirm this wild food has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants in the world.
Chaga derives its name from the Russian word for “mushroom.” It can be used in a diversity of culinary delights. Chaga tea or coffee is a mainstay in most northern foragers diets, but the extract can also be turned into kombucha, garnish drizzles, flavor infusers or, if you are more daring, a cocktail.
2 oz. ground chaga
2½ oz. top-shelf vodka
½ oz. triple sec
Pomegranate or cranberry juice
Maple syrup or honey
Grind 2 oz. of chaga chunks in a coffee grinder and transfer into a pot of boiling water. Reduce by approximately one-half to bring out all the nutrients and health benefits. The tea will now be a very dark brown. Cool to room temperature. Strain the ground chaga through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. Sweeten to taste with maple syrup.
Combine vodka (an homage to the tea’s Russian origins), triple sec, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a splash of pomegranate juice in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a martini glass. It should be a pale and frothy pinkish-purple. Drizzle your chaga tea reduction over the top and watch it diffuse.
Garnish with fresh blueberries on a bamboo skewer or cocktail straw. You can also add a bit of flare with a raw sugar rim. Experiment with your own variations.
Please enjoy responsibly.