Dedicated to exposing the various ways that the power of plants can be integrated into our everyday lives Michael Isted, face of The Herball combines aromatic waters and herball infusions with speciality cocktails and exotic elixirs. With his range of The Herball products Michael is dedicated to producing, sourcing and sharing authentic, locally sourced, 100% plant based products. Along with infusions and waters, The Herball boasts an impressive array of bitters, herbs and spices, designed to enliven and enhance the eating and drinking experience.
What ignited your passion for combining plants with cocktails and beverages?
The history of cocktails and drinks is steeped in herbs/herbal medicine history. Originally alcohol wasn't used for socialising it was used for medicinal or preserving purposes, drawing therapeutic constituents & flavours from a particular plant source, just as it is today.
I was really inspired by the great apothecaries, pepperers and spicers of 15th & 16th century London, compounding, infusing wine and dispensing herbal preparations for medicine and pleasure, it of course would not have been the most refined but it was happening.
Also in the 10th century the great Arabic Physician Avicenna was distilling plant based aromatic waters and oils for medicinal use. But London in the 15th/16th was a particularly inspirational time for herbal medicine and the world of beverage with lots of experimentation, new exotic herbs and spices entering the psyche of communities and the relationship and bond between man and nature became really dynamic. The interpretation of nature at this time was fascinating.
I'm just excited and passionate to create modern interpretations of these traditional methods of extraction and to see other people experimenting with plants, herbs and spices in food and beverage today.
Do you have favourite ingredients to use within your ‘fragrance’ infused beverages?
I love aromatic waters or non alcoholic distillations of plants, they are so versatile and dynamic whether to scent a serve or to infuse in ice or as an integral part of a recipe. In terms of fragrance its hard to beat freshly distilled Rosa Damascena its so beautiful.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I love searching for old recipes and transcripts; the ancient Greek and Arabic texts in particular are a great source of inspiration. The Bible too has some pretty inspirational uses of herbs. It's about resurrecting these ancient recipes and creating contemporary and modern interpretations of these recipes. That said our parents, grandparents and past generations are also an amazing resource for inspiration.
How do you think aroma can enhance the experience of cooking, mixing and eating?
Aroma is key. It’s a vital constituent of any dish or drink as sense of smell communicates much of life's great pleasures. Aroma or the sense of smell is a very complex science that is still not completely understood. At a basic level it’s an innate response to discover whether a particular food, substance or another being will be pleasurable to you. You can have a good drink that has little aroma, but if you add perfume or scent to a serve it elevates it to another level, taking the drinker on a multi-sensory journey.
You can trigger many powerful emotions purely by scent, whether that’s a memory, excitement, joy or wonderment – scent is so powerful it should never be underestimated.
What is your all time favourite natural scent or aromatic?
This is dependent on many things like mood, environment, who you are with, time of day – but there are probably two scents that I always love. One is Rosa Damascena and the other is real and sustainable Sandalwood.
What is your favourite drink incorporating aromatics to create or consume?
I incorporate many aromatic waters and C02 extractions into our serves so I do not have a particular favourite, they are all interesting in their own way.
Scent and essential oils have long been known to have a potent affect on our mood/state of being – when creating a recipe do you take into account a certain emotion or mood you envision to be ignited at the time of consumption?
Absolutely. As discussed earlier scent can trigger so many emotions so I will always bare this in mind and depending on the concept or the style of an event, I will carefully choose the scents to make sure that it suits the environment and helps to create the right mood and atmosphere. However, you can never be sure as scent means many things to different people but there are definitely scents not to use.
Any tips for simple ways we can begin to incorporate aromatics into our meals/beverages?
Aromatic waters are fantastic because they are very gentle but still pack a therapeutic and flavoursome punch, I use them every day to invigorate and add a natural dynamism to smoothies, juices, salad dressings, cocktails, ice, water and tea. It could be as simple as adding a few drops into a glass of water or scenting a black tea with cardamom & cinnamon aromatic water to create a spiced tea. A few drops of orange blossom and basil aromatic water really invigorates a fresh orange, carrot and ginger juice.
You have to be very careful if using stronger aromatics like essential oils and C02 extracts, you should always seek professional advice before using these internally.
Check out The Herball assortment of aromatic infusions online and be sure to stay tuned for the recipe for The Herball's Rose Quartz Love Tonic coming soon!