Ellen Zachos on Wildcrafted Cocktails.

Blending naturally wild flavors to delight the palate and stir up the conversations.

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A former Broadway performer (she was once in the cast of Les Miz), Ellen is a Harvard graduate and has earned multiple certificates in horticulture and ethnobotany from the New York Botanic Garden. In her spare time Ellen is a garden writer, photographer, and lectures at flower shows & for garden clubs around the world.  She is the author of seven books including The Wildcrafted Cocktail and Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat both by Storey Publishing.

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Ellen was named a Great American Gardener by the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, has served two terms as a National Board Member for the Garden Writers Association and works with RemyUSA, teaching foraged mixology workshops across the US.

In This Podcast:

The love of plants was a strong enough call to help Ellen Zachos leave the Broadway stage, and her love of food and flavors combined with plants led her naturally to wild foraging, and then to experiment with mixing cocktails.  Ellen has done a lot of research and testing to bring her foraging skills to the cocktail bar and here we learn a lot about mixing the right flavors to get a perfect drink.  You might just rethink your next hike to the mountain or the farmers market after this podcast.

Listen in and learn about:

  • Her ‘circuitous route’ to foraging starting from Harvard studies of 19th century English and French literature, to being on Broadway, to a gift plant that changed her life, and eventually finding her love of working with plants.
  • Designing and maintaining rooftop gardens in New York City
  • Her love for food effecting her focus on plants that are edible
  • Her previous book that taught about foraging in backyards
  • How she started with mixology and foraging
  • Bringing the term foraging to a clear definition
  • Some examples and explanations for terms like ‘blanched’
  • Yummy teasers for some of recipes
  • How she developed some of the recipes
  • How some of the blends worked together
  • Her favorite recipe(s) – for right now
  • The basics that her book helps for those who are just starting out
  • Two unusual simple syrups that can made from chanterelle mushrooms or carob pods
  • How her love of flavors came to work so well with the mixology practicing
  • Who will benefit from the recipes and how this can be expanded to food as well
  • What the Botanist Gin is, and why it is so special
  • How to find her mixology websites which take place all over the United States
  • Advice to avoid the poisonous and problematic plants and herbs
  • What to do if you have food or medicine allergies
  • Sumac and some suggestions on how to forage safely
  • How to start simply for some wildcrafted cocktails

As well as:

  • Her failure – her first career as an actor on Broadway and not liking the lifestyle
  • Her success – being able to create a life that balances everything that she loves
  • Her drive – being a perfectionist always in search of deliciousness, and wanting to avoid the normal or the usual
  • Her advice – to not be afraid,

Books written by Ellen:

The Wildcrafted Cocktail: Make Your Own Foraged Syrups, Bitters, Infusions, and Garnishes; Includes Recipes for 45 One-of-a-Kind Mixed Drinks

Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat

Ellen’s Book recommendations:   

The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Sam Thayer
Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants  by Sam Thayer

How to reach Ellen:


Facebook – The Backyard Forager


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