iced cacao elixir with cacao and coffee bitters in a glass mug

Iced Cacao Elixir with Bitters | Summer’s Most Nourishing Coffee Alternative

It’s ultra-creamy and ever-so-slightly bitter, rich and refreshing, and has all the energy boost of a cup of coffee. But there’s no brewing required and absolutely no threat of a caffeine crash and burn. This iced cacao elixir recipe is made with 100% dark chocolate, sweetened with maple syrup, and laced with homemade coffee and cacao bitters for extra herbal antioxidant and digestive support.

Move over iced coffee, there’s a new iced obsession in town!

Move Over, Iced Coffee!
What is a Cacao Elixir?
The Health Benefits of Cacao
The Health Benefits of Coffee
The Health Benefits of Herbal Bitters
How to Make an Iced Cacao Elixir with Coffee Bitters
Cacao FAQs
Cacao Elixir Recipe

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cacao pod sliced in half with cacao beans

Move Over, Iced Coffee!

I’m obsessed. And I’m not typically a person that leans towards obsession, but if I was to ever be obsessed with anything, it’d be cacao.

Cacao is hands-down one of my most favorite plants. Why? Well, there’s the obvious: chocolate. Duh.

And then there’s the amazing nutritive and medicinal benefits. There’s also cacao’s heart-healing, heart-warming, and heart-hugging magic.

And I mean, have you seen a cacao pod?! They’re legitimately from another planet and utterly fascinating. If you ever get to hold one in your hand, please do. It’ll change your life.

All the plants are amazing, but cacao holds an extra special place in my heart. And this cacao elixir with coffee and cacao bitters rocks my cacao-lovin’ world!

iced cacao elixir with cacao and coffee bitters in a glass mug

What is a Cacao Elixir?

An elixir is essentially a sweetened solution or liquid used for health and wellness purposes. However, it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot and used in many different ways. Anything from magical love potions to herbal blends for health and vitality may be called an elixir.

(And by the way, I’m on the fence about magical love potions existing. However, I’m a firm believer in herbal aphrodisiacs! Po-tay-to… po-tah-to?! 😉)

In this case, elixir refers to a delicious concoction of 100% cacao (the darkest of dark chocolates), creamy coconut milk, and homemade herbal digestive bitters.

And its purpose? To give you the nourishing energy boost you deserve with added antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and digestive benefits.

The Health Benefits of Cacao

As if I needed to wax poetic about cacao anymore, but here I go. Cacao, the main ingredient in one of the world’s most popular pleasure foods, is a highly antioxidant and stimulating nervine that benefits our entire cardiovascular system.

Here are some of the incredible, science-supported health benefits of cacao:

  • Has high nutrient density and contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, and several other B vitamins
  • May improve blood flow to the heart
  • Can help to prevent the formation of artery-clogging plaque
  • May help to lower high blood pressure
  • May prevent blood clotting that may lead to a heart attack or stroke

The Health Benefits of Coffee

Coffee… sweet, sweet coffee. I wasn’t a coffee drinker until my mid-thirties. It was green tea all the way for me, and it still is for the most part. However, after studying the nutritive and medicinal benefits of coffee, I finally started to see what the big deal was. And now, I happily enjoy a cup or two a week.

With each sip, I feel like I’m finally in on the secret of the world’s most consumed beverage.

Some of the medicinal properties of coffee include:

  • Antioxidant: Antioxidant herbs help to prevent oxidative stress to our cells that may be caused by environmental factors, poor quality food, certain medications, smoking, alcohol abuse, or any number of the physical, mental, or emotional stressors we face. Oxidative stress is often the cause of premature aging and many inflammatory diseases.
  • Nervine Stimulant: Nervine stimulants increase the activity of the central nervous system and can help to increase alertness, counteract fatigue, and even enhance physical performance.
  • Bitter Digestive: Herbal digestive bitters can help to stimulate digestion in a way that helps to prevent symptoms of poor digestion such as gas and bloating, indigestion, constipation, nausea, etc.
  • Heart Tonic: Heart tonic herbs serve to protect and support the natural function of the heart and cardiovascular system.
  • Diuretic: Diuretic herbs help the body get rid of excess sodium by increasing the amount of fluid we’re getting rid of through urine, which may be helpful in treating things like high blood pressure.
  • Hypoglycemic: Hypoglycemic herbs may help to reduce blood sugar by increasing the secretion of insulin so that our muscles and fat can uptake more glucose (ie. sugar).

The Health Benefits of Herbal Bitters

And this cacao elixir recipe just keeps getting better and better. Herbal bitters are perhaps one of my favorite herbal preparations. They’re extracts, typically alcoholic, of nutritive and medicinal plants with bitter qualities.

The bitter taste is essential to our health and is largely responsible for helping to keep us nourished, our organs and systems of natural detoxification functioning, and our digestion running smoothly.

This iced cacao elixir recipe uses homemade coffee and cacao bitters made with other herbal superstars like cardamom and black pepper. They’re dark and rich, have that oh-so-good and unmistakeable coffee aroma, and a slight peppery kick that can help to stimulate our circulation.

coffee beans

How to Make an Iced Cacao Elixir with Coffee Bitters

This iced cacao elixir recipe comes together real quick! And thank goodness for that, because as much as we all try to slow down and enjoy the smell of the roses, sometimes time is in short supply.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need and how to make this recipe. You’ll find the full, detailed recipe at the bottom of this post. And if you’re one of those folks short on time, just skip on ahead to the full recipe.

Equipment You’ll Need

  • Small Saucepan
  • Milk Frother (This handheld frother is my fave. It’s totally worth it to invest in a quality one. Some are weak and to be frank, just useless.)
  • Kitchen Scale (Optional. A kitchen scale may be handy to weigh out the cacao if it’s not already in chips, but you could always eyeball it. And once you weigh the cacao once, you can eyeball it from there.)
  • Measuring Spoons


  • Full-Fat Coconut Milk
  • Water
  • 100% Cacao (Dark Chocolate) Chips (You can find these at Trader Joe’s or as an unsweetened bar of “baking chocolate” in the baking section of most groceries. Ghiradelli also makes 100% cacao chips, as does Sunfood Superfoods. If you have access to ceremonial-grade cacao, go for it.)
  • Organic Maple Syrup (or preferred sweetener)
  • Coffee & Cacao Bitters (These take at least 2 weeks to make. It’s totally worth it and way less expensive than store-bought bitters. Alternatively, you can use other bitters you already have on hand or substitute with vanilla extract.)
  • Sea Salt
  • Ice


  1. Bring full-fat coconut milk and water to just a boil.
  1. While the liquids are coming to a boil, add all other ingredients to a mug or heat-safe glass jar (like a pint-sized canning jar).
  1. Then pour coconut and water mixture over the cacao and other ingredients. Allow it to rest for ~30 seconds to start melting the cacao before using an electric milk frother to thoroughly combine.
  1. Pour over ice and sip slowly, like you really mean it.
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Try These Other Refreshing Herbal Beverages!

Immune-Boosting Coffee Smoothie with Reishi
Iced Lavender Matcha Latte
Banana Milk with Ashwagandha and Chamomile
Fresh-Squeezed Calendula Lemonade

Fennel, Earl Grey, & Grapefruit Spritzer

Cacao FAQs

Is cacao this same as cocoa?

No, cacao and cocoa are technically not the same things. While cacao typically refers to the raw, least processed product of the cacao tree, cocoa usually referred to the irradiated and oftentimes alkalized powder you might use for baking or hot cocoa mixes.

Cacao may come in bricks, chips, nibs, paste, or powder. And you’ll usually only see cocoa as a powder. Be aware of added sugars and other unnecessary ingredients you’ll often find in cocoa, especially in drink mixes.

For the most health benefit, always choose 100% raw, organic, and fair-trade cacao.

When should I drink cacao?

Cacao can have a stimulating effect. While it only contains a very small amount of caffieine (not nearly the amount coffee contains), it also contains a plant compound called theobromine.

Theobromine is more of a gentle cardiovascular stimulant (as opposed to a nervous system stimulant such as caffeine) that can help to dilate blood vessels and decrease blood pressure. Compared to caffeine and coffee, the stimulating effects of cacao are much softer and longer-lived, and without the jolting crash and burn of the caffeine high.

With that said, I’d generally recommend this cacao elixir for morning or mid-day, but perhaps not before bed.

Is it okay to drink cacao every day?

Yes, it’s generally safe to drink cacao every day. It’s incredibly nutritive and full of beneficial phytochemicals. However, I’m a firm believer in moderation for most things in life, even the good things. If you choose to enjoy something daily, organic is always best.

Personally, I’ll make this cacao elixir 2-3 times a week, alternating with coffee or a cacao and medicinal mushroom smoothie. This is an intuitive way of giving my body a break and a wide variety of nutrients and phytochemicals. Your body may ask for something different.

For more plant magic & herbal wellness in your life, be sure to follow along on ➡️ Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, & snag my herbal 📚 eBooks Nourishing Herbal Gifts & Holiday Pies from the (Un)Bakery. 🌿 And please don’t forget to tag me in your snaps 📸 @_botanyculture_. I love to see all the plant magic you make happen!

Iced Cacao Elixir with Coffee Bitters

Course: DrinksDifficulty: Easy


Prep time



This iced cacao elixir recipe is made with 100% dark chocolate, maple sweetened, and laced with homemade coffee and cacao bitters for extra antioxidant and digestive support. You can substitute an alternative non-diary milk if desired. For the creamiest option, try unsweetened oat milk.


  • 1/4 cup (4 fl. oz) full-fat coconut milk

  • 1/4 cup (4 fl. oz) water

  • 2 tablespoons (~1 ounce) 100% dark chocolate chips or equivalent (or substitute 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons organic maple syrup (or to taste)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Coffee & Cacao Bitters (or 1/2 teaspoon other digestive bitters or vanilla extract)

  • pinch of sea salt

  • ice


  • Add full-fat coconut milk and water to a small sauce pan to bring to just barely a boil over medium heat.
  • While the coconut milk and water are coming to a boil, add all other ingredients to a mug or heat-safe glass jar (like a pint-sized canning jar).
  • Then pour coconut and water mixture over the cacao and other ingredients. Allow it to rest for ~30 seconds to start melting the cacao before using an electric milk frother to thoroughly combine. Froth for about 30 seconds, ensuring that all the cacao is melted.
  • Then our over ice and sip slowly, like you really mean it.

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how to make an iced cacao elixir with cacao and coffee bitters in a glass mug

DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.

Find Organic Herbs & Spices at Mountain Rose Herbs

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