David Rosenthal, owner of PURE FIRE FOODS, brews his four vegan, organic fire ciders, branded as “fire tonics,” specifically to be deeply nourishing medicine. But he also leans into his products’ palatability. After hearing repeatedly from customers about how delicious the tonics are on food and mixed into beverages, he’s started seeking partnerships with local chefs to act as brand ambassadors and create recipes for a cookbook.
“You can use it not just as a medicine, but something to season your food with, so you don’t even realize you’re taking medicine,” he says. In addition to using fire cider in salad dressings, he mixes it with vegetable juice for a nonalcoholic bloody Mary and tosses it with grilled peaches and pineapple. His chocolate variety, he notes, makes a great steak sauce and is also tasty on ice cream. “I love the contrast,” he says. “You’re getting this fiery-cold feeling.”
Pure Fire’s original fire tonic is a blend of 20 organic ingredients, many of them locally sourced. Black pepper, burdock root, Celtic Sea Salt, and extracts of seven medicinal mushrooms are among the components, in addition to raw apple cider vinegar, ginger, turmeric, garlic, onion, rosemary, lemon, horseradish, habanero, and cayenne pepper. The Nectar variety features the same ingredients sweetened with low-glycemic coconut nectar, and Chocolate Fire Tonic—which, he says, is the only chocolate fire cider on the market—contains Peruvian raw cacao.
For those who shy away from hot spices, Rosenthal formulated the recently released Cooler blend, which lacks the habanero and cayenne. “There’s so much more in this bottle, so much love and intention and everything else, so much more than those two peppers,” he says.
Rosenthal made his first fire cider after searching online for a home remedy for a sore throat shortly after moving to the Asheville area from Florida in 2014. He followed Gladstar’s famous recipe and later shared the concoction with an acquaintance who passed it along to a friend with a stubborn sinus infection. When the infection cleared up within a couple of days, Rosenthal decided to come up with his own recipe and turn fire cider into a business.
Seeking inspiration on what healing herbal allies to include in his blend, he meditated at the foot of a100-year-old cedar tree on the property he was living on in Candler. “I called out for whoever wanted to join me in this journey of making medicine to come into my awareness, and at the end of that meditation, this company was born at that tree,” Rosenthal recalls.
Mushrooms came to him during the meditation, prompting him to add what he calls the “Sacred Seven”—Chaga, Reishi, TurkeyTail, Lions Mane, Cordyceps, Shiitake, and Maitake. The word “anti-inflammatory” also occurred to him, so he researched plants with anti-inflammatory properties, such as ginger, garlic, and turmeric.
But the most important communication that came through the meditation, he says, was to make every batch intentional and from the heart. “[The message was:] Don’t just put another product on the shelf—really put your heart and soul into this,” he says.
Inspired by Japanese author Masaru Emoto’s research on how thoughts and intention impact the physical structure of water molecules, Rosenthal plays high-vibration music and reads a Lakota prayer for unity and coexistence over the ingredients before he mixes every batch. The nine 25-gallon barrels he uses for brewing at his North Asheville facility, Planet Kitchen, are each labeled with positive hand- lettered messages: “Food is medicine,” reads one. Beneath it, “Peace, love, and compassion for all beings.”
“Everything we do is about energy frequency and vibration,” he says. “It was never about scooping it from a barrel, putting it in a bottle, and putting it on the shelf. It’s really coming from a good place.”
David Rosenthal’s DIY Fire Cider
1 quart (4 cups) raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother
1⁄3 cup grated fresh horseradish root
1⁄3 cup grated fresh ginger root
1⁄4 cup fresh turmeric root, peeled and diced (or 2 tablespoons dried, powdered turmeric)
Six cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 cup onion, diced
One or two habanero chiles, split in half (or use cayenne pepper)
One large lemon, sliced (rind and all)
Two sprigs fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄4 cup raw honey (or use coconut nectar for a vegan version)
Place all of the vegetables, fruit, herbs, and spices in a clean 1-quart jar. Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar (the apple cider vinegar should cover the herbs by an inch or two). Seal the cap tightly. If the cap contains metal parts, screw the lid on over a piece of cooking parchment or a small plastic bag to keep the lid from corroding. Shake well. Let sit for five weeks to soak, shaking daily (or when you remember). Strain the plant materials from the vinegar. Sweeten with honey or coconut nectar to taste. Refrigerate and use within a year.
NOTE: Pure Fire Foods uses only organically grown roots, herbs, and fruit to keep agricultural chemicals, waxes, or dyes from migrating into the vinegar.
In an effort to reduce waste, Pure Fire collaborates with two other local businesses, Well Seasoned Table and Asheville Tea Co., who use his fire tonic marc in special products, such as a Smoked Fire Seasoning and By the Fireside tea. Rosenthal also recently released a healthy hot sauce made from the marc.
Although his recipes and methods are authentically his own, Rosenthal is proud to share that Pure Fire has a special connection to Gladstar, the mother of fire cider. After meeting several years ago at a Mother Earth News Fair, Gladstar and Rosenthal formed a friendship, which eventually inspired Gladstar to write her recently published book, Fire Cider!: 101 Zesty Recipes for Health- Boosting Remedies Made with Apple Cider Vinegar. She tells this story in the book, devoting an entire section to Pure Fire Foods and featuring Rosenthal’s recipe for a fire cider berry mocktail.
Rosenthal encourages do-it-yourselfers to experiment with their own fire cider blends at home. But he reiterates the importance of intention. “Whatever it is that you do, whether it’s making fire cider or cooking or whatever your passion is in life, if you come to it like we come to this medicine, it just makes such a difference in what the final product is,” he says. ◊◊
For details, visit purefirefoods.com.
Gina Smith is a writer, editor, and community collaborator who’s been gathering and telling stories since before she could hold a pen. Her experience helping launch a community farmers market in 2011 reignited a long-time obsession with food and farms that soon dovetailed with her writing career. She served nearly seven years as the food editor at the Mountain Xpress and continues covering restaurants, food justice and farming in Western North Carolina as features editor at Edible Asheville.