Is there anything more satisfying than stepping out into your garden after a day of hard work and plucking delicious herbs for your dinner menu? The herbs are fresh, pungent and delicious. You grew them yourself too! Growing herbs for cocktail drinks is equally enjoyable. It is especially satisfying when you have friends and family over for happy hour.
Garden Inspired Cocktails
There are a number of good herbs for mixed drinks. Here are some of the most common:
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is the mint of choice for mint julips.
- Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is terrific in vodka or gin gimlets.
- Shiso (Perilla frutescens) can replace mint and add a snazzy zip to mojitos.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) will enlighten your average gin and tonic.
- Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) is yummy in sangria.
- English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) pairs well with sparkling wine.
- If you are a Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) lover, experiment with a placing dried cilantro and sea salt on the rim of your Bloody Mary glass.
Making Cocktails with Fresh Herbs
Making cocktails with fresh herbs is easy but requires a few extra steps. One of the most basic techniques is to muddle the herbs prior to putting them in the shaker. Muddling is where you crush the herb leaves in a mortar and pestle to release flavor. The herbs are then added to the shaker with all the other ingredients.
You can make simple herbal syrup by combining the fresh or dried herbs with boiled and cooled sugar water. Infused simple syrup typically keeps a few weeks in the fridge and is ready to go when making cocktails with fresh herbs.
Some herbs can be added whole to a drink to add visual flourish. Consider adding a sprig of lavender or rosemary to sparkling wine or gin and tonic. Float a shiso leaf in your mojito.
Tips on Growing Herbs for Cocktail Drinks
Growing an herbal cocktail garden depends on where you live. If you live in Coastal California or other warmer climates, you can depend on your rosemary, lemon verbena, lavender and mint to be available almost year round. All of these plants can be installed in your ornamental planting beds too.
Note that spearmint should be placed in a pot, as it can be invasive. Sweet basil, shiso and cilantro are annuals. Put them in your raised beds or in pots each summer and you will be rewarded with some delightful garden cocktail ingredients.
If you live in a cold winter area, you might consider putting all your herbs in pots near the kitchen door so you can access them easily and possibly even bring them indoors for winter. Make sure your herbs get full sun and sufficient water. Lavender and rosemary are water-wise plants, but all the other herbs need regular water and benefit from organic fertilizers once a month.