Growing herbs is something we love to do and we also wanted to recreate those super tasty cocktails you can get for a huge price tag. This time in our garden and without the massive expense.
Growing herbs is not difficult, the space you will need could start with a windowsill and go all the way to a raised bed or even a patio of pots. The herbs you grow will depend on the drinks you like as well as dishes you like to cook. So let’s look at the cocktails that are most popular right now and see where we can give them an extra lift!
Using fresh herbs in exciting ways can really elevate an otherwise perfectly reasonable cocktail to an amazing boutique cocktail experience. So get ready to wow your friends!
Muddling your herbs
So what is muddling you ask? It is the gentle process of releasing the oils in a herb or the juice in a fruit. The goal is not total maceration, rather a gentle push, twist motion. You will need a Stainless Steel Cocktail Muddler, Mixing Spoon, Jigger Set. like the one below. That way you can crush ice if needed as well, then combine it all together.
When you add the fresh herbs, you will also add an amount of sugar. This acts as an abrasive to slowly work your way around the herb with, remember do not crush it into a mushy bleurgh mess. Releasing the oils is a soft process. I spent a lot of my Uni years as a cocktail barmaid for a lovely bar that seemed to specialise in Mojito’s so have a lot of experience of doing this the wrong way if you are in a hurry. You still want the herb to be the star of the drink and to stand pretty in the glass.
Make A Herbal Syrup For Cocktails
You will need 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup of woody herbs or 1 cup of fresh soft herbs. So lavender, thyme or rosemary will need 1/4 cup only whereas basil and mint will need a full cup of fresh leaves.
Pop all the ingredients into the pan and bring to the boil stir for around two minutes and then take away from the heat. leave everything mixed in the saucepan until it has cooled off. Then use cheesecloth over a sterilised mason jar. You do not want any leaves to go into the jar as they will make your syrup go mouldy and cloudy within a few weeks.
You can store your syrup for up to a month in the fridge so it is a nice way to make a fresh taste for your cocktails.
The syrup also freezes well in ice cubes.
Frozen or fresh herbs
We have a lot of fresh herbs in our garden all year round, but sometimes it is nice to have a basil or mint ice cube in your cocktail! Something to actually cool your drink whilst actually adding flavor not taking it away.
You will need to roll your herb leaves into cigars of maybe a handful of leaves. Be as creative as you like but soft leaves work well and you should avoid any woody herbs like rosemary or thyme. Lemon balm, basil, mint, spearmint and lemon basil go well together. You can then cut into slices and add to tonic water or lemonade in ice cube trays.
Frozen flowers also work very well. Make sure to use edible flowers like chives, borage, bee balm or mint flowers. These look and taste lovely in cocktails.
Herbs To Grow In Your Cocktail Garden
I guess we all want to be a backyard bartender and have fantasies of long hot Summer’s spent with friends drinking a cocktail or two. So as we are now all amateur mixologists and have our own twist on long time classics, why not go a little more homegrown as well as homemade?
Alright so now I am going to sound like the worlds biggest fraud, but some of these ingredients are far easier and cheaper to buy ready grown! If you want to grow your own cucumber Mr Fothergill’s sell seeds so by all means give them a shot, but put your efforts into herbs and you get a much better return on investment! This makes me sound like a sore loser, but you may well thank me after months of watering, just to add to a cocktail!
Ultimate Herb List for a Years Worth of Cocktail Needs
- Mint – a total star in any Summer drink on the veranda. Get into the Summer season early by starting the seeds off on a windowsill or plant directly into pots or the ground.
- Rosemary – for all of you serious adults out there! Picture an olive in your martini but instead of a wooden stick holding it in place you go for the decadence of a sprig of rosemary! Proper adult drinks for Winter nights or sensible Summer evenings.
- Strawberries, although not a herb the fruit can give you a little extra perkiness to any Summer drink
- Fennel – for it’s sheer architectural splendor, and aniseed taste! If you want to grow the perfect fennel it is really happy in a pot, so have it close by to your outdoors bar!
- Borage produces the most amazing blue or pink star shaped flowers. Great for garnishing your herbal cocktails or for freezing in ice cubes.
- Ginger is surprisingly easy to grow, even in the UK and can be a lot cheaper once you have got it started than buying from the shops. It creates a heat and is perfect in whiskey based winter warmer cocktails by the fireplace!
- Lime Basil, I know it sounds a little unusual but hear me out. The Basil is actually from the mint family so has that base note to cut through sharper alcohols and the lime lifts it with a gentle zing on Spring evenings.
- Raspberry if you use the leaves you get a gentle taste, but use the fruit combined with a handful of mint leaves to make the ultimate base for any alcohol to live on.
- Thyme rocks with burnt orange slices in a whiskey based drink, it will pick up the peatiness and cut through any smokey notes.
- Lavender. Now if you haven’t been turned off lavender by memories of Granny’s house then good as there is so much to enjoy about this herb! You can make a muddle with the fresh leaves or add as Culinary Lavender Grains – game changer I swear!
- Lemongrass will give you a lovely display of leaves but this structural plant will also provide you with wonderful spicy citrus for a cocktail to dream of. Think Tropical and sunshine laden days with a zingy cocktail in hand.
- Chives, not the stem but the flowers. They give a sort of gentle allium aroma and taste, but on a rosemary stick they do look the part with an olive or two.
- Chamomile flowers are a lovely apple like flavour and you can happily make bitters with them or add them to a hot water and leave to cool. The leaves are edible too and will give an actually bitter taste, so go carefully with them and add to sweeter cocktails. We also love adding them to a large jug of any cocktail!
- Kaffir lime – but not the actual lime as that would be even more bitter than any of us would find pleasant. You can use the peel as a citrus note in sugar as a garnish or use the leaves to add a deeper more earthy note of citrus. Ideal for Winter cocktails.
- Chives are a great replacement for olives in a martini. That allium tang adds a really different twist on the classic savory flavor or a cocktail for grown ups! Use it with a dried sprig of rosemary and skewer it, or leave it as a floating garnish in your glass.
- Bergamot or bee balm. Not the leaves but the flowers. They are nectar filled and make the best cocktail ice cubes around. Totally gorgeous flowers to allow for vibrant color and unusual petal formation and you can of course use them fresh as a garnish.
Seating & Atmosphere In Your Cocktail Garden
Why not plant your herbs in pots and sit on a patio surrounded by the scent of your herbal ingredients? Think about creating an oasis with tall lemongrass rustling gently in the breeze and your rosemary buzzing with bees in the heat of the Summer. By using our plants in such a way we can create a place to sit and relax. Careful garden planning can even give us a seating area with hops growing up and over the pergola.
The area can be as open as you like and even if you have a balcony to play with you will be able to get a good few pots and containers to show off your ingredients. What can be more British than sitting sipping and Pimm’s and topping it up with fresh herbs from pots by a picnic table?
Enjoy sensibly and don’t forget that all of your herb cocktails can be made alcohol free as well.
Further Reading & What Next
Get growing! Really and truly the best ingredients are always the freshest and in season. So grow your own and drink cocktails seasonally.
- Bloody Mary – With A Basil Twist
- Best Strawberry And Basil Vegan Milkshake For Summer
- Wild Cocktails from the Midnight Apothecary: Over 100 recipes using home-grown and foraged fruits, herbs, and edible flowers by Lottie Muir