Every great drink starts with a plant. Wine from grapes, tequila from agave, rum from sugarcane, beer from hops and barley… the list goes on. But what about a cocktail garden—a garden full of plantings to make and accent your favorite beverages? Any old-school Southerner knows where the mint garden is grown. Today, the trend goes way beyond mint juleps.
A cocktail garden can be as simple as a few containers of your favorite aromatics, or as complicated as a planned garden where you can sit with friends to enjoy your libations. You’re only limited by available space, imagination, and desire. And mint isn’t the only herb you’ll want to grow!
First, pick a spot and decide on your style. Do you want to create a space for lounging, where friends can gather and create cocktails al fresco from fresh-picked herbs? Or perhaps you’d rather have a sunny windowsill filled with your favorite choices? Herbs are easy to grow, and really just need sunlight and regular water to thrive.
Once you’ve got your spot picked out, it’s time to decide what to grow. Mint, of course, is a classic—it’s good for everything from iced tea to the classic mint julep, and mojito. Mint is best grown in containers, as it can be rather invasive if left to its own devices.
Basil is another wonderful cooking herb that can find a terrific home in your favorite drinks. Try it in lemonade, or any martini made with fruity flavors. And nothing beats basil on watermelon.
Rosemary is easy to grow and adds an amazing flavor to vodka-based drinks or sparkling wine cocktails. For a delicious surprise, tuck a sprig of rosemary into a gin and tonic in place of a swizzle stick.
Lavender is the perfect partner for anything lemon. Try it with limoncello, sparkling wine, or garnish a flute of champagne with a blooming spring and wait for the wows.
The easiest ways to add herbs to cocktails is as a simple garnish—a stem to serve as a swizzle stick, a leafy sprig on the edge of a glass. You can infuse flavor into a drink by muddling (crushing the herb into the bottom of a glass to release the oils and fragrance) or by shaking the herbs with liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Prefer to keep your cocktails free and clear of green bits? Make a simple syrup by combining herbs with equal amounts of sugar and water, bring to a boil, let cool, then strain. Voila! You’ve got an herb-infused syrup perfect for flavoring your favorite cocktails.