DIY Cocktail Gardening
What would you say if we told you that you can grow a cocktail garden? And by that, we don’t mean you can grow a vodka or gin plant, but you can certainly — and deliciously — grow some herbs and veggies to use in making your own handcrafted cocktails. We’re talking infusions, muddles, and garnishes that take the best of the garden flavor and deliver a tasty punch to your next happy hour. Mixologists, grab your shakers — it’s DIY cocktail gardening! Cheers!
Ways to Use Your Garden Harvests in Your Cocktails
There are several ways to add that garden-y flavor to your cocktails, and specific recipes are just an Internet search away. Here are the most common ways to bring some garden elements into your home bartending:
Infusions: This is an easy way to add botanical flavor to most any distilled alcohol like vodka, gin, light rum, and tequila. Simply choose one fresh herb, veggie, or fruit to soak (infuse) in the alcohol, and let it sit for a few hours up to a couple of weeks, depending upon the ingredients. Then strain out the botanicals and enjoy your DIY infused spirits!
Muddling: Muddling is a method of gentle mashing that releases both the scent and the flavor of many herbs like basil, lemon verbena, and mint, before mixing into your cocktail recipe. The trick is to do it gently rather than thoroughly crushing or shredding the leaves, which can result in a bitter taste.
Garnishes: Well, this couldn’t be any easier — grab a cocktail skewer and string on some veggie/fruit slices, float an aromatic leaf cluster on top, or use an edible stem to add a fresh (and delicious) finish to your cocktail.
- Simple syrups: Many cocktails have some form of sweetener like a simple syrup. While you can buy botanically-infused simple syrups, why not make your own? It’s just a sugar and water mixture, and we’ve included a basic recipe below.
What botanicals can I use?
Use this list as a starting point for your concoction, and then start experimenting with your favorite flavors. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorite botanicals as well as some tasty suggestions for how to use each to their full garden glory! And where there’s a cocktail suggestion? Simply run a search for a specific recipe — trust us, there is no shortage out there!
- Lemongrass: This aromatic ornamental grass has a light lemony flavor, and pairs beautifully with vodka and gin cocktails. Use it to infuse and garnish — or simply cut a length of the stalk and pop it in as a flavorful stirrer.
Cocktail idea: Lemongrass Gin & Tonic
- Lemon verbena: A refreshing lemon taste makes lemon verbena a shoo-in for infusing, muddling, garnishing, and simple syrups! Because of the citrusy nature of this herb, it marries perfectly with gin and vodka.
Cocktail idea: Lemon Verbena Drop
- Basil: When it comes to cocktails, basil is similar to lemon verbena in its uses — with an added earthy zip. Add it to vodka, gin, and rum when you want to kick things up a gear and enjoy a layer of garden goodness.
Cocktail idea: Basil Vodka Gimlet
- Spearmint: Spearmint — as well as peppermint — just may be the chameleon of the cocktail world. This popular refreshing herb can be used in any way imaginable and mixes well with gin, vodka, rum, tequila, and whiskey. Better order 10 plants and get on out to the garden!
Cocktail idea: Pineapple Mint Mojito
- Jalapeño: If you like a bit of spice in your food and drink, jalapeño peppers are the way to go! Jalapeño infusions, garnishes, and simple syrups turn up the heat in tequila and vodka drinks — and you control the heat level!
Cocktail idea: Spicy Pineapple Martini
- Cucumber: The delicate and subtle flavor of cucumbers means that you can add it to a wide variety of cocktail recipes for a refreshing change. Add cucumbers to infusions, muddles, garnishes, and simple syrups in your favorite vodka, gin, and even tequila drinks.
Cocktail idea: Cucumber Mint Margarita
Easy Simple Syrup Recipe
- ½ c. herb of your choice (cilantro, basil, mint, rosemary, or lavender are delicious)
- 1 c. water
- 1 c. sugar (honey works well, too)
Wash the herbs and pat dry. Combine water and sugar in a small, nonreactive pot, and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Aim to bring the mixture just to a boil, then lightly simmer. Add your herbs and stir for about 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Cool completely before straining the herbs, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.
Easy Vodka Infusion Recipe
Ingredients and Supplies
- Half gallon wide-mouth Mason jar with a cover
- Plain vodka (no need to buy a high dollar brand here)
- Your choice of herbs, fruit, or veggies (for quantities, do a quick Internet search for the specific ingredient you’d like to use. Ex: “basil simple syrup”)
- Make sure your Mason jar is clean and sterile.
- Prepare your herbs, fruits or veggies according to a specific recipe — jalapeños are often sliced, herbs are packed loosely into the bottom of the jar, and fruit cut into chunks.
- Place plant ingredients in your jar, and fill with vodka.
- Cover tightly and store on the countertop or in your fridge (for fruits and veggies) for up to one week, gently turning or shaking once a day.
- Strain plant ingredients out of the vodka, and place into a new clean container with a lid.
- Vodka infused with perishable items like fruit should be stored in the refrigerator, and all other infused vodkas may be stored on the countertop.
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- Tags: culinary plants
- Katie Elzer-Peters