Whether you are a seasoned gardener or struggle to keep a cactus alive, sometimes you just need a little motivation. How about having fresh, tasty cocktail ingredients at home?
Fresh herbs can take your homemade cocktails to new heights, and the best way to ensure you have them on hand for those times you need to whip up top-notch last-minute cocktails for guests is to grow your own. Neither of your thumbs green? Lucky for you, herbs are fairly hardy plants.
Easy to Grow Cocktail Herbs
The most commonly used herbs for garnishes, syrups, or infusions are: mint, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and dill.
Easy plants simply need dirt, sun, and water.
Location, Location, Location
Pots are great because you can move them in or out of the sun, as needed, and overachievers like mint are better contained (seriously, beware: mint can overtake your entire yard).
However, if you want to plant perennials like sage, thyme, and lavender, and you do have a spot in your yard that gets at least 4 hours of sun, these plants can grow fairly large and sometimes even survive throughout the winter when planted in the ground (which means fresh herbs in your winter cocktails!).
Keep in mind: Most herbs need to get at least 4 hours of decent sun. Herbs with tougher or more brittle leaves (think rosemary, thyme, etc.) can handle more sun. Herbs with tender leaves (basil, dill, etc.) can start to wilt or even get scorched with too much sun.
It’s not quite a Goldilocks tale of “just right,” but you do need to find that happy medium between too little and too much water. If you’ve planted your herbs in pots, they’ll require more water than herbs planted in the ground.
Basically, for potted herbs, check the dirt on a daily basis (an inch or so below the surface)–if it’s dry, water it until the water runs out the bottom of the pot; if it’s even a little damp, wait. Also, check for signs of wilting on particularly hot days; a little water will perk your herbs up in no time.
Herbs planted in the ground can survive several days between waterings. Just keep an eye on them during extra hot days.
Harvesting & Maintenance Tips
When harvesting your herbs, it’s always best to clip them from the top of the plant for two reasons: (1) you keep it from “going to seed,” which is when the plant transitions to focusing on making seeds rather than producing more leaves, and (2) you set it up to expand.
Always leave some leaves on any given plant so it can keep getting the nutrients it needs to continue growing. And when you see bad leaves (scorched, etc.), remove them so the plant can focus its energy on producing more good leaves.
As soon as you see your herbs starting to flower*, clip the flowers off (this is the sign of an herb going to seed). At the end of the growing season, you can let them go so you’ll have seeds for next year.
*A special note about lavender: The purple flowers are what you want to use to get the lavender flavor (so, you don’t need to clip these off as soon as they appear…unless you’re ready to use them in a cocktail, of course!); however, you can also use the leaves to achieve a flavor similar to rosemary.
Fresh Herbs in Cocktails
Now that you have your fresh herbs thriving just a few steps away from your kitchen, it’s time to consider all the ways you can use them in your cocktails. Fresh herbs create a more vibrant flavor in syrups and infusions. And don’t forget how important an aromatic garnish is to enhancing and deepening the experience of a cocktail’s flavor–amplifying it from good to great.
Just imagine a Mint Julep or Moscow Mule made with freshly picked mint. Or crafting your own cocktail recipe with a homemade rosemary syrup. Or setting yourself up for making the best Bloody Marys by infusing vodka with jalapeños and basil harvested from your backyard. You could even try making an herb liqueur like basilcello (think limoncello but with basil instead of lemon peel) or an amaro with your own herb combination.
What’s Your Go-To Spring Cocktail?
Do you have any favorite cocktails that use fresh herbs? Come by the tasting room and try the Maid, the Mean Mint, or the Wise One for inspiration!