From spicy herbs to tart fruits and vegetables, freshly picked produce has transformed the common party drink. As drink recipes grow more adventurous, the bar has been raised for ingredients used to make them.
And picking straight from the garden, the gardener becomes a backyard mixologist.
Here are six herbs to mix in your cocktail garden:
1. Lavender. Sweet, earthy lavender pairs well with lemony drinks, but the flavor can be strong, so use it in a simple syrup. Also use as a garnish to add a pop of color in a flute or punch bowl. Plant lavender in well-drained soil and place in full sun.
2. Mint. Spearmint is the king of mint juleps, being both smooth and sweet, and a staple in every garden. Branch out by growing chocolate, lavender or lemon mint. Choose the brightest leaves and muddle to release their flavor. Pair with ginger, berry or citrus-based beverages. Easy and fast-growing, mint is best grown in containers. Grow in full sun and water when dry.
3. Basil. Try sweet basil for an earthy flavor, or lemon basil for strong citrus notes. Grow Thai or cinnamon basil for added spice. Use basil in place of mint for a lovely surprise. Grow in full sun, keep soil moist and harvest before it flowers.
4. Rosemary. No matter the variety, rosemary adds a strong aromatic, peppery taste to any drink. Mix with Bloody Marys or lemonade. Grow in full sun and water when dry.
5. Lemon verbena. A lightly floral, sweet citrus flavor mixes well in fruity drinks, sangria or lemonade. Use to add a hint of citrus when you’re out of lemons. Grow in full sun, and like with most herbs, feed with an organic fertilizer during the growing season.
6. Thyme. Throw the entire sprig in the shaker. When paired with citrus, such as grapefruit, the flavors blend perfectly. Plant in light shade to full sun and in rich soil.