Now’s the time when many of us hold parties to celebrate the passage of the year as it gives way to the fresh possibilities and boundless potential of a new one. While there is nothing wrong with the traditional “celebratory” beverages we have come to align with New Year’s Eve parties, it’s always best to have options.
My longtime friend Amy Stewart literally wrote the book on herbal cocktails, and it was that book, The Drunken Botanist, that inspired me to create a few family-friendly herb-infused beverages to bring unexpected botanical flavor to your next get-together.
Herbed Simple Syrup
If you have ever tried to dissolve granulated sugar in iced tea you will understand the value of simple syrup. Simple syrup is the foolproof way to sweeten beverages whether they are warm or cold. To begin, let’s make a basic simple syrup:
1. Add 1 cup each granulated sugar and water to a saucepan (we’re particularly fond of this cookware set with the great orange handles) and bring to a boil.
2. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved.
If you want a basic simple syrup, you can cool and decant your syrup at this point. The real magic happens when you transform the basic recipe into an herbed simple syrup:
3. Add a few sprigs of your favorite herb to the syrup and allow to boil for 1 minute.If you’re still skeptical, start with mint. Adding mint syrup to iced tea will make you an instant convert.
4. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
5. Pour syrup through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to filter out the herbs and decant in a glass container.
Basil Cran Apple Punch
- 1/2 gallon apple cider
- 2 liters ginger ale
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- a small handful of fresh basil
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of apple cider, cranberries and sugar.
2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat immediately to medium. Cover and allow to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
3. Slice basil into thin ribbons and stir into cranberry mixture. Cover and allow to cool completely then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
4. Transfer chilled cranberry mixture to a large punch bowl and add apple cider. Stir until completely incorporated, then slowly pour in ginger ale and stir lightly.
Rosemary Tangerine Spritzer
- Rosemary simple syrup
- Tangerine juice
- club soda
1. Add ice to a cocktail shaker.
2. Add one part rosemary simple syrup, two parts tangerine juice and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
3. Pour into a glass, top with club soda, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a lime wedge.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
- Peppermint simple syrup
- 4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To a saucepan add 1/4 cup each water and peppermint simple syrup along with the cocoa powder and whisk together over medium heat until thoroughly combined and smooth.
2. Stir in milk and vanilla extract and whisk until well blended.
3. Heat mixture over medium heat until hot.
4. Serve with a peppermint stick for garnish.
drink photo: ss/dextroza
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