Ah, the dog days of summer are upon us, and what better way to unwind then with a delicious homemade cocktail (or mocktail)! Even better if it's made with herbal goodness from your garden.
There are lots of ways you can bring the herb garden into your beverages:
- Muddled: Using a muddler (or just the back of a spoon!), mash up fresh herbs for flavor in drinks
- Simple Syrup: Cook sugar in water and adds herbs for flavor
- Infusion: Steep your herbs in alcohol of choice for delicious flavored alcohol, ready for drink-making
- Shrubs: Ferment fruit in vinegar; add herbs for health & flavor. Makes amazing cocktails!
In general, you want to choose herbs that won't be overpowered by the taste of the liquor, but you can really follow your taste buds when deciding how to construct your drinks. Here's a general guide for what herbs pair best with different liquors:
- Vodka: parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, eucalyptus
- Gin: sage, coriander, lemongrass
- Tequila: rosemary, lavender, basil, sage
- Rum: mint, oregano, lemon verbena, tarragon
- Whiskey: thyme, sage, rosemary, tarragon
Let's talk muddling: quick, easy, and can add a lot of flavor, while keeping drinks simple! Some nice combinations include Tequila muddled with basil & watermelon, Gin muddled with thyme & cucumber, Rum muddled with mint & strawberries, and Bourbon muddled with mint & peaches (super yummy). With muddling, you want to be careful not to over-crush the herb so that it breaks apart in the drink, but you do want to mash it up enough that the essential oils are released.
Herbal simple syrups are another easy way to add a touch of flavor & sweetness to your drink. In general, you'll want to follow a 1 cup sugar: 1 cup water: 1/2 cup fresh herb ratio. Add water, sugar, and herbs to saucepan, bring to boil until sugar is dissolved. Cool, strain, bottle, & enjoy!
You can also choose to make your own herbal-infused alcohols. This involves taking the botanical item of your choice and steeping it in the alcohol of your choice for a set period of time. The botanical ingredients are then strained out, and you are left with a deliciously flavored alcohol. It's best to taste these regularly, as oversteeping does not always lead to better flavor. Some basic guidelines for steeping times:
- Herbs: 8-12 hours
- Fruit: 1 week
- Spices: 1 month
- Citrus rind & peels: 1 month
For those of you that enjoy a good food-preserving project, you'll definitely want to try your hand at making shrubs! Shrubs are made with fruit and vinegar, and are an excellent way to preserve a large fruit harvest when you're tired of pies and canning :-) Shrubs were made traditionally as a way to preserve fruit, and also as a way for herbalists to make their herbal remedies taste better. Additionally, vinegar has a number of health benefits, so you can feel great about drinking that cocktail ;-) The shrub-making process takes a couple of weeks, so plan ahead! We found some great recipes & instructions over at Deer Nation Herbs. Take a look and give them a try! In the meantime, you can get your hands on some local, delicious shrubs by stopping in to Caffe D'amore in upper Lawrenceville!
Phew! All this cocktail talk is making me thirsty! We'll leave you with a few fun recipes to try. Cheers to you!
Watermelon Mint Mojito
- 6 cups fresh watermelon
- 1 cup rum
- 1/2 cup mint simple syrup
- 3/4 cup lime juice
- 1 cup ice
- 5 sprigs fresh mint
- Splash of club soda
- Blend watermelon to fine puree in blender
- Add all ingredients to pitcher & fill with ice
- Top with club soda, mix, & garnish with fresh mint
Basil Peach Bellini
- 1/2 ounce purple basil simple syrup
- 2 ounces fresh peach puree
- 4 ounces sparking wine, dry
- Add puree to glass, then add simple syrup & sparking wine
- Stir & serve, garnish with a basil sprig
Blood Orange & Turmeric Margarita - from the Wicked Spatula
- 4 ounces blood orange juice
- 2 ounces mezcal or tequila
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 1 1/2 - 2 Tbs turmeric simple syrup (1 cup water; 1 cup sugar; 2 Tbs turmeric powder. Heat to dissolve, strain through cheesecloth)
- Salt & cayenne pepper for rimming (1 tsp salt: 1/4 tsp cayenne ratio)
- Add ingredients to shaker with ice
- Shake well & pour over ice
- Add lime wedge for garnish