Ever wondered what’s in your Mojito, Margarita or Martini? The secret ingredient in a truly unforgettable cocktail is often the herb used in it.
Whether muddled, minced or just used as a garnish, herbs add zing to your cocktail. But sadly, they have a short shelf life. So, why not grow your own cocktail garden? There’s nothing more satisfying than planting your own herbs to use in your favourite drink later. Trust us, it can be fun, easy and cool. For herbs are the easiest to maintain -much easier than growing fruits or flowers. Also, they require very little space. You can get a fragrant kitchen or dining room by growing them indoors. So, here are eight cocktail-friendly herbs to get you started.
It’s is another great herb you wouldn’t expect to see outside of a pasta dish. It has a delicate licorice flavour it brings to drinks. Play around with its relatives, Thai basil or cinnamon basil, to create the perfect addition to your drink. Basil is a great all-purpose herb that adds great flavour to gin, tequila or rum drinks, among others.
HOW TO GROW: Buy a packet of seeds and sprinkle in a couple of pots. Place them on a sunny windowsill or in the garden where they get lots of sun. Harvest leaves from the top a few at a time so the plant has healthy growth throughout the year.
WITH SPIRITS: Strawberry Basil Martini, Blackberry Gin Fiz, Thai Basil Daiquiri
VIRGIN: Strawberry Basil Spritzer, Orange Basil Twist, Basil Blues, Mint and Basil Soda, Peach Basil Sweet Tea
Thyme adds a sophisticated woody flavour to a really sweet drink. Then there’s Lemon thyme, which has a slight hint of citrus. It is used to counterpart flavours that include lemons, pears and apples.
HOW TO GROW: Plant thyme in your herb garden, at the edge of a walk, along a short garden wall, or in containers. It does best in full sun and proper drainage. It’s hard to grow from seeds because of slow, uneven germi nation, so better buy plants or cuttings.
WITH SPIRITS: Lemon Thyme Gin Sparkler, Raspberry Thyme Smash
VIRGIN: Thyme Lemonade
Mint is considered the king of cocktail herbs. Its unique flavour makes it a versatile addition to almost any liquor. Mint even has a few sister plants, like chocolate mint and pineapple mint, that you can use in special drinks.Mojitos and juleps are well known for using mint, but it adds a refreshing flavour wherever used.
HOW TO GROW: Mint grows like weeds. Buy some seedlings from your local nursery and plant them in a container that you can place in a partially-shaded or sunny spot.
WITH SPIRITS: Long Island Iced Tea, Pineapple Mint Mojito, Kentucky Colonel
VIRGIN: Mint Lemonade, Mint and Lime Soda
Its floral and woody undertones are similar to mint and rosemary. Its scent can be so strong that it’s best to hold the herb in your hand, clap your other hand on top gently to release its oils and then sprinkle your drink with it. Lavender adds a taste of springtime in drinks made with vodka or gin.
HOW TO GROW: Lavender is a great container plant. Water properly, but make sure it has good drainage and gets plenty of sunlight. Harvest as soon as it blossoms. It does well in hot climes and in pots that breathe. Cover the bottom of your pot with gravel. Add a good potting mix and then, place the container in sunlight.
WITH SPIRITS: English Lavender pairs well with sparkling wine
VIRGIN: Blueberry Lavender Fizz, Lady Lavender’s Mocktail, Coconut Lavender Lemonade
The flavour is refreshingly tart and citrus with peppery notes.Freeze-dried lemongrass retains its aroma quite well, but air-dried lemon grass loses its volatile oils.
HOW TO GROW: Find the freshest lemongrass plants you can buy. After you get home, trim a couple of inches off the top. Take the stalks and put them in a glass of shallow water and place it near a sunny window. After a few weeks, you can see tiny roots at the bottom of the lemongrass herb stalk. Put the rooted stalks in a pot containing all-purpose soil. Put this pot in a warm, sunny spot. Water it regularly.
WITH SPIRITS: Far East Caipirinha, Bloody Mary, Martini
VIRGIN: Peach, pear, and other fruit-based mocktails
Rosemary is a warming herb. If you love gin and want more juniper flavour, you can add this to your drink. It can be added whole or muddled in gin or vodka. It adds pronounced depth to bourbon. Put a sprig in your next gin and tonic or whiskey sour.
HOW TO GROW: Start by taking cuttings of the plant in a pot. Place it in a sunny spot. Rosemary stands up well in drought conditions, which may prove help ful in different growing zones.
WITH SPIRITS: Gin Fiz, Capote Martini and Honey Cocktail
VIRGIN: Rosemary Mint Lemon Cooler
Earthy, woody and a tad bit peppery -sage has a wonderful distinctive flavour, but should be used sparingly. Muddled, infused into spirits or prepared in syrup, sage adds savoury complexity to cock tails, but the flavour can be overpowering for some. Try adding some leaves to your next gin fizz for an unmistakable garden taste.
HOW TO GROW: It requires little care and is tolerant of different soil types and conditions. The soil should be well-drained and plants should get ample sunlight. Prune plants whenever necessary. Cut the oldest branches to promote new growth.
WITH SPIRITS: Dark Chocolate Martini, Sour Apple Martini, Ginger-Sage Champagne Cocktail, Blackberry and Sage Spritzers
VIRGIN: Blackberry Sage Mocktail, Grapefruit Sage Mocktail
Leaves, roots, and unripe seeds -all have the same aroma. Some people are addicted to its refreshing lemony-ginger aroma with notes of sage; others find it disagreeable. The flavour is delicate yet complex, with a suggestion of pepper, mint, and lemon. Crush it or use to decorate it, flavour remains the same.
HOW TO GROW: Cilantro is a fast-growing annual plant. Take a wide, bowl-shaped container of at least 18 inches wide and 8 to 10 inches deep. Sprinkle the seeds in the container and then cover them with about a 14-inch layer of soil.Leave your seedlings in full sunlight. The blooms produce seed pods that you can harvest. The spice is called coriander.
WITH SPIRITS: Mojito, Margarita, Martini
VIRGIN: Lemonade, Watermelon Fizz and also used in avocado, coconut milk or cucumber-based mocktails