From Garden to Glass: The Flavourful World of Cocktail Gardening
Welcome, fellow cocktail enthusiasts and plant lovers, to cocktail gardening, a craft that combines the joy of gardening with the art of drink making. In this blog post, we’ll delve into growing and using plants to create refreshing beverages infused with the flavours of your own homegrown herbs and fruits. We’ll also provide you with a list of our favourite edible plants to cultivate for your very own garden-to-glass adventures and share a versatile simple syrup recipe. Get ready to embrace the green-thumbed mixologist within you!
Choosing plants for cocktail gardening
Cocktail gardening opens up a world of possibilities. With a little planning and nurturing, you can create a bountiful garden that provides an abundant supply of ingredients to enhance your cocktails, mocktails, and other beverages.
When selecting plants for your cocktail garden, consider the flavours that harmonize well with your favourite spirits, juices, or sodas. For instance, mint is a classic choice that pairs beautifully with rum in a refreshing Mojito or complements bourbon in a classic Mint Julep. Basil, with its versatile and fragrant leaves, can add a delightful twist to fresh strawberry slushies or elevate the complexity of a gin and tonic. Thyme brings an earthy note to tequila-based drinks, while lavender adds a subtle floral essence to lemonade.
In addition to herbs, fruits and berries are excellent additions to your garden. Strawberries, for example, provide a natural sweetness and vibrant colour to many cocktails, while lemons and limes offer a tangy and citrusy zing. Cucumbers are a versatile fruit and pair nicely with mint in a slushie, or as a garnish for sparkling water or tonic.
Tips for successful cocktail gardening
Choose a spot that receives ample sunlight, as most herbs and fruits thrive in at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Ensure the soil is well-draining and give fruiting plants soil rich in organic matter. Mediterranean herbs, on the other hand, prefer average to poor soil. In fact, most make good candidates for drought-tolerant gardening.
Regular watering and proper maintenance, of course, are vital to keep your cocktail garden flourishing. Herbs, in particular, benefit from frequent harvesting, which encourages bushier growth and ensures a continuous supply of fresh ingredients. As your garden thrives, you can experiment with different plant varieties and even explore exotic herbs like lemongrass, pineapple sage, or Thai basil.
Our favourite edible plants for cocktail gardening
Let’s explore the top edible plants you can cultivate to craft sensational garden-to-glass concoctions:
Let’s kick off our cocktail gardening list with an undeniable classic, mint. This versatile herb boasts a refreshing flavour and an invigorating aroma, making it a staple in many popular cocktails. Mint is an essential ingredient in the Cuban Mojito (rum optional) and in the classic Mint Julep. Because it pairs well with so many flavours, having fresh mint on hand is a game-changer. Its vigorous growth and resilience make it an excellent choice for both beginner and seasoned gardeners — keep it contained to prevent it from taking over your garden!
Thyme may not be the first herb you think of in relation to beverages, but it’s worth considering. Its delicate leaves and subtle lemony aroma make it a versatile addition to various cocktails and mocktails. Infuse thyme in simple syrups for a touch of herbal goodness, or muddle it with fruits to create vibrant and refreshing drinks. Thyme pairs exceptionally well with gin, vodka, and citrus-based cocktails. Look for lemon or orange thyme to introduce even more flavour. Easy to grow, aromatic thyme deserves a place in every garden.
The aromatic and versatile basil is known for its distinct flavour profile. It comes in various cultivars, each offering a unique twist to your drinks. The sweet and spicy notes of Thai basil complement exotic cocktails, while the classic Italian basil adds depth to your Bloody Mary or Martini. Explore the wide array of basil varieties to suit your preferred cocktail style. We like it muddled with watermelon or strawberry, lime, simple syrup, and soda water. Basil likes warm weather and moist soil. Pinch back the growing tips to keep the plant bushy and productive.
Aromatic and visually stunning, lavender lends an elegant touch to any drink. Its floral and slightly sweet notes provide a soothing and aromatic experience. Infuse lavender into simple syrups, add a sprig to your gin and tonic, or garnish your lavender lemonade with fresh blooms. Just remember, a little goes a long way! This aromatic herb thrives in well-drained soil and full sun, making it perfect for sunny gardens or containers.
With its complex, earthy and pine-like fragrance, rosemary adds a distinctive twist to your favourite drinks. Try it in a Rosemary Gin Fizz, Rosemary Greyhound or Rosemary Paloma. Create a rosemary simple syrup, add a sprig as a garnish, or infuse it into your spirits. Rosemary pairs well with lemon and other citrus fruits, gin, and bourbon. This resilient herb thrives in a variety of climates and like other Mediterranean herbs prefers full sun and well-drained soil.
What’s more refreshing than cucumber? Adding slices of this hydrating vegetable to your drinks imparts a crisp and invigorating element. From cucumber-infused water to cucumber martinis, this versatile ingredient adds a refreshing twist to your favourite beverages. Consider growing the compact and prolific ‘Bush Slicer’ cucumber for small-space gardens or vertical gardening setups.
Elevate your beverage game with the citrusy and bright flavour of lemon verbena. This herb boasts a lemony aroma and a refreshing taste that enhances a variety of cocktails. Muddle it with fresh fruit, add it to simple syrups, or use it as a garnish. Growing lemon verbena requires a sunny location with well-drained soil. Regularly water to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and prune to encourage bushier growth.
No garden-to-glass adventure is complete without the sweet allure of homegrown strawberries. The fruits can be muddled into a fresh Mojito-inspired strawberry-mint drink, blended into a Strawberry Limeade, or used in a Strawberry Basil Margarita. To grow strawberries, choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Plant young strawberry plants in raised beds or containers, ensuring proper spacing.
Known for its distinct earthy flavour, sage adds depth and complexity to cocktails. This robust herb can be used in both sweet and savoury libations. Try infusing sage leaves in spirits like bourbon or tequila to create unique and herbaceous bases for your cocktails. Sage and grapefruit is another inspired match for cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. Like thyme and rosemary, sage requires lots of sun and well-drained soil to thrive. Prune regularly to maintain a compact plant.
If you crave bright, citrusy notes in your beverages, look no further than lemon balm. This herb’s gentle lemon scent is uplifting and refreshing. Muddle a few leaves in your gin and tonic or use it to garnish a spritz for a burst of aromatic flavour. Lemon balm also makes a delightful addition to iced teas and lemonades. Lemon balm thrives in well-drained soil and prefers a sunny to partially shaded location. This herb is quite resilient and can tolerate various soil types. Lemon balm spreads vigorously, so it’s best to contain it in pots or designate a specific area in the garden.
The sweet, juicy goodness of homegrown raspberries adds a burst of flavour to cocktails. Muddle them into your mojitos or use them as a vibrant garnish for champagne-based drinks. Try a Raspberry Bellini Mocktail or a Raspberry Lemonade Fizz. Raspberries thrive in full sun and well-drained soil, preferably with a slightly acidic pH. Provide a trellis or support system to help the canes grow upright and prevent them from sprawling. Regular watering is crucial, especially during fruiting season. Prune old canes to maintain productivity and ensure good air circulation.
Borage, with its vibrant blue flowers, is a delightful addition to cocktails and other beverages. The cucumber-like flavour of borage blossoms adds a refreshing twist: use them as an attractive garnish or infuse them in simple syrups and spirits for a subtle herbal note. Borage also makes a fantastic addition to lemonades, punches, and herbal teas. Borage is an easy-to-grow herb that thrives in full sun to partial shade. It prefers well-drained soil rich in organic matter. The plant is relatively drought-tolerant but benefits from regular watering during dry spells. Once established, it self-seeds, making it a resilient addition to your garden that attracts pollinators with its beautiful blue flowers.
Figaro’s Garden’s Herb-Infused Simple Syrup
Infusing simple syrups is a great way to add interest to cocktails, sparkling water and other drinks. This recipe makes 1 cup. Scale up for larger quantities.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Fresh herbs of your choice, rinsed. Choose one herb per batch of syrup. For example:
- Basil (5 sprigs or 1.5 oz)
- Rosemary (4 sprigs or .5 oz)
- Mint (1 handful or 1.5 oz)
- Thyme (6 sprigs or .5 oz)
- Lavender (3 TBSP flowers)
- In a small saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil.
- Continue whisking until sugar is dissolved.
- Add your herb of choice and let boil for 60 seconds.
- Remove from heat and let the herbs steep for about 30 minutes as the syrup cools.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the herbs from the syrup.
- Pour the cooled syrup through a fine mesh strainer or multiple layers of cheesecloth into a glass bottle or jar.
- Store refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.
Cheers to cocktail gardening!
Cheers to the wonderful world of growing and using plants to create unique libations! By cultivating your own cocktail garden, you not only enjoy the pleasure of growing, but you also unlock a treasure trove of flavour and aroma. Experiment, explore, and let your imagination run wild as you mix and match ingredients from your garden to craft delicious and memorable drinks. So, gather your gardening tools, tend to your herbs and fruits, and let your creativity flow, one sip at a time!
plants make everything better
Whether you're an experienced horticulturist, or looking for your first plant, our team at Figaro's Garden is excited to help you realize your plant and garden dreams. Contact us today or stop by the shop to see what's in-store.