At the hottest bars around the country, mixologists are reaching for fresh herbs to make their cocktails exceptionally flavorful. Between travelling mixologists, fancy ice cubes, and specialty ingredients cocktails in the 21st century are an art. Join in the fun and elevate your cocktails with your own herb garden. Cultivating your own selection of cocktail herbs gives your personal touch to the final drink. Although most grocery stores carry herbs in the produce section, growing your own in a window planter or small garden is more rewarding, and nice to look at! Start out with these three easy and delicious choices:
1. Mint: A classic cocktail garnish, a sprig of mint doesn't add much to a drink other than visual appeal. But some cocktails, like the mint julep and the mojito, do depend on this herb for flavor. Using homegrown stuff makes the drink more powerful and more delicious. Fortunately, mint is incredibly simple to grow-it propagates via runners, or shoots that extend out into the soil. Be careful, or your entire garden will be taken over by a patch of mint! Try planting unusual varieties like chocolate mint or orange mint to tweak your cocktail flavors.
2. Anise Hyssop: With a licorice taste and a slight medicinal undertone, anise hyssop makes a wonderful addition to your favorite drinks. A member of the mint family, anise hyssop is easy to grow, too. While it doesn't stand up well to ferocious summer heat, it only needs sporadic watering. Cones of pink flowers erupt from the top of the plant, which make a nice garnish and attract butterflies to your garden.
3. Lavender: In Provence, fields of purple lavender blanket the countryside, filling the air with heady perfume. Floral cocktails are enjoying a surge in popularity, so lavender's sweet, musky flavor is a home bartending essential. Lavender needs lots of sun and a relatively dry environment; pick a hardier varietal like English or Munstead lavender if you're worried about temperature fluctuations.
Gardening is great exercise, and it's a rewarding activity that will improve your drinks. Muddle some mint, anise hyssop, or lavender into this great gin and tonic for an herbal touch. For more information on starting an herb garden, click here.