We all know the feeling: the end of the day rolls around and you’re craving a fancy drink, only to realise you’re missing a key ingredient – fresh herbs and garnishes to take your concoction from basic to beauty. Growing your own herbs and flowers can help bring all your cocktail (or mocktail) dreams to life, any time, while also reducing your plastic and packaging.
Whether you’re a gardener who enjoys a cocktail now and then or a budding mixologist tired of spending money on ingredients with an all-too-short shelf life, growing your own ingredients is easier than you think and fills some of that spare-time we all have thanks to lockdown. According to Jeremy Allan, Brand Director of Twisted Shaker, to start your journey on the botanical cocktail movement, these are the best low-maintenance plants for your indoor or outdoor garden.
Basil is the most perfect herb — especially when summer rolls around. While some grow basil by sowing seeds, there’s another option that’s far quicker: clipping it. To take a clipping from a basil plant, use scissors to cut a four inch long stem. Clip it just below the spot on the stems where the leaves emerge and at an angle to increase surface area for water uptake. Put it in a small jar with water ensuring no leaves are underwater then place the jar in a spot with bright, indirect light and change the water every day or two. You’ll start to see little roots in about 10 to 14 days. When the roots are an inch or two long you can remove the cuttings from the water and pot them up into a container filled with pre-moistened potting mix. Drink it in: A Cucumber and Gin Gimlet.
Beyond smelling fantastic, rose petals also have relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties. Once you grow your roses to maturity (this is a plant that can thrive in a container or outdoor garden), place their fragrant petals in hot water to brew for five to 10 minutes. Extracting flavour and nutrients from these delicate, paper-thin leaves is pretty quick and easy. Once you have your tea, pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze for a fizzy, slightly floral beverage. Drink it in: A Lemon, Gin & Rosewater Spritz.
Fresh hibiscus adds a bit of tartness to sweet drinks—and it looks the part, too. Nurture this bright red beauty to life by placing it in bright, direct light and watering it every one to two weeks as needed. For something a bit extra, try steeping the dried or fresh flowers into a tea and freezing in ice cubes. Garnish it in: A Raspberry Hibiscus Cosmo.
An unexpected cocktail addition, dill complements citrus fruits like grapefruit and lime. Like most herbs, dill should be pruned regularly to promote growth, so don’t be afraid to snip plenty of sprigs for your drink. You can grow dill from cuttings fairly easily: choose strong and healthy cuttings and put the ends in some water to encourage root growth. After about 2-3 weeks in the water, enough roots should have built so that the dill cuttings can be transplanted into pots. Drink it in: A Cucumber Dill Martini.
The crowd-favourite mint will add a refreshing herbal kick to your drink of choice. You’ll want to be a little careful when growing this herb at home because it’s a fast and aggressive spreader. Place it in its own container or small plot to keep it from overtaking your other plants. Mint doesn’t require much light, making it a good pick for indoor growers. Drink it in: A Southside of Classic Mojito.
Outside of your bartender garden, you can step-up your mixologist game by making citrus the star and dressing up the rim with sugar, salt and spices. A twist of citrus is an essential addition to plenty of cocktails. Instead of making it an afterthought, let it have the centre stage by slicing it carefully and wrapping it around a statement ice cube, like in the Old Fashioned. Another speedy way to add a bit of flair is dressing up the rim. For a cocktail on the sweeter side, a sugared rim works perfectly; all you need is lemon or lime juice and granulated sugar. Or if your drink is a bit punchier, like a Margarita, a salted rim is the way to go. But instead of just using plain old salt, mix it with a bit of lime zest. You could also try mixing in different spices that bring out the drink’s flavours, like cinnamon, cayenne, or even smoked salt.