Gardening can be rewarding in itself, but what’s especially rewarding about a cocktail-driven herb garden is that you get to enjoy a wonderfully fresh, delicious drink at the end of your (not so hard) work.
This project can be as intensive or easy as you’d like. Though you can elect to plant directly from seeds, we recommend just heading to your local garden center (or well-stocked grocer) and picking up some pre-potted herbs. Not only do you avoid having to nurse them through their early days as mere shoots and sprouts, the soil will have the correct sandiness to ensure that your herbs exist in a slightly water-starved environment, making the essential oils in the herbs all the more potent.
All the plants listed below are easy to find, inexpensive, and about as close to neglect-proof as the imbibing gardener could hope for. Plenty of sun and periodic watering will suffice. Herbs as a category as extremely hardy, so if anything, over-watering is the real threat here. Here are the essential herbs to help you build most cocktails.
Mint: Ah mint, the king of cocktail herbs. It’s unique flavor makes it a versatile addition to almost any liquor. It’s essentially a weed, it’s so easy to grow. You can pluck plenty of leaves from your plant and find the stalks replenished within a week at the height of summertime. Whether it’s used as a fragrant garnish, or to infuse a simple syrup, this is the powerhouse herb for cocktails in any garden. Make sure the plant gets plenty of full-sunlight, and water as needed. The stalks should stand tall and the leaves should be full and unfurled. If they start to shrivel, your plant is thirsty.
Mint even has a few sister plants, like chocolate mint and pineapple mint, that you can use in special drinks to really add some fun flavors!
Basil: With it’s pungent, rich herbaciousness, basil can really give some punch to a a cocktail. Like mint, basil is a great all-purpose herb, adding great flavor to gin, tequila or rum drinks among others. Muddle, use as a garnish or use in simple syrup to use in cocktails as a change of pace from the same old cocktail.
Much like mint, basil is broad-leafed and requires plenty of sunlight. Also much like mint, a quick peek at the leaves will tell you whether it is in need of water or not.
Rosemary: The rich, woody flavor of rosemary can be added whole or muddled as a featured player in gin or vodka or to add pronounced depth to bourbon. Try adding a sprig to your next gin and tonic or whiskey sour.
Rosemary is extremely hardy, being a native desert plant. Unless the plant starts to brown, it is receiving plenty of water (even if that seems like almost no water at all). In terms of flavor, the less you water the plant, the more of its essential flavorful oils it will produce.
Lavender: This is a fantastic cocktail addition. With it’s familiar earthy-sweet aroma and color, it adds a fun pop to any drink you make. It’s scent can be so strong, it’s best to hold the herb in your open hand, clap you other hand on top gently to release it’s oils and top off you drink with it. Throwing it in to a shaker with ice could really bruise it and dilute the smell.
Plenty of sun and a reasonably consistent watering schedule is required of lavender.
Sage: Muddled, infused into spirits or prepared in a simple syrup, sage adds savory complexity to mixed drinks, but the flavor can be overpowering for some. add some sage to your next gin fizz for a summer drink with unmistakable garden taste.
Sage benefits from periodic watering and plenty of sunlight. Like rosemary, the more sparing you are with your watering, the more pungent and flavorful the plant will become.