Host a happy hour in your own backyard. From garden to glass, these good-time tips will get you feeling tipsy in no time. Bottoms up!
Cocktails are something near and dear to my heart. So is gardening. So combining the two is pretty much the best thing ever. Having homegrown herbs, veggies and fruit at the ready makes mixing up a lovely libation a breeze. From infusing liquors to garnishing with flair, there are so many fun ways to freshen up your favorite drink with something you grew yourself. Here’s how to cultivate a cocktail garden that will have you saying, “Cheers!”
Make a list of your favorite summertime sippers.
If you like to make nice with a mojito or julep, plan for plenty of mint (just make sure you plant this vigorous grower in a pot to keep it under control). If a Bloody Mary makes you easy like Sunday morning, grow cilantro, chives and dill. And then there’s basil if a bourbon smash out back is your idea of bliss.
Everything’s better with basil.
A foodie fave, basil is also popular with mixologists. From cinnamon to clove, spicy to sweet, each variety boasts its own distinct flavor. Use it to balance the sweetness found in watermelon margaritas or kick up citrus-based drinks like grapefruit martinis. This Strawberry Basil Gin Cocktail from Show Me the Yummy looks pretty damn delicious, as does this Luau Basil Cocktail with rum and elderflower liquor from Tasting Table. Come to mama.
Drink your vegetables.
Summertime sippers don’t have to be over-the-top sweet. Make a refreshing picnic punch by adding sliced cucumbers to white soda and frozen limeade (vodka optional…or is it?) or infuse gin for cool-as-a-cuke gin and tonics. Cherry tomatoes growing like gangbusters? Pick a handful and muddle them with strawberries and sugar. Fill with ice, add a shot of vodka, shake and pour. It’s summer in a glass. Or use them to infuse vodka for your next Bloody Mary. Add some sliced onion, celery stalk and leaves, chopped carrots, fresh garlic, sliced lemon and fresh dill sprigs into that bottle of Absolut, too.
Pack some heat.
Pick a peck of jalapeno peppers and turn a ho-hum drink into something hot, hot, hot! Add directly to the cocktail of your choice or infuse your favorite booze or mixer—vodka, tequila or simple syrup are fun options. Float slices on jalapeno atop a grapefruit margarita. Or try this Grilled Pineapple-Jalapeno Summer Cocktail from Chili Pepper Madness.
Grow gorgeous garnishes.
Nasturtium, marigold and lavender look as pretty in a garden as they do in a glass (yep, that’s right, they’re all edible). Float a marigold bloom on top of a blood orange martini, scatter lavender petals atop a blackberry agua fresca or dress up a glass of champagne with a pretty pansy. They may look too pretty to drink, but somehow I think you’ll manage. This Lilac Lemon Fizz made with homemade lilac syrup from The Merry Thought sounds pretty perfect.
Give lesser known herbs and flowers a go.
Crush the leaves of lemon balm into spiked lemonade. Its fresh, lemony flavor with undertones of mint brightens any drink, especially those made with peach, apple or melon. Enjoy a taste of the tropics with pineapple sage, which goes well in pineapple and coconut concoctions. Make flower-infused wine using chamomile or marigolds.
Have fun with fruit.
Fresh strawberries can be used in anything from champagne punches to spritzers. Small-growing watermelons, such as ‘Sugar Baby,’ make great margaritas, as do the fresh limes plucked off your own tree (grow in a container if you live in a colder climate…you can always bring it indoors in winter).
Grow in the know.
When planning your cocktail garden, consider each plant’s growing requirements. Most will require at least 6 hours of sun and adequate watering, so plant your plot next to a water source that’s easily accessible. If outdoor space is limited, try planting a few of your favorite cocktail garden must-haves in containers. Voila, instant patio ambiance. Avoid using chemical fertilizers or pesticides, opting for organic, food-safe options instead.