Locavores encourage people to eat food that’s grown and produced locally. Garden-to-table is a social movement that promotes the practice of growing your own food. These notions lend themselves equally well to growing your own cocktails. Call it the garden-to-glass movement. No, Rachel and I haven’t started distilling our own spirits. We’re talking about growing the herbs, fruits and vegetables that go into handcrafted cocktails. To get the most out of a cocktail garden, consider the way you like to entertain and what kinds of drinks you like to serve. A cocktail herb garden makes it easy and convenient to have all the herbs you need to make your favorite drinks.
Muddling is a technique used to bring out the maximum flavor and aroma of herbs. The idea is to gently tap the leaves without crushing the stems and veins. This releases the essential oils without any bitterness. Mint is the most important herb in any cocktail garden. These refreshingly sweet herbs form the basis of many classic drinks like mint julep and mojito. A small gathering of friends could easily consume your entire supply. Fortunately, mint grows fast and spreads quickly. There’s nothing subtle about the flavor of rosemary. The savory taste balances well with sweet, citrusy flavors. It also makes an attractive garnish. Use it to skewer olives and serve with martinis. Cilantro is a flavor of the southwest. Unsurprisingly, it goes well with tequila. Add cucumber for an even cooler gin and tonic. Homegrown citrus brings a bit of the tropics to the Midwest. Meyer lemon and key lime trees are easy to grow in containers. Just bring them indoors over winter. Key limes make the best margaritas. All you need is tequila, triple sec, key lime juice, agave and kosher salt to rim the glasses. Garnish with a wedge of Meyer lemon. Rose petals add a floral touch to frozen drinks made from neutral spirits like vodka or rum.
Nothing compares to a home grown bloody Mary. What could be more satisfying than picking fresh herbs and heirloom tomatoes right from your own garden and blending them into the quintessential Sunday morning drink? Remember, a bloody Mary is mostly tomato juice, so use the ripest tomatoes from your garden. Mix and match heirloom varieties for a colorful twist. Try Cherokee purple with Mr. Stripey or for a really eye-catching cocktail use all black krim tomatoes. Horse radish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, fresh black pepper, oregano, parsley, thyme and Old Bay seasoning combine to make Rachel’s bloody Mary. Garnish with a celery stalk. Till codka is made from Kansas wheat and is distilled in Atchison, Kansas, just 25 miles away. You can’t get more local than that. The crisp, clear taste makes the most delicious bloody Marys you’ve ever had.
Turn your backyard into your favorite hangout.
Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org