Words & Photos by Colleen Thompson
Here’s to warmer weather, longer light-filled days, blossoming flowers and fresh, botanically infused cocktails. Often referred to as the “garden to glass” movement, mixologists are turning to fresher, tastier, and healthier ingredients in cocktails.
Made with superfoods, herbs, teas, fresh juices, and vegetables in a variety of innovative combinations – blueberry-thyme, mango-cilantro, strawberry-basil, cucumber-mint anyone? Fresh produce quite simply, makes for fresh cocktails.
Following in the footsteps of the farm-to-table movement and strengthened by the growing craft distillery wave, garden-to-glass cocktails have been cited as one of the biggest cocktail trends of 2018. We’re saying bye-bye to artificial ingredients and overly sweet, sticky cocktails and turning to unconventional ingredients from the garden to add to our cocktails. From infusions and shrubs to herby tinctures, happy hour is expanding beyond sprigs of mint in juleps and mojitos and incorporating lavender, sage, rosemary, cilantro, spruce shoots and even nettles – just about any plant could make its way into your glass.
The wave of trendy botanical bars turning herbs, plants, and flowers into show-stopping cocktail mix-ins are popping up worldwide. Trips to farmers markets, seasonal cocktail lists, and even rooftop and cocktail gardens have become de rigueur for many mixologists.
Award-winning mixologist Shane Beehan believes it’s less of a trend, and rather something that’s here to stay for good. “Realistically it’s the best thing that can happen to a cocktail. Sourcing out the best freshest local ingredients, grown in your own yard or your local environment, adds a personalized touch to every drink and at the same time reduces your personal impact on the environment,” he says. “Going local can be seen as a trend but I hope it’s looked at more as a solution. I hope it does make everyone who creates cocktails stop and pause and think a little about where and how they source their ingredients.”
Without plants, we really wouldn’t have any boozy cocktails at all. Every element that goes into a drink comes from the plant world – rum from sugarcane; tequila from agave; whiskey from barley and rye; bourbon from corn; vodka from potatoes; beer from hops and wine from grapes. When it comes to garden-to-glass libations, the only limit is your imagination. It’s an easy undertaking for the home barman and gardener: you could even go as far as planting your own “cocktail garden.” Now that the spring growing season is upon us, it’s the perfect time to think about planting things you can drink later.
There are tons of ways to add fresh, herbal flavors into your botanical cocktails.
Make a batch of your own herbal, homemade simple syrup: using thyme, lemon verbena, rosemary or elderflowers and infusing it in syrup. Combine equal parts water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Let the mixture steep until herbs have infused – wait 20 minutes or so – before straining, bottling, and cooling.
Instead of muddling fresh herbs, give them a good clap between your hands to lightly release the fragrant oils – without compromising the quality of your drink.
Vodka is a great base spirit to use for infusions, because it has no flavor, which allows the aromatics of the herbs and botanicals to shine through. Rum is also a good base, but stick with the clear varieties rather than the darker ones. Gin already contains many botanical flavors from juniper and other herbs, and makes for particularly flavourful fresh cocktails.
Grab your favorite spirits, find your green thumb and concoct these Mother Nature inspired libations.
2 oz. NS Spirit Co. White Rum
.75 oz. Lime Juice
1 oz. Green Juice*
.75oz Simple Syrup
Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker and shake for 3-5 seconds. Strain over ice into a tall glass and top with sparkling water. Garnish with fresh mint.
*Green Juice is a mixture of fresh pressed juices. 2 parts cucumber, 1 part green apple, 1 part kale, and ½ part fresh ginger.
2 oz. Blue Lobster Vodka
.5oz Beetroot puree*
1 oz. Fresh lemon juice
.5 oz. Ginger simple syrup*
2 Dashes Angostura bitters
Beet greens for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and pour over ice in a glass and garnish with thinly slice beet greens.
*Beet puree: roast beets in an oven, puree in a blender and strain.
*Ginger syrup: combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and a thumb size piece of fresh, peeled and chopped ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes and cool.
2oz Ironworks Gin
1oz Cilantro Syrup*
1oz fresh lime juice
Combine gin, cilantro syrup and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and pour over ice in a glass and top up with blueberry kombucha. Garnish with a cilantro leaf and wild edible flowers.
*Cilantro syrup: combine 1cup water, 1 cup wildflower honey and a small bunch of chopped cilantro. Simmer for 10 minutes and cool.