FRESH MIXOLOGY Fresh-herb infusions, syrups and garnishes are a top-shelf way to add depth and sophisticated twists to classic cocktail recipes. With the bounty afforded by your own cutting garden, it’s easy and fun to experiment as often as the mood strikes. Here are my top tips for mixing and garnishing with herbs and florals:
Many store-bought flowering plants, even the edible varieties, are treated with toxic chemicals not suitable for consumption. Grow your own edible flowers to ensure their safety, or choose only blooms labeled as food-grade.
›› In my recurring garden fantasy, I pad outside every morning in my
robe and slippers to snip sprigs of chamomile for afternoon tea and basil for evening cocktails. But the logistics of a backyard cutting garden aren’t feasible for me. Space constraints, seasonal limitations and a hectic work schedule have always conspired to keep me from breaking ground. Fortunately, I’ve found a lovely alternative: indoor cutting gardens. These mini inside plots have become my culinary secret weapon, producing a constant supply of edible flowers and aromatic herbs. I snip whatever I need, as I need it, and the quality of flavor and fragrance is profound. Technology’s newest contribution to the indoor cutting garden scene is the smart hydroponic garden. Thanks to these compact devices, I can now grow plants at home without soil. Expertly programmed and easy to use, they turn anyone into a master gardener of fresh herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables—all from the convenience of the kitchen counter. Products like Miracle-Gro’s AeroGarden eliminate the guesswork surrounding a plant’s growing needs by custom-prescribing a care regimen according to each plant type. Simply choose your seeds and drop them into the hydroponic base; the device handles the rest. An interactive LCD screen collects information on what you’re growing, then tailors the watering, lighting and feeding to each plant’s optimal conditions. No soil, no weeds and no gardening experience needed. Cheers!
✱ Colleen Jeffers is a self-made cocktail expert skilled at shaking, stirring, infusing, photographing and drinking her subject area. Jeffers also writes about cocktails on TheInspiredHome.com
Aromatics take cocktails to another level. Consider herbs an essential ingredient, whether you use them as direct infusions or simple garnishes. Slap herb sprigs against the palm of your hand just before adding to drinks to release their oils and aroma. Be strategic about straw placement. By nestling it directly into a garnish instead of the other side of the glass, you experience a more robust scent with every sip. Don’t overlook lavender leaves as garnish. They emit a scent as intoxicating as the cocktail. Reserve fresh blooms for garnishes and infuse spirits with dried flowers, which are more widely available at health food stores and online.