There’s no denying it, this is one hot summer, and summer cocktails need to be lighter and more refreshing. It’s not a bad idea to follow what’s fresh and seasonal and what could be fresher than herbs from your own garden? Either muddled, like mint in a Mojito, or served in a whole range of herbal simple syrups and infusions, herbs are hot right now. Many mixologists are using an array of herbal flavors in new and interesting combinations, from special bitters to infusing their own liquors. What’s nice about simple syrup is just that, it’s simple. One cup of water and one cup of sugar in a saucepan, bring to boil, reduce heat and add herbs, either 4 to 5 sprigs of rosemary, or 4 to 5 sprigs of lavender, or one long stem of pineapple sage or experiment with whatever you have. Simmer this concoction until thickened (10 minutes tops). Let cool 30 minutes, strain into a jar and store in the fridge.
I find a lot of herbal cocktail recipes use gin, and depending on the herbs in the cocktail I might choose a classic dry gin with loads of juniper and citrus peel like Balfour’s Gin or Beefeater’s, while in a different drink I might use a softer, more herbally-infused gin like Bombay Sapphire or Los Apostoles. If it calls for vodka, a plain vodka will always work, but sometimes citrus vodkas adds a little more brightness to the mix, like Grey’s Peak Meyer Lemon Vodka, or even some of the other flavored vodkas that match some components of the drink recipe. It depends a little bit on personal taste. My first drink recipe is for a Lavender Gin Fizz.
Lavender Gin Fizz
1 Lemon Wedge
2 oz Lavender Simple Syrup
Club Soda (or seltzer or even a flavored La Croix)
Squeeze the juice of the lemon wedge into a highball glass filled with ice, and drop in lemon. Add gin and lavender syrup, stir and top off with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a lavender flower or sprig.
Another herbal cocktail uses grapefruit as the base with vodka and rosemary and I’m calling it a Grapefruit Rosemary Spritzer.
Grapefruit Rosemary Spritzer
6 oz Grapefruit Juice
3 Tablespoons of Rosemary Simple Syrup
Club Soda (or other sparkling water)
Pinch of Sea Salt
Fresh Rosemary Sprig for garnish
In a shaker combine grapefruit juice, vodka, rosemary simple syrup and shake lightly. Fill two highball glasses with ice and pour shaker’s contents into both with a segment or two to garnish, top with club soda, that sprig of rosemary and a dusting of sea salt.
Finally a drink with sage being muddled, rather than mint, and I recommend using pineapple sage if you have it. The flavors pop if you happen to have a sage simple syrup as well, but it’s not necessary since you have the muddled leaves.
6 Pineapple Sage Leaves or similar
Half of Lemon
2 Tablespoons Sage Simple Syrup (or sugar)
4 oz Grapefruit Juice
Sage Flower to garnish
Put sage leaves in a shaker with two lemon wedges and sugar and crush them with a muddler trying to get the oils out of both herb and citrus. Add the gin, grapefruit juice and ice and shake vigorously. Strain into two martini glasses and top with a sage flower or leaf.
Moral of the story… turn to your back yard herb garden for some cocktail inspirations! You might be surprised at the new combinations you create. Cheers!
Daniel Eddy, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Sales Manager
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineDanE