Chow Town

Think glass rather than plate when planting this year’s garden

Updated: 2013-04-30T20:35:54Z

By ANNE BROCKHOFF

Lots of people plant salsa gardens or Italian-themed ones packed with marinara makings.

Me? I’m thinking cocktails.

A cocktail garden can be as easy or as expansive as you like, providing fresh ingredients for all manner of drinks throughout the season.

Novice gardeners, or those working in tight spaces, can start simply with a few pots of mint, basil and rosemary.

Those with more than a patio can expand into varied flavors like tarragon, lemon verbena or chamomile.

But if you’ve got room for a proper garden, then there’s no limit to what you can plant for your bar.

“Gardeners are the ultimate mixologists,” writes Amy Stewart in the Drunken Botanist (Algonquin Books, 2013). “A thousand cocktails can be mixed in a kitchen garden.”

Stewart’s book reminds us that every great drink starts with a plant—whiskey from grain, rum from sugar cane, tequila from agave and so on.

Homegrown plants are the perfect complement to handcrafted spirits, and she’s happy to share advice about favorites including Cuban mojito mint, Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers and Redventure celery.

You can even plant an entire collection of herbs and veggies to match with your favorite rum, tequila, Old Tom gin, whiskey or vodka from the Territorial Seed Co.’s web site.

An avid gardener and drink-maker herself, Stewart is adept at things like muddling pineapple sage with reposado tequila, garnishing drinks with edible flowers and toting a Mason jar of watermelon mojitos along to summer parties.

Her book even includes a template for garden cocktails.

Got gin? Then muddle it with cucumber and thyme, add a bit of lemon juice and ice, shake and serve with ice and tonic water.

Rum? Match it with strawberries and mint.

Bourbon, tequila or vodka? She has ideas for those too.

Or, you can just use one of the recipes from her Drunken Botanist web site, like a Peach Mint Julep.

I’ve already got mint in my garden. Now I just have to wait for peach season.

Amy Stewart’s Peach Mint Julep

Makes 1 drink

1/4 to 1/2 peach

1 small sprig of mint

1 teaspoon sugar or simple syrup

1/2 ounce ginger liqueur like Domaine De Canton (or one slice of fresh ginger)

Crushed ice

2 ounces of bourbon

Combine peach, mint, sugar or simple syrup and ginger liqueur like Domaine de Canton (or one slice of fresh ginger) in a Mason jar. Gently crush with wooden spoon. Fill with crushed ice, add bourbon and stir.

Or, muddle the peach, mint, sugar and ginger in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, shake and strain into a fresh glass filled with crushed ice. Add the bourbon.

Run a peach slice around the edge of the jar and garnish with a mint sprig and the peach slice.

Source: “Drunken Botanist”

Anne Brockhoff is an award-winning spirits writer who writes a monthly column for The Star’s Food section.

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