For the budding plant parents & resident mixologists.
Growing your own garnishes is a great way to make mixing your favourite summer cocktails fun, virgin or spiked.
You can also make fresh herbal tea, a cup of freshly picked mint tea is absolutely divine.
To get started, visit the gardening aisle in your local supermarket for the seeds you are looking for, they have sachets available to help you start your garnish venture. Next, head to a nursery and pick up a few well-draining pots and soil.
Below, Melrick Harrison from the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront shares his top five herbs to plant now in spring for delicious summer cocktails.
Cocktail lovers will know that mint is a key ingredient in a mojito. It can, of course, be used in a number of other drinks, too. If you have never grown mint in your garden before, start growing it in a container. Mint grows everywhere and can easily take over your garden. This herb is a hardy one and while it thrives in warmer weather, it can withstand colder temperatures as well. Water your mint two to three times a week and soon you will have an abundance of this refreshing herb.
Lavender is an excellent herb for beginners, because it doesn’t need as much attention as other herbs. In fact, it loves to be left alone and not over watered. It needs good drainage in order to grow well as it is susceptible to root rot if it’s too moist. Also, the bees love it and we all know that bees are wonderful for gardens! Lavender can be used in a number of drinks including a lavender gin sour or a lavender martini. You can also make a lavender syrup (made with honey instead of sugar as a healthier alternative) that can be added to your cocktails.
Rosemary is a wonderful herb that can actually be grown alongside lavender. Their watering needs are the same, so they make excellent companions in the garden. It’s also a herb that will continue to grow throughout winter if temperatures do not drop below freezing. Rosemary can be infused into spirits such as gin and vodka. Or you could use a sprig or two as a garnish in your gin and martini drinks.
Basil is perfect for the beginner gardener. It’s easy to grow from a small plant or even a seed and it grows quickly and tall in the right conditions. Basil, like all the herbs listed here, loves full sun for about four to seven hours of the day. If you keep harvesting your basil throughout the season, you will find that it actually encourages growth. You can let some flower and go to seed, and then save and use those seeds for next season.
Basil is delicious in gin and vodka based drinks. You can also use it in homemade lemonade for added freshness and flavour. Keep in mind that there are many varieties of basil and not all taste the same.
Most bartenders love this herb because it’s full of chlorophyll, which gives a natural green colour to your drink-take the classic basil gin smash for example.
Another hardy herb that loves the same conditions as rosemary and lavender-thyme is suited to warmer climates and thrives in Mediterranean conditions. Keep it in full sun for as much of the day as possible and ensure that there is good drainage in your soil. If your summers are really hot, you can water two to three times a week, otherwise a schedule of every three to four days works out ok.
Thyme can be used in bourbon and whiskey-based drinks as a garnish, or you could make an infused cordial and add this to the drinks. This herb also works well in a bloody Mary.