Fresh herbs for your home bar
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
Gardening is a difficult hobby to cultivate in an urban setting like Vancouver. For one, most folks are confined to yardless apartments, so there’s no space to grow anything beyond what you can cram onto your balcony. Secondly, it feels like everyone hops addresses every few years, so it makes long-term greenspace planning a pipedream. For the transient, space-confined individual though, I present the herb garden.
An herb garden is a fantastic entry point to gardening—relatively cheap to set up, takes up minimal space in your apartment, low-maintenance—and they’re a great addition to any fledging home bar.
Some cocktail recipes call for fresh herbs, but most require the herbs to be in syrup form. Don’t panic though: Making herbal syrup is a lot easier than it sounds.
Simply bring a cup of water to boil and add one cup of sugar. Whisk until the sugars have dissolved and then add whichever herb you’re working with. Let the mixture boil for one minute, then remove from heat, allowing the herbs to soak for roughly half an hour. Strain the syrup of any debris or plant matter and keep in a sealed container in the fridge.
Which plants you decide to grow will depend on your tastes and preferences for cocktails. I’ve listed a few of the most common herbs, but feel free to deviate based on the space you’re working with.
The most popular herb also happens to be one of the easiest to grow. In fact, it sometimes grows too well, so plant mint in a container by itself or else it’ll overrun the other herbs. Mint is essential for mojitos and juleps, but fresh mint is a welcome addition to many other cocktails. Mint also comes in a variety of offshoots including lemon mint, chocolate mint, and even pineapple mint, so there are plenty of different routes to take.
Basil plants are notoriously difficult to keep alive, which is unfortunate because they’re mighty handy for cocktails and non-cocktails alike. Basil’s flavour goes well with gin-based smashes or vodka gimlets but it can also be used in lieu of mint in most cocktail recipes. Keep in mind that basil plants generally only last for a few weeks, so keep a rotation of seeds planted to ensure you always have some on hand.
Rosemary plants can be tricky to grow indoors, since they prefer hot and arid temperatures. Infusing rosemary with simple syrup is the best way to extract the savoury flavour, but the sprigs also make for immensely satisfying garnishes. Similar to basil, rosemary pairs well with gin or lemony flavours.
In addition to being great in cocktails, lavender is one of the most popular plants for attracting pollinators. Lavender itself has a subtle, floral flavour, which can sneak into a lot of cocktails without dominating your taste buds. My personal favourite lavender drink is the Lavender Bee’s Knees, which calls for lemon juice, honey, lavender simple syrup, and gin.
If starting your own herb garden sounds like an impossible feat, you can always opt for the bitters version of the above-mentioned herbs. However, if you’re looking to test-drive your green thumb and don’t have a lot of—or any—garden space to work with, then give growing herbs a try. Your cocktails will thank you.