The Secret to Great Cocktails is Right in Your Kitchen

Mixologists across the United States have been incorporating herbal elements into their cocktail creations with great results, but how easy is it to replicate some of that goodness at home? On August 5, Slow Food DC members and supporters came to find out at our “Grow Your Own Cocktails” event! Our partners shared terrific, hands-on tips to help us start our own container herb garden that can serve as the basis for unique and delicious cocktail creations at home.

Armed with a selection of rosemary seedlings and ceramic pots, District Hardware’s co-owner Jarrett Conway gave us a great tutorial about how to keep our rosemary plants – and other herbs – happy and healthy at home.

A few takeaways: First, make sure the pot is twice the size as the plant. Most plants suffer from too little space and too much water. Don’t suffocate your herbs! Second, pay attention to the specific care instructions that come with the plant, particularly how much light your herbs will need. Third, consider using a pearlite fertilizer to add more nutrients to the soil to help your plant thrive.

Then we were ready to get our hands dirty! After filling the pots with soil, we created space for the plant by pushing the soil up along the sides of the pot. Upon removing the plants from their seedling containers, we broke up the roots a bit with our hands before planting in the pot. This helped the rosemary take hold in its new home, ready to receive nutrients and water.

Proper harvesting can keep your herbs growing all year long! For rosemary, cut the top 2 to 3 inches of each sprig, leaving green leaves and being careful not to cut the plant too close to the roots. Give the plant time to recover before harvesting in the same spot.

When our rosemary was planted, it was time to explore our cocktail options with One Eight Distilling’s events manager Cara Webster. While there are several ways you can incorporate herbs into cocktails, Cara demonstrated how to make an infused simple syrup, which is also easy to make at home.

Combine equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan, along with a tablespoon of rosemary leaves (or a couple of stalks of rosemary). Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. There’s also the option at this point to steep the rosemary in the liquid for 30 minutes (off the heat) for a more intense flavor. Strain the syrup into a heatproof container, allow the mixture to cool, and then its ready for cocktail glory! You can keep the simple syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks for use in different types of cocktails.

In a nod to the DMV region, Cara designed a riff on the lavender-hued water lily cocktail by mixing One Eight Distilling gin, orange liqueur, lemon juice, Crème de Violette, cherry blossom liqueur, and rosemary simple syrup.

Once transformed into the “Water Lily on the Bay” cocktail, the Crème de Violette gave the drink a unique dark purple hue, with the cherry blossom liqueur lending a fresh and floral note thatnicely balanced the herbal rosemary.

Cara shared a great pro tip on making drinks for a group, which is to batch cocktails instead of making each separately. Simply pre-mix your ingredients in a large container that’s easy to pour from – could be a punch bowl or a large mason jar, if you’re traveling – and you’re ready to roll. Great for gatherings of all types!

We can’t thank our partners One Eight Distilling and District Hardware enough for this fun and informative event! There are many other herbs that are great for both container gardening and cocktails – we sense an opportunity for future events!

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