Here’s to warmer weather, longer light-filled days, blossoming flowers, and fresh, botanically-infused cocktails. Often referred to as the “garden to glass” movement, mixologists are turning to fresher, tastier and healthier ingredients in cocktails.
Made with superfoods, herbs, teas, fresh juices and vegetables in a variety of innovative combinations — think blueberry-thyme, mango- cilantro, strawberry-basil and cucumber- mint — fresh produce quite simply makes for fresh cocktails.
Following in the footsteps of the farm- to-table movement and strengthened by the growing craft distillery wave, garden- to-glass cocktails have been sited as one of the biggest cocktail trends of 2018. We’re saying bye-bye to artificial ingredients and overly sweet, sticky, cocktails and turning to unconventional ingredients from the garden to add to our cocktails. From infusions and shrubs to herby tinctures, happy hour is expanding beyond sprigs of mint in juleps and mojitos and incorporating lavender, sage, rosemary, cilantro, spruce shoots and even nettles. Just about any plant could make its way into your glass.
The wave of trendy botanical bars turning herbs, plants and flowers into show-stopping cocktail mix-ins are popping up worldwide. A trip to the local farmers’ market, seasonal cocktail lists, and even rooftop and cocktail gardens have become de rigueur for many mixologists.
Shane Beehan, award-winning barman at Lot 6 in Halifax, believes it’s less of a trend than something that’s here to stay for good. “Realistically, it’s the best thing that can happen to a cocktail. Sourcing out the best, freshest local ingredients grown in your own yard or your local environment adds a personalized touch to every drink, and at the same time reduces your personal impact on the environment,” he says. “Going local can be seen as a trend, but I hope it’s looked at more as a solution. I hope it makes everyone who creates cocktails stop and pause and think a little more about where and how they source their ingredients.”
Without plants, we really wouldn’t have any boozy cocktails at all. Every element that goes into a drink comes from the plant world — rum from sugarcane; tequila from agave; whiskey from barley and rye; bourbon from corn; vodka from potatoes; beer from hops and wine from grapes. When it comes to garden-to- glass libations, the only limit is your imagination. It’s an easy undertaking for the home barmen and gardener: you could even go as far as planting your own “cocktail garden.” Now that the spring growing season is upon us, it’s the perfect time to think about planting things you can drink later.
There are tons of ways to add fresh, herbal flavours into your botanical cocktails.
One way is to make a batch of your own herbal, homemade simple syrup using thyme, lemon verbena, rosemary or elderflowers and infusing it in syrup. Combine equal parts water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Let the mixture steep until herbs have infused — wait 20 minutes or so — before straining, bottling and cooling.
Instead of muddling fresh herbs, give them a good clap between your hands to lightly release the fragrant oils, without compromising the quality of your drink.
Vodka is a great base spirit to use for infusions because it has no flavour, which allows the aromatics of the herbs and botanicals to shine through. Rum is also a good base, but stick with the clear varieties rather than the darker ones. Gin already contains many botanical flavours from juniper and other herbs, and makes for particularly flavourful fresh cocktails.
Grab your favourite spirit, find your green thumb and concoct a delicious Mother Nature-inspired libation.
2 oz. Nova Scotia Spirit Co. White Rum
.75 oz. lime juice
1 oz. green juice*
.75 oz simple syrup
garden mint for garnish
Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker and shake for three to five seconds. Strain over ice into a tall glass and top with sparkling water. Garnish with fresh mint.
*Green Juice is a mixture of fresh pressed juices. Two parts cucumber, one part green apple, one part kale, and 1/2 part fresh ginger
Supplied by Shane Beehan, Halifax mixologist
Sip Your Beets
2 oz. Blue Lobster Vodka
.5 oz beetroot puree*
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
.5 oz. ginger simple syrup*
2 dashes angostura bitters
beet greens for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and pour over ice in a glass and garnish with thinly slice beet greens.
*Beet puree: roast beets in an oven, puree in a blender and strain
*Ginger syrup: combine one cup water, one cup sugar and a thumb size piece of fresh, peeled and chopped ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes and cool
Supplied by Shane Beehan, Halifax mixologist
Cilantro Kombucha Gimlet
2 oz Ironworks Gin
1 oz cilantro syrup*
1 oz fresh lime juice
Combine gin, cilantro syrup and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and pour over ice in a glass and top up with blueberry kombucha. Garnish with a cilantro leaf and wild edible flowers.
*Cilantro syrup: combine one cup water, one cup wildflower honey and a small bunch of chopped cilantro. Simmer for 10 minutes and cool
Text and Photos by Colleen Thompson