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Drinks

Don’t Discard Mint or Basil! Use ‘Em To Make Herb-Infused Cocktails (2 Recipes)

Whether you grow your own herbs or buy them from the store, you're bound to have more than you need.

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Every spring, I grow herbs — like rosemary and mint — for both cooking purposes and to beautify my patio. My homegrown herbs come in handy for marinades, salad dressings, and pasta dishes; but often, I have an abundance of herbs and not a lot of immediate uses for them. As a result, they get thrown away once they spoil. However, this spring, I’ve decided to use my excess herbs to whip up homemade drinks with a burst of freshness. For advice on how to maximize the flavors of herbs for DIY drinks, I consulted gardening and mixology pro Rebecca Sears, CMO and Resident Green Thumb at Ferry-Morse. Keep reading for her tips on crafting herb-infused cocktails, plus to find two yummy drink recipes.

How To Get the Most Flavor Out of Herbs for Drinks

Sears notes that when it comes to making drinks, herbs are the ultimate flavor enhancer. “The beauty of herbs is that you can grow most varieties, like mint and rosemary, indoors all year round — but if you don’t cook with them frequently you may find yourself with extra leaves and sprigs,” she tells Woman’s World. “Instead of them going to waste, you can use those leftover herbs to practice making flavorful cocktails and mocktails.”

Here are Sears’ three tips for utilizing extra herbs — whether homegrown or store-bought — to make the most delicious drinks:

  • Muddle the herbs beforehand. Lightly crushing or bruising the herbs, a process called muddling, releases their natural fragrance and eliminates any grassy taste. Most muddlers, like the Natureland Stainless Steel Cocktail Muddler (Buy from Amazon, $4.97), are inexpensive and easy to find. But if you’re new to mixology or need something to muddle with in a pinch, use a small rolling pin or a wooden spoon. To do: Place soft herb leaves like basil or mint in a sturdy glass before gently pressing down and twisting them two to three times with the muddling tool. Once muddled, use herbs in the drink and then strain before serving or leave them in for a pop of green.
  • Infuse the alcohol with the herbs. Allowing mint or cilantro to sit with spirits such as vodka, tequila, or rum gives cocktails a more flavorful base. To do: In a clean airtight jar, combine the amount of liquor listed in your desired cocktail recipe with a few thoroughly washed sprigs of herbs. Let the sealed jar sit at room temperature for one to two days, or until the alcohol is herbaceous enough for your taste buds. From there, try making a drink like margaritas with cilantro-infused tequila. Bonus: Create a variety of flavor pairings with your favorite spirits, juices, or club soda using Ferry-Morse’s Mixology Kit (Buy from FerryMorse.com, $39.99), which includes both basil and mint.
  • Get creative with your herb and drink infusions. Think outside the box when it comes to the herbs you’re choosing for your drinks. For instance, parsley is often used to add rich flavor to Italian or Mediterranean dishes — but you can also combine it with lemons or grapefruits to make refreshing drinks, as the parsley’s bitterness complements the citrus fruit’s tartness. Lavender also works nicely in gin because it adds a fragrant floral aroma to the spirit, which is perfect for springtime brunch cocktails. 

2 Refreshing Recipes for Herb-Infused Cocktails

After all of that mixology talk, it’s finally time to indulge in a drink. Below, Sears shares two ways a sweet herb like mint can be turned into a cocktail. Use these recipes as inspiration to create your own herb-infused beverages all spring and summer long.

Rhubarb Mint Julep (8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (about 3 to 4 stalks) rhubarb, coarsely chopped 
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • Crushed ice

Directions: 

  1. Combine chopped rhubarb and sugar in saucepan, stirring occasionally over medium heat until rhubarb breaks down and the sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil one minute, then remove from heat and cool completely. Purée ingredients in blender. Add lemon juice and pulse to combine.
  2. Once cocktail is ready to assemble, pour about one ounce rhubarb mixture into cocktail glass. Add 2 to 3 fresh mint leaves and muddle to release mint essence. Add crushed, top with 2 ounces bourbon, and garnish glass with fresh mint.

Garden-To-Table Mint Mojito (4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz white rum
  • ½ cucumber
  • ¾ cup mint
  • 4 teaspoons simple syrup or 2 teaspoons raw sugar
  • 4 teaspoons lime juice
  • 16 ounces club soda
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Quickly rinse mint leaves and chop coarsely to get most flavor. Save some for garnish.
  2.  Slice cucumber into moderately thin slices and cut limes into quarters.
  3. Pour rum, simple syrup, lime juice, chopped mint leaves, and cucumber slices into pitcher with ice. 
  4. Stir to incorporate all ingredients. To serve, pour 3 ounces cocktail mixture into glass with ice and top with club soda. Give glass quick stir, garnish with whole mint leaves, and lime slice. Cheers!
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