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Oct 23, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Cocktail Garden: Drink your greens
By Rebecca Koenig // Photos by Carmen Troesser
Posted On: 05/05/2017   


While a summer spent sipping mojitos certainly wouldn’t be wasted, it’s worth considering the whole garden’s herbs while making cocktails. We talked to the experts at Bowood Farms, Cafe Osage and Planter’s House for tips on selecting and planting herbs, infusing liquors and mixing drinks. Here’s everything you need to know to grow your own cocktail garden.


CHOOSE THEM

You can’t go wrong with a classic like mint. “Herbs can add a lot of freshness and brightness to a drink,” said Planter’s House bar manager Kate Kinsey. Rosemary has tea and pine notes, making it a good fit for holiday drinks and a nice pair with gin, Kinsey said. She uses sage, with its earthy, vegetal taste, in savory cocktails and particularly likes it with tequila. Kinsey also recommended thyme as a subtler substitute for mint.

Herb varietals can give cocktails a fun twist. Look for chocolate mint or orange mint and lemon basil or lime basil to use in place of the standard. Cafe Osage bar manager Paul Staples uses holy basil, which lends a savory peppery note and goes well with vodka and iced tea in an Ice Pick cocktail. He also said lemon verbena imparts a bright citrus flavor to cocktails and recommended using it to make simple syrup for a French 75. For something a little more adventurous, try scented geraniums, such as rose or apple. The latter can be turned into a liqueur and used in an apple martini. “When you rub their leaves, they burst out with really fragrant aromas,” Staples said.


GROW THEM
Good news, botanical buffs: Herbs are easy to grow. “They’re very forgiving plants,” said Bowood Farms sales associate Kathie Hoyer.

To grow your own indoor cocktail garden, plant rosemary, sage and thyme together in one pot, and mint and basil together in a separate pot. Basil will only live for one season, after which mint will likely take over the entire planter. Set the planters in a south- or west-facing window, since herbs need full sun (ideally at least six hours a day).

The frequency with which you’ll need to water your plants will depend on the conditions in your house. Rosemary, sage and thyme should be watered about once a week; basil and mint, twice a week. One easy way to tell it’s time for more water is to pick up your pot. If it feels light, the soil is getting dry. But don’t let the plants sit in a saucer of water, which could lead them to rot. Hoyer said not to use fertilizer, since they can dampen herbs’ flavor.

“All herbs just love to be trimmed,” Hoyer said. “The more you use them, the better it is for the plant. It keeps the plant from getting weak and worn out.” So, keep those cocktails coming.


USE THEM
To easily incorporate fresh herbs into drinks, simply shake them in a cocktail shaker with the other ingredients and strain the finished product. Kinsey prefers that method to muddling, which can bring out less pleasant, grassy notes. Because vodka doesn’t have much of its own flavor, Staples recommended using it to experiment with all kinds of herbs. Alternatively, you can make herb simple syrups by boiling five parts water, then adding four parts sugar and ¾ cup fresh herbs. You can also make tinctures or extracts. They’re potent, Staples said, so a few drops should be all you need to add to a drink. And if you combine a tincture with cooled simple syrup, you’ll have an herbal liqueur.



Lime Basil Simple Syrup
Courtesy of Cafe Osage’s Paul Staples

About 3 cups

2½ cups water
2 cups sugar
¹∕³ cup packed fresh lime basil leaves

• In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
• Reduce the heat to low, add the lime basil and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain into a clean glass bottle. Store refrigerated in an airtight container 1 month.


Rosemary Tincture
Courtesy of Planter’s House’s Kate Kinsey

1 cup

¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from stems
½ cup high-proof (95-percent) neutral grain spirit like vodka or Everclear
½ cup water

• Combine the rosemary and spirit in a sterilized jar and infuse, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.
• Add the water and stir. Strain out the rosemary and store in dropper bottle or other airtight container up to 1 year at room temperature.


Rosemary Liqueur
Courtesy of Cafe Osage’s Paul Staples

About 2½ cups

1 cup fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from stems
High-proof (95-percent) neutral grain spirit like vodka or Everclear
1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar

• Place the rosemary in a sterilized jar and pour in the neutral spirit until the leaves are completely covered. Cover the jar with parchment paper, a coffee filter or a paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Infuse at room temperature 3 days to make a tincture, swirling the jar once a day.
• In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved to make a simple syrup. Let cool. 
• Strain the tincture into the simple syrup and stir to combine. Store refrigerated in an airtight container 1 month.


El Palomito
Courtesy of Planter’s House’s Kate Kinsey

1 serving

2 oz. Milagro Reposado tequila
¾ oz. pamplemousse liqueur
½ oz. Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
1 oz. lemon juice
4 or 5 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
Club soda, to finish

• Combine the tequila, pamplemousse liqueur, Ancho Reyes, lemon juice and sage leaves in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with the club soda and garnish with sage.


Right on Thyme
Courtesy of Planter’s House’s Kate Kinsey

1 serving

2 to 4 fresh thyme sprigs, divided
2 oz. 100-proof or higher rye or bourbon
½ oz. simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 lemon twists

• Briefly hold 1 or 2 thyme sprigs over a flame until they start to smoke, then place in an ice-filled mixing pitcher. Add the rye, simple syrup and bitters. Express the lemon twist into the pitcher, then toss it in. Stir until diluted and chilled, about 30 seconds, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
• Express the other lemon twist over the drink and, just before serving, burn the remaining thyme sprigs to use as garnish.


Basil Lime Margarita
Courtesy of Cafe Osage’s Paul Staples

1 serving

2 oz. tequila
1½ oz. lime juice
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. lime basil simple syrup (recipe above)
12 fresh lime basil leaves
Club soda to top
Lime basil sprig and lime wedge, for garnish

• Combine the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, simple syrup and lime basil leaves in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into an ice-filled glass.
• Top with the club soda. Garnish with the lime basil and lime.


Take Me With U
courtesy of Planter’s House’s Kate Kinsey

1 serving

1½ oz. Contratto Bianco
1 oz. Contratto Bitter
½ oz. lemon juice
1 or 2 droppers (1 barspoon) rosemary tincture (recipe above)
1 oz. dry sparkling white wine
Grapefruit twist and fresh rosemary sprig, for garnish

• Combine the Contratto Bianco, Contratto Bitter, lemon juice and rosemary tincture in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously, then strain into an ice-filled highball glass.
• Top with the wine and garnish with the grapefruit twist and rosemary.


Revolution 76
Courtesy of Cafe Osage’s Paul Staples

1 serving

¾ oz. limoncello
¾ oz. rosemary liqueur (above)
Dry sparkling white wine to top
Lemon twist and fresh rosemary sprig for garnish

• Combine the limoncello and rosemary liqueur in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a flute glass.
• Top with the wine and garnish with the lemon twist and rosemary.


GET IT
Bowood Farms and Cafe Osage, 4605 Olive St., St. Louis, 314.454.6868, bowoodfarms.com
Planter’s House, 1000 Mississippi Ave., St. Louis, 314.696.2603, plantershousestl.com






Lime Basil Simple Syrup
Cafe Osage’s Paul Staples
Makes 3 cups

INGREDIENTS

2½ cups water
2 cups sugar
¹∕³ cup packed fresh lime basil leaves

PREPARATION

• In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
• Reduce the heat to low, add the lime basil and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain into a clean glass bottle. Store refrigerated in an airtight container 1 month.

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