Herbs are one if my favortie things to grow, and I enjoy a good cocktail on the weekends or at the end of a tough workday. I met some out of town friends recently at the Crow Bar on South Congress, and admired their menu of herbal beverages. It got me inspired and the drikns were delicious! Here are my top three must-have herbs for a cocktail herb garden.
1. Mint- a perennial monster in the garden, mint can take over a large area in a split second. Grow mint in a large pot (at least 12″ diameter) in a spot with late afternoon shade. Mint does not like to dry out so keep the soil moist like a wrung-out sponge. There are many kinds of mint, and I like the variety ‘Kentucky Colonel’ for drinks. Mojitos and mint juleps are summer crowd pleasers. A drink with mint in it will help ease indigestion after a large meal. I also enjoy a refreshing Moscow Mule with mint added.
2. Basil- tomato’s best friend also makes an unusual, fragrant addition to your bar. Basil needs hot weather, full sun and steady water to thrive. It is an annual, meaning it grows during one saeson and then dies. It also grows well in a large pot. My favorite variety of basil for beverages is the tiny-leaved, ultra-spicy ‘Globe’ variety, which is also sometimes called a ‘bush’ type. A beautiful plant, use its leaves to make a basil vodka Gimlet.
3. Lavender- Maybe my favorite herb, it is perennial in warm climates. Lavender needs full sun and good drainage. There are many varieties, and I like the ‘Spanish’ variety because it seems to be the easiest to grow in Austin. Use lavender to make a simple syrup that you can add to cocktails http://cocktails.about.com/od/makeyourownmixers/r/lavender_syrup.htm to dress them up a little, or try the syrup with sparkling water for a non-alcholoic option.