Spring has sprung and herbs like basil, rosemary, mint, and sage are on the verge of growing like the vines in “Jumanji.” Since it’s National Herb Week and your inclination may be to toss some fragrant greens in a sauce or dip, why not kick things up a notch by incorporating some flora into your favorite cocktails?
We sat down with Kevin Argus from Le Grande at the Time Hotel to discuss the trend of mixing herbs with booze, as well as some helpful tips for bartending novices who want to impress their future dinner guests. Needless to say, your Happy Hour is about to get a lot more refreshing. Drink up!
Some major takeaways:
Do not abuse herbs.
Herbs come in all different shapes, sizes, and flavors, so it only makes sense to give them personalized attention. While some fare better muddled or gently rubbed, others can be burned to simply capture their pleasant aromas. No matter the plant, Argus reminds us that that herbs are delicate ingredients that deserve special, tender care. “Be gentle,” he advises. “You don’t want to destroy [them].”
Herb-infused or derived liqueurs make great substitutes.
It may be difficult to find an herb like elderflower on grocery store shelves, but a liqueur like St. Germain does the trick. The only downside to working with herb-infused liqueurs is that the cocktail may not taste as “fresh” as its garden-picked counterparts. It’s also difficult to manage the flavor potency of certain alcohols, as the herb may be highly concentrated or too diluted with different brands.
Herbs are versatile.
You may think that basil pairs best with vodka or sage pairs best with gin, but herbs are quite versatile. What’s more important is what they’re mixed with, along with harmonious ingredient quantities. “Any herb can pair with any cocktail. The most important thing is balance,” Argus reveals.
Do not be afraid of making simple syrup. It lives up to its name.
“They’re called simple because they are simple,” says Argus. “Making your own simple syrup at home is one of the easiest things you can do [to] really impress your guests.” Simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, which can then be customized to include boiled and strained herbs, fruits, and spices. It makes an excellent (and necessary) addition to create cocktails with more complex flavors. Get our Rich Simple Syrup recipe.
A great cocktail follows the Three S Rule.
It’s gotta have a spirit, it’s gotta have a sweet, and it’s gotta have a sour. The spirit is self-explanatory, but the sweet and sour components can be tailored around specific tastes. Herbs can help to provide more depth of flavor for each element, leading to an invigorating cocktail trifecta.
Do not underestimate the power of a garnish.
A sprig of mint can completely change the notes of a drink. Since smell is closely correlated with taste, something as basic as water can be altered with an herb leaf resting on its surface.
Looking to make the cocktails featured in the video above? Check them out here!
The Whiskey Sour gets a summertime facelift with the addition of muddled blueberries and basil. Get the recipe.
Who knew that tea time could be so scandalous? You’ll be blaming this Earl Grey based concoction featuring gin and sage-honey. Get the recipe.