I love fresh herbs in cocktails. They are great for syrups and garnish. With extra time at home, I decided that it could be fun to grow a cocktail herb garden. I grew up gardening alongside my parents, but it was not something I continued to do when I got older. My memories of gardening are mostly weeding, which was not the most fun. As I grew up and became more adventurous with food and cocktails, I started to appreciate fresh ingredients more.
Having herbs available in your yard or patio keeps them fresh and affordable. I definitely miss the rhubarb we had in our backyard when I was growing up. Since I am making a lot more adventurous drinks lately, planting a cocktail herb garden seemed like a good idea. Here’s how I did it.
What You Need for a Cocktail Herb Garden
I like to just start doing something. I don’t usually read the instructions, and things generally take longer than I want them to. To say I am impatient is an understatement. Part of the reason why I have never planted a garden is because you need to plan things out. (Okay, I did plant a veggie garden once and it was a disaster.) Seedlings could have been a better option, but because I wanted specific herbs for cocktails, I went with seeds.
Popular Herbs for Cocktails
I thought about the herbs I buy most often for cocktails when I was planning what to plant. Since our neighborhood is full of bunnies, squirrels, and birds, keeping the garden on our porch was a must. My patio gets full sun, so I did some research about what plants might do best for my cocktail garden. I decided on a few classic herbs like sage and peppermint, along with some edible flowers.
Wanting to spice things up a bit, I also bought some more exotic herbs too, cinnamon basil and lemon mint. I ordered some seeds through Etsy, and picked up a couple more packs at the store. And, if you’ve ever been on Etsy, you’ll know that there are always other things you need. These customized, wooden markers ($2 each) are too cute and will help me remember where things are planted.
Along with my normal travel schedule, comes a desire for low-maintenance plants. When I found this self-watering planter, I was sold! Water is added through a pipe and, with the correct potting soil, is drawn up to the plants. It has vents on the sides of the box to prevent over watering and a cover to hold the moisture in. The planter box is pretty specific about what to buy, which I appreciate because it saved me some research. The planter instructions recommend this lime to regulate the acidity of the soil and this fertilizer to feed the plants in a time-released manner.
Step 1. Plan Your Cocktail Herb Garden
I pulled out some graph paper from college (very old!), and got to work. Based on the dimensions of the planter, I drew out the template of the box. After punching out some circles, I started moving things around to estimate a layout. I realized that I was probably going to need a second planter for the herbs that need more room. (And for the exotic seeds I am still waiting on to arrive.) Some herbs don’t like to be crowded, so make sure you spend a little time on this.
Step 2. Prep Your Cocktail Herb Garden
Another thing I really like about the planter box is that the instructions were super clear. I literally followed them step-by-step and it seemed to resemble the diagram well enough. In order to lightly wet the soil, I would definitely recommend using a bucket. It’s a lot easier to stir and get an even mix than pouring soil and water directly into the planter.
Adding the lime to neutralize the soil comes right before mixing it with the top layer of soil. The tree in the foreground is my lime tree that’s been doing really well this year. It hasn’t produced many limes in the last two years. But I think it can take awhile to work its way up to full production. (Fingers crossed!) Making cocktails with freshly grown herbs and limes, yum! After the lime is mixed with the top layer of soil, fertilizer is added in 2″ troughs. When you plant your garden, the placement will depend on your layout.
Step 3. Plant Your Cocktail Herb Garden
The box all ready for planting. And the last step in the process is to cut holes in the cover and plant the seeds. All of the seeds I planted required very shallow planting depths. Once the holes were cut, the seeds were planted just below the surface of the soil. In most cases, I added more than one seed just in case one didn’t sprout. Gardeners, you can leave me your opinion on that. I figure if more than one sprouts, I can discard or replant any extras.
See how tiny some of the seeds are? I am crossing my fingers that they sprout. If summer is just starting where you live, what are you waiting for? Join me in planting your own cocktail garden. Cheers!
Updates on My Cocktail Herb Garden
It’s been about a month and I have made some progress, as you can see. It’s definitely not easy growing from seed and I have started some seeds inside to replant. The edible flowers are the least successful, which I would not have guessed. They are just leaves at this point. I also had to figure out that full sun on my porch is TOO much sun, and I moved things to partial shade. This has helped a lot. The sage and basil are the early winners and I have used both in cocktails. Sharing the recipes below. Cheers!
Thai Basil Jalapeño Margarita
- 1.5 oz tequila blanco
- 0.75 oz jalapeño vodka
- 1 oz jalapeño basil syrup
- 0.5 oz fresh lime juice
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake. (Recipe for jalapeño basil syrup here.)
- Double strain over ice and serve with a basil leaf garnish.
- If you don't have jalapeño vodka, you can infuse regular vodka with fresh jalapeños. Just slice and soak for an hour.
Rhubarb Sage Cooler
- 2 oz London dry gin
- 0.5 stalk fresh rhubarb
- 0.25 lemon w/rind
- 3 leaves fresh sage
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 3 oz tonic water
- Add rhubarb, lemon, sage, and sugar to a shaker and muddle well.
- Add gin and ice and shake until frost appears on the shaker.
- Add tonic water to the shaker slowly and strain into a glass with ice and a peel of rhubarb.
- Top with a sage leaf and enjoy!
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