An isolated summer is a perfect time to plant an herb garden. Herbs are essential to many cocktails, and a great addition to any drink, along with a few splashes of The Bitter Housewife bitters of course. You can muddle herbs and make something like a refreshing mojito, add herbs to your own aromatic simple syrup (we’ll tell you how to do that in a bit), or garnish your cocktail with a flourish. I’m even a fan of freezing them in your ice cubes for a totally unexpected visual treat.
Afraid you don’t have space to grow herbs? Don’t worry. We’ve chosen four that are great for containers in small spaces or can even be grown inside next to a sunny window. Mint, Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme can all be grown indoors or outdoors, depending on the space you have available. A good tip with growing plants indoors is finding a few spots in the house that get the kind of light each one needs. In the summertime, these locations might be different than the winter, rotate your plants’ location according to how much sunlight they need to thrive. Or move them outside even if all you have is a patio, balcony, or fire escape.
Mint is a hardy herb, as in almost impossible to kill except for straight out neglect. But hey, if you do? No judgment. It’s also fairly inexpensive to replace and you don’t need to tell anyone.
Mint prefers partial shade, so for fellow Pacific Northwesterners, this is a great plant to grow in your home as full sun exposure is not necessary. Find the right partially shady spot, so as not to scorch the plant and keep it watered and moist in a well-draining container.
Make sure you’re regularly harvesting the mint. If you can’t keep up, mint can always be dried or frozen for later use. Regularly pruning your plant is a great way to ensure it continues to produce lush, healthy leaves for your cocktails.
Cocktail: Soft Shock
5 mint leaves
1 tsp simple syrup
1.5 oz fino sherry
.5 oz gin
.75 oz lime juice
5 dashes The Bitter Housewife Cardamom Bitters
Soda water to top
Muddle the mint, simple syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass. Add sherry, gin, lime juice, and ice. Stir till well chilled, then strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Top with soda and garnish with mint.
Rosemary is easy to grow, but it can be a challenge to maintain because it’s always thirsty. You can relate, right? But I think it’s worth the effort, especially if you a little outdoor space. Rosemary in cocktails is just unexpected enough that your friends will think you’re a genius for using it.
Rosemary loves sunlight (about 6 hours a day), but also moisture to thrive. No desert baby here, it’s all about sunny, sea-breezed Mediterranean locales. According to SF Gate, rosemary can easily dry out indoors if you’re not regularly misting the plant. That water bottle you keep for the cat or your children should do just fine for the Rosemary too.
Just like mint, make sure you’re regularly harvesting your rosemary. It helps them grow dense and lush. If you can’t make enough cocktails infused with rosemary, try some rosemary biscuits, or dare we say rosemary sourdough? You can also dry the cuttings for future use.
Cocktail: Rosemary Gimlet
2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce rosemary syrup*
3 dashes The Bitter Housewife Lime Coriander Bitters
Measure the gin, lime juice, rosemary syrup, and bitters into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker halfway with ice, cover, and shake the gimlet mixture, about twenty seconds, until very cold. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary or a slice of fresh lime.
*recipe for rosemary syrup below
Basil is the most finicky of all these herbs. How many of you have bought those basil plants at the grocery store, brought them home, and thought “This is going to be awesome!” and then the plant lasts for about a week before it dies? Yeah, I’ve been there.
Basil loves sun, but it will scorch if you keep it in a location that gets a lot of mid-day sun. Direct morning sunlight is preferred for growing a healthy basil plant. And don’t water the leaves, basil doesn’t like that at all. Simply water at the base as soon as the soil is dry to the touch.
If you notice your plant is getting top-heavy or if it starts flowering, do some trimming and make sure to snip off those flowers. Basil is super fun in cocktails. I especially love it with ripe summer berries and melon. Try this simple spritz and swap in any summer fruit you like.
Cocktail: Strawberry Basil Spritz
3 oz Dry Vermouth
2 whole strawberries sliced
2-3 basil leaves roughly torn
4 dashes The Bitter Housewife Grapefruit Bitters
3 oz soda water
Add vermouth, strawberries, basil, and bitters to a mixing glass. Muddle until the strawberries are pulp and no large pieces remain. Strain into a wine or collins glass, add ice, top with soda water and give a gentle stir. Garnish with a basil leaf.
Thyme (And Lemon Thyme)
As a kid, I used to call thyme pizza flowers because if you rubbed the leaves between your fingers I thought it smelled just like pizza sauce. I now know thyme to be much more versatile than just pizza. It is also incredibly easy to grow in a container. While I’m a fan of plain old thyme, lemon thyme is also great in cocktails and brings a lovely lemon flavor to the earthy nature of thyme.
Thyme loves sunlight, but it can handle indirect sunlight if you don’t have a sunny spot for your time. The good news? Thyme is drought resistant, so if you forget to water the plant, don’t worry. Just make sure you don’t overwater, Gardening Know How suggests growing in a clay pot to allow the soil to dry out in between waterings.
How to use thyme? Try this twist on a classic cocktail, the Tom Collins by subbing a grapefruit-thyme syrup for simple and lemon juice. Even non-gin fans will love this one.
Cocktail: Grapefruit-Thyme Collins
2 oz Old Tom or London Dry gin
1 oz grapefruit-thyme syrup*
4 dashes The Bitter Housewife Grapefruit Bitters
*recipe for grapefruit-thyme syrup below
Shake the gin, bitters, and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice, pour over ice in your preferred glass, top off with 3-4 oz of soda water, and garnish with a sprig of thyme.
How to make herb simple syrup
The best way to use herbs in your cocktails is by infusing them into a simple syrup. That way you get all the flavor and no pieces in your teeth, especially for tougher herbs like thyme and rosemary.
It’s pretty simple. Ha. Get it? Add ½ cup of granulated sugar, ½ cup of water, and a few sprigs (about 2 tablespoons) of your desired herb to a saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Taste, if you don’t feel the flavor of the herb is strong enough, keep over low heat for 5-10 more minutes to infuse more flavor. Let the syrup cool down, strain into a tightly sealed jar, and keep in your refrigerator up to a month. Use in any cocktail that calls for simple syrup.
This isn’t much different than the simple syrup above, however instead of water use ½ of grapefruit juice. Throw in 4 or so sprigs of fresh time and heat till the sugar dissolves. I like to let this one go a little longer to get lots of thyme flavor, but you decide how strong you’d like it to be.