How to Create a Cocktail Garden
Mocktail, the latest Tik Tok-tail, or a low ABV…whatever your ‘tipple’ nothing beats sipping something chilled and refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
One way to raise the bar on your ‘usual’ is with your very own cocktail garden for stylish signature drinks.
What is a cocktail garden?
Imagine a ready supply of freshly picked herbs, edible flowers, juicy berries and zesty citrus to infuse your concoctions, tantalise your taste buds and impress your friends.
Lottie Muir, aka the Cocktail Gardener, has been perfecting the art of botanical cocktail making from garden to glass for guests at the Midnight Apothecary for twelve seasons. Her award-winning rooftop cocktail garden and seasonal pop-up bar is perched on top of the Brunel Museum Tunnel Shaft in Rotherhithe
She has carefully chosen each plant in the garden for its culinary value or to attract nectar-loving insects. But this garden is so much more than a cornucopia of flavours and garnishes, it provides an enchanting, scented spot for drinks after dark lit with flares, hurricane lanterns and fairy lights. Plus, it provides plenty of inspiration for budding cocktail gardeners if you’re lucky enough to visit.
So where should you start if you want to get your hands dirty cocktail gardening by day and mastering mixology by night?
Here are some of the best edibles to give your libations a garden-fresh kick of flavour.
Best herb and florals to grow for cocktail making
Mint is one of the most popular herbs for cocktails because of its refreshing flavour. It pairs well with citrus fruits, berries, and many other cocktail ingredients. Chocolate mint has a sensational fragrance reminiscent of After Eights and tastes great in a julep. Whatever variety you choose, it’s incredibly easy to grow and is best grown in pots or containers to prevent it from spreading too much.
Basil is another popular herb that adds a unique flavour to cocktails. It’s best known for its use in Italian cuisine but can be used in a variety of cocktails as well. It pairs well with gin, vodka, and many other spirits. Combine with chopped oregano and parsley to freshen up a Bloody Mary with a lovage stem to stir or pair with strawberries for a whisky smash.
Rosemary has a strong, distinct flavour that adds depth to cocktails. It pairs well with gin, vodka, and tequila, and is best used in small amounts. Try it smoked in a Negroni Sour. Rosemary is also great for garnishing cocktails with its sprigs.
Thyme is a versatile herb that pairs well with a variety of spirits, including gin, vodka, and whiskey. Its light, earthy flavour adds a refreshing touch to cocktails. Orange thyme is particularly delicious with pear or any fruit puree.
Sage is easy to grow from cuttings and look after. This herb adds a unique flavour to cocktails. It adds a subtle earthy flavour that pairs well with a variety of spirits, from gin to whiskey. Charred sage coupled with Douglas Fir vodka makes Lottie Muir’s Woodland Martini taste like a walk in the woods.
Lavender is a beautiful and fragrant herb that adds a delicate floral flavour to cocktails. It pairs well with gin, vodka, and champagne, and is best used in small amounts to avoid overpowering the drink. Lottie suggests, “Just before the lavender flowers open, pick a dozen heads and put them in a bottle of gin for a couple of hours. The liquid goes pink.”
These flowers are easy to grow in pots. Lottie packs the leaves and flowers in white rum and leaves it for two to three days. Add lime juice and crushed ice. This gives you the pepperiness of the nasturtium leaves coming through. The flowers also make a great garnish.
Borage is generally easy to grow with blooms that will flourish in full sun. These blue star-shaped borage flowers taste of cucumber and make a great addition to Pimms.
Presentation is everything
Boozy, no or low alcohol, it’s entirely your choice, but just make sure it’s fancy.
Pinterest predicted ‘Free Spirits’ is one of the big trends of 2023 with searches for fancy non-alcoholic drinks, creative cocktail garnish ideas, fancy ice cubes and creative cocktail presentation proving popular.
Many of us are thinking differently about alcohol and drinking on our own terms. What we want, when we want and where we want.
Garden bar ideas
Tending your own well stocked garden bar is all part of the fun. There are so many garden building options with bar appeal to choose from. Perhaps you’re looking for a maximalist, luxury gazebo with shelves to display a curated collection of spirits and syrups, a fridge for chilled bubbles and a dry bar? Or is your own speakeasy with stunning dark wood wet bar more your style where you can be as elusive as you please? The studio range also make great drinking dens like this gin palace on our showsite in Staffordshire.
What to drink?
Move over the Negroni Sbagliato, what are the ‘It’ botanical drinks to quaff this summer?
The Hugo Spritz
Add elderflower liqueur to a large wine glass with 2-3 mint leaves. Lightly bruise the mint in the glass then add ice, white wine and soda water. Stir gently and garnish with a slice of lemon and mint sprigs.
Lilac Lemon Drop Martini
This cocktail has the tartness of a classic lemon drop martini with the delicate and fresh flavours of lilac. The infusion of lilac blossoms in the simple syrup adds a subtle floral note that perfectly complements the lemon and vodka. Garnish with tiny lilac blossoms and a lemon twist for a sophisticated drink.
Tequila is having a moment this summer! This twist on the classic margarita is sure to impress. To make it, muddle a few fresh rosemary leaves with lime juice and agave syrup in a shaker. Add tequila and ice, then shake until well combined. Strain into a glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Raspberry & Scented Geranium Sour mocktail
This pink little number is on the drinks menu at the Midnight Apothecary and the recipe is shared here. Scented geranium shrub takes the raspberry and lemon to a whole new depth of flavour. The frothy body of the egg-white foam provides a mildness and beautiful mouth-feel in contrast to the strong, punchy gold rum, creating a very balanced, luxurious cocktail.
When the mercury is rising who doesn’t want to reach for a grown up slushie! This frosty cocktail ticks all the boxes and puts gin back on the list of go-to drinks for the summer. The sugared or fresh rose petal garnish elevates it to an Instagrammable photo finish.
A garnish puts the finishing touch to your cocktail but also rounds out the flavour. This summer go all out. Try dehydrated fruit slices, edible flowers, loaded cocktail picks and rimming the lip of your glass with sugar, fennel pollen, cocoa powder or nibs, chilli powder, dried or fresh herbs
Fancy ice cubes
A relatively cheap way to prettify your cocktails is with fancy ice cubes. Fill them with fun ingredients with edible glitter, frozen fruit or florals. Alternatively invest in ice cube trays with novelty shapes and patterns. Diamond shaped ice cubes have become popular as have spherical ice cubes which melt at a slower rate.
Other creative cocktail ideas
Avant-garde presentations are all the rage in the cocktail world. A trend perhaps fuelled by Netflix’s Drink Masters. Mixologists around the world are making their mark with vapour, smoke, foam, gel or unusual food pairings.
It’s also worth turning your attentions to unusual glassware and decanters to create unforgettable experiences with every sip.