Growing Your Own Cocktails Makes Gardening a Lot More Fun

Three recipes and some sage advice from “The Drunken Botanist.”

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Amy Stewart is a journalist and author who likes to, as Bite podcast host Kiera Butler puts it, “nerd out on plants.” As someone who regularly interviews horticulturists, including for her bestseller The Drunken Botanist,  Stewart has accrued a trove of knowledge about them—poisonous plants, medicinal plants, and culinary plants among them. She used to keep a “poison garden” at home, filled with about 40 specimens that could seriously sicken or even kill a person, but she turned it into a cocktail garden when she realized it would ultimately be more useful.

Bite‘s conversation with Stewart starts at 5:40 in the episode player below.

Stewart has a few tips for would-be cocktail gardeners: “Grow things that you actually like to drink—if you’re not a big fan of mojitos or mint juleps, there’s no reason for you to grow mint,” she says. “My favorite thing to recommend for people to grow in a garden are those plants that are not easy to find in a grocery store and are uniquely good for cocktails as opposed to other kinds of food.” Scented geranium, lemon verbena, lemongrass, lavender are all great examples, she says.

Here are three cocktail recipes from The Drunken Botanist that you can grow from your own garden:

Pineapple Express
(by Tommy Klus, Portland, OR)

In a shaker, lightly muddle pineapple sage leaves in agave nectar, then add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and strain into a coupe or Martini glass. Garnish with a small pineapple sage sprig. (Smack sprig in hand to release the plant’s aromatic oils.)

The Farmers Market

  • 1.5 oz vodka; gin or tequila would also be lovely in this drink.
  • 2-3 ‘Mexican Sour Gherkin’ cucumbers or regular cucumbers
  • 1-2 stalks celery
  • 2-3 sprigs cilantro or basil
  • 2-3 slices small spicy or mild peppers
  • 6 cherry tomatoes or 1-2 slices large tomato
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 oz tonic water

Reserve a celery stalk, cherry tomato, or cucumber for garnish.  Combine all ingredients except the tonic water in a cocktail shaker and gently crush the vegetables and herbs, making sure to release the tomato juice.  Shake with ice and strain into a tumbler filled with ice.  Top with tonic water and add garnish.

Summer Peach Old-Fashioned

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • .5 oz thyme or tarragon simple syrup (see note)
  • Half of a fresh peach (optional upgrade: Grill the peach first!)
  • Angostura bitters
  • Thyme or tarragon sprig for garnish

Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and muddle the peach to release the juice. Shake well over ice, then strain into a short tumbler filled with ice. Add a dash of bitters and garnish with herbs.

Note: Make simple syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water until the sugar melts. Add herbs and allow to steep for one hour, then strain.