Mint. Basil. Shiso. Lemon Verbena. Rosemary. Cilantro. Dill. Whether they're muddled, infused, or simply snipped for a pretty and fragrant garnish, fresh herbs make a wonderful addition to summer cocktails. Here are 20 herbal (and boozy) drink recipes we love:
Cool, astringent, and ever so slightly sweet, mint plays up the luscious flavors of fruit and complements the rich warmth of alcohol. No wonder it's such a summer cocktail staple.
- Mint Julep: The ultimate mint cocktail. Bourbon, sugar, fresh mint leaves, and crushed ice.
- Peach Whiskey Smash: Bourbon, mint, fresh peach slices, simple syrup, water. Like a mint julep with fruit (see pic below).
- Pimm's Cup: The herbal-flavored, gin-based liqueur, Pimm's topped up with ginger ale, 7UP, or sparkling lemonade, and generously garnished with fresh fruits, vegetables - and mint. (If you're lucky enough to have access to fresh borage, slip in a leaf of that too!)
- Pimm's Italiano with Mint Lemon Fernet-Branca: Pimm's, Fernet-Branca, mint, cucumber, lemon, topped up with ginger ale. The addition of the bitter herbal liqueur, Fernet-Branca, takes the old classic in a new direction.
- Lillet Sin: Lillet Blanc, mint, lime, fresh ginger root, and club soda. Nothing so sinful about that, is there?
- The Cuke: Gin or vodka, mint, cucumber, lime, sugar, club soda.
- Watermelon Mojito: Rum, mint, watermelon, lime juice, simple syrup. A tall cool cocktail from the NYC Indian restaurant, Tabla.
- Leninade: Citrus vodka, mint, lemon juice, grenadine, simple syrup, Sprite. A Russian-inspired take on lemonade from the NYC vodka bar, Pravda.
Savory-sweet with a peppery edge, basil's been turning up in many garden-inspired cocktails lately.
- Pineapple Basil Cocktail: Elizabeth's creation includes gin, basil, pineapple juice, lime, and club soda.
- Rhubarb Basil Cocktail: Another recipe from Elizabeth with vodka, basil, rhubarb, and club soda.
- Lillet Basil Cocktail: Gin, Lillet Blanc, basil, garnished with cucumber and cinnamon sticks.
- Strawberry Basil Lemonade: Strawberry vodka, sliced and pureed strawberries, basil, and lemonade.
- Corzo Lemon Basil Cocktail: Tequila, triple sec, lemon, basil, simple syrup, and club soda.
Also known as "Japanese basil," shiso's flavor is often described as a cross between basil and mint. For an Asian-inspired twist, muddle it into Mojitos and other cocktail recipes calling for mint.
- Shiso-Yuzu Mojito: Citrus vodka, shiso, yuzu rind, sugar, lime, club soda.
- Iced Green Tea Mojito: White rum, shiso leaves, lime juice, sugar, green tea.
Delicate, citrusy, and floral. A natural for summer drinks.
- Lemon Verbena and Orange Blossom Fizz: Faith's creation, featuring homemade lemon verbena syrup, muddled lemon verbena leaves, orange flower water, club soda, and lemon (see pic above).
Savory and pine-y, this assertive herb can be mellowed for cocktail use by simmering it with sugar and water to make a fragrant syrup.
- Blackberry Herb Cocktail: Prosecco (or another sparkling white wine) mixed with a homemade syrup made from rosemary, blackberries, sugar, and water.
- Rosemary Ruby Cocktail: Vodka, grapefruit juice, and bitters mixed with a homemade rosemary syrup.
Love it or hate it, cilantro has plenty of uses in the kitchen. How about a cocktail?
- Kachumber Cooler: Gin, cilantro, cucumber, chilies, lime juice, and simple syrup (see pic above). Spicy-cool.
These delicate fronds add a playful touch to a drink.
- Gogol: A vodka Martini garnished with a pickled quail egg and a pickled frond of dill. A real head-turner.
This is just a start. Do you have any favorite cocktails with fresh herbs?
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.
(Images: Rhubarb Basil Cocktail by Elizabeth Passarella; Blackberry Herb Cocktail, Rosemary Ruby Cocktail by Kathryn Hill; Lemon Verbena Orange Blossom Fizz by Faith Durand. All others, Nora Maynard.)
(Originally published June 11, 2010.)