Drunken Botanist Cocktail Recipes
1.5 oz vodka
.25 oz ginger liqueur (see note)
1 lemon wedge
Sprig of rosemary
For the most rosemary-ish possible cocktail, pour the vodka into a cocktail shaker and muddle (crush) the rosemary, then cap it and let it sit for an hour or two. This only works if you start early, so otherwise, combine the vodka, ginger liqueur, juice from the lemon wedge, and most of the rosemary in a cocktail shaker, muddle, shake vigorously over ice, and strain into a cocktail glass using a fine mesh strainer to keep out the herbal bits. Garnish with the rest of the rosemary sprig. (Note: Add more ginger liqueur to taste. My new favorite is The King’s Ginger. Domaine de Canton is sweeter and milder but also a good choice. If you have neither, how about fresh ginger simple syrup?)
The Farmers Market
1.5 oz vodka
2-3 ‘Mexican Sour Gherkin’ cucumbers
1-2 stalks ‘Red Venture’ celery
2-3 sprigs cilantro
2-3 slices small spicy or mild peppers
6 cherry tomatoes or 1-2 slices large tomato
Dash of Worcestershire sauce (try Annie’s for a vegetarian version)
3-4 oz Q or Fever Tree tonic water
Reserve a celery stalk, cherry tomato, or cucumber for garnish. Combine all ingredients excep 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.
Making infused vodka:
Infused vodka is easy enough to make—just add herbs, spices, vegetables, or fruit to a clean bottle or jar and fill with vodka. The trick is knowing how long to let it steep:
- Fresh herbs develop a nasty off flavor in as little as 24 hours, so taste it regularly and strain it as soon as you like the flavor.
- Fruits or vegetables can steep for a week or two, but it’s really not necessary: you’ll probably be happy with the flavor after only a day or two.
- Citrus peels and spices can soak for as long as a month or two. Don’t use the cheapest available vodka—find a moderately-priced brand that is affordable but smooth.
A fancier version of infused vodka is an herbal liqueur in the spirit of Chartreuse. Here’s how to do it:
- An assortment of fresh herbs, such as: Lemon verbena, lemon balm, spearmint, fennel, thyme, angelica stems, sage, scented geranium, lemongrass, chamomile, bay, etc.
- Whole (not ground) spices such as star anise, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, saffron.
- Citrus peel (the thin outer zest only) of lemons or oranges.
- Simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until the sugar dissolves and then cooled)
- Everclear or vodka.
If Everclear brings back terrible memories from your college days, it’s time to reassess. It’s nothing but a very pure, all-grain spirit intended specifically for this kind of blending. But if you prefer vodka, just don’t get the cheapest possible brand—it’ll have a nasty bite that all the herbs in the world can’t overcome.
Most recipes call for combining all ingredients, in whatever quantity suits you, and letting them age together for a few days to a few weeks. But I have learned that fresh herbs can go from fabulous to dreadful very quickly in an infusion. So my suggestion is this: Carefully wash and trim your herbs, then add them to a clean mason jar. Fill it with the booze, cap it tightly, and let it sit in a dark spot for 5-6 hours. Taste it. If it’s wonderful, you’re done. If you’re not satisfied, give it a little more time, but more than 24 hours is pushing it. Strain the herbs, then add citrus peel and spices, both of which can sit in alcohol for much longer without developing an off flavor.
Continue to taste it regularly. You might be pleased with the result after just a few days or a week. Then strain the mixture again, and add simple syrup to taste. Let it sit for 3-4 weeks, then drink it within a few months—it’s not intended to keep forever.
1.5 oz white rum
.5 oz lemongrass simple syrup
3-4 sprigs ‘Mojito’ mint or another spearmint
1 stick lemongrass
4-6 oz club soda
Reserve one sprig of mint for garnish. Make simple syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water until the sugar melts, then add the lemongrass allow to cool and steep for one hour.
Combine rum, simple syrup, mint, and lemongrass in a cocktail shaker, then squeeze lime juice into shaker and drop the lime in. Using a muddler or a wooden spoon, gently crush all ingredients to release the flavors. Add ice and shake thoroughly, then strain into a glass of crushed ice. Top with club soda and garnish with mint.
The Frezier Affair
This is a twist on a recipe from The Drunken Botanist that celebrates the contributions of Amédée-François Frézier, who introduced Chilean strawberries to Europe. Crosses between the Chilean strawberries and European alpine strawberries led to the large, ripe, juicy berries we enjoy today. The yellow Chartreuse, a French herbal liqueur, is a nod to Frézier’s nationality.
1.5 oz white rum
.5 oz yellow Chartreuse
3-5 alpine strawberries
3-4 lemon verbena leaves
1 lemon wedge
Reserve one small strawberry or a slice for garnish. Squeeze lemon wedge into a cocktail shaker and add the other ingredients. Gently crush the berries and herbs with a muddler. Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry.
The Berry Patch
1.5 oz white rum
.5 oz simple syrup
Strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries
½ lime, fresh-squeezed
Optional: Soda or sparkling wine
Reserve one mint sprig or berry for garnish. Squeeze lime into a cocktail shaker and add the other ingredients. Gently crush the berries and herbs with a muddler. Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with soda or sparkling wine if desired, then add garnish.
Agave y Sandía
1.5 oz 100% agave tequila
.5 oz Combier or another orange liqueur
4-5 chunks fresh watermelon
¼ fresh lime
3-4 sprigs‘Margarita’ spearmint or rosemary
Optional: fresh jalapeño slice
Reserve a chunk of watermelon or herb sprig for garnish. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and crush with a muddler or wooden spoon, being sure to release all the watermelon juice. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Add garnish.
1.5 oz 100% agave añejo or reposado tequila
.5 oz Sage-honey syrup (see note)
½ lemon, preferably a Meyer lemon
Sage leaf for garnish
Note: To make sage-honey syrup, combine equal parts hot water and honey, and add fresh sage leaves. Allow to steep for one hour before using.
Squeeze lemon into cocktail shaker and add the other ingredients. Shake well with ice and strain into a glass over ice. Add garnish.
1.5 oz 100% agave tequila
2 oz pineapple juice (fresh if possible)
.5 oz agave nectar or simple syrup
2-3 fresh jalapeño slices
2-3 sage leaves
½ small lime
Optional: Club soda or lemon-lime soda
Squeeze lime into cocktail shaker and add other ingredients. Muddle sage leaves and peppers to release the flavors. Shake well over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Optional variation: Pour into a tall, skinny Collins glass over ice and top with soda to taste.
1.5 oz Hendrick’s Gin
.5 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
3-4 chunks lemon cucumber
2-3 sprigs basil
Borage blossom or basil leaf for garnish
Squeeze lemon into cocktail shaker and combine all ingredients except the club soda. Muddle cucumber and basil, then add ice, shake, and strain into a tall, skinny Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and add garnish.
1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
¼ fresh lime
.5 oz thyme simple syrup (see note)
Thyme sprig for garnish
Note: Make thyme simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water, heating until sugar melts, then adding fresh thyme leaves and allowing to steep for 1 hour.
Combine all ingredients except club soda and garnish in a cocktail shaker. Shake over ice and strain into a tall, skinny Collins glass, a short tumbler, or a Mason jar filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with thyme sprig.
2 oz bourbon
3-4 tablespoons superfine sugar (see note)
Generous handful of fresh spearmint
Into a silver julep cup, mason jar, or highball glass, press 2 tablespoons of sugar with a small amount of water to create a paste. Add a layer of fresh mint leaves and crush gently. Top it with a layer of crushed ice. Sprinkle sugar and another layer of mint leaves, then top with another layer of crushed ice. Continue until the glass is full, then pour in bourbon.
Note: Superfine sugar dissolves quickly, but regular sugar is fine too. Don’t use powdered sugar—it contains cornstarch and can gum up a drink.
Chamomile Hot Toddy
1-2 oz whiskey
1-2 oz honey-chamomile syrup (see note)
Note: Make honey-chamomile syrup by combining equal parts honey and hot water. Add fresh chamomile blossoms and allow to steep for 1 hour, then strain.
Pour hot water into a heat-proof glass. While you wait for it to heat the glass, press cloves into the rind of the lemon wedge and set aside. Empty the glass and coat the inside with syrup, then add the whiskey and top with hot water. Squeeze the lemon into the drink and drop it into the glass.
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!)
Thyme or tarragon sprig for garnish
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.
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.
Rhubarb and Rye
This is a delightful twist on the classic Manhattan.
Source: Adam Chumas, Tilth
1.5 oz rye whiskey
.5 oz rhubarb-lemon verbena simple syrup
.5 oz fresh lemon juice
.5 oz sweet (red) vermouth
Shake all ingredients over ice and serve in a cocktail glass.
Herbal Simple Syrups
To make your own herbal simple syrups, combine equal parts sugar and water and heat until the sugar melts. Add fresh, clean herbs and steep for one hour. Strain and use immediately, or save in the refrigerator in a tightly-sealed bottle or jar for 2-3 weeks. To make it last longer, add a splash of vodka.
Invent your own garden-inspired cocktails by mixing herbal simple syrups with your favorite spirit—think vodka, gin, or rum—adding lemon or lime juice, and topping with soda or sparkling wine. Garnish with fruit or fresh herbs.