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How to make cocktails with herbs from your very own garden

Whether you’re a green-fingered gardener or a dab hand in the kitchen, growing your own herbs has many uses. Our favourite benefit? Adding them to cocktails of course.

You don’t have to be an expert to get started on your own cocktail herb garden. Most herbaceous plants are easy to grow, take up minimal space and provide plenty of foliage to last you a whole season of punches, spritzes and highballs.

And then there’s the extra level of impressiveness to consider. Crafts their own cocktails AND grows their own herbs? That’s what we’re talking about.

Ready to get growing? Here’s how to sow your own fresh cocktail herbs – and some delicious recipes to get you started.

First up, what is a cocktail herb garden?

To put it simply, it’s a collection of your favourite homegrown herbs that you can snip and pick to add to your drinks at home. Whether it’s muddling in the cocktail mix or adding as a fancy garnish, this really is the best way to ensure everything you sip is as fresh as a daisy – or bunch of basil, mint sprig, or whatever herb takes your fancy.

As long as they’re edible, there’s not many rules when it comes to choosing your plants. But if you’re after some inspiration, here are some of the best herbs for cocktails that both beginners and horticulturists will enjoy.

5 best herbs to use in cocktails

1. Mint

Mint is one of our favourite garnishes here at The Glenlivet. Perfect for zesty light cocktails, a sprig of green leaves can add a fresh touch to any beverage from the traditional mojito to a mint whisky julep.

Pair it with tropical fruits for a summer refresher like our popular watermelon punch, or shake it up with citrus flavours in our Coco Lime Smash. You can also try different varieties to mix up your flavours from the more recognised spearmint and peppermint to Moroccan, chocolate and orange.

The best way to grow mint is in a large pot, whether in your garden or in a sometimes-sunny windowsill. Pop it in the ground and it’ll spread like wildfire – so it’s best to stick to a container for this simple shrub. The trick is to ensure the soil stays moist and to trim the tips regularly to encourage growth – just another excuse to get the shaker out.

2. Chamomile

Fans of florals will want to add chamomile to their cocktail herb garden. The plant’s earthy, sweet blossoms make a pretty addition to a lightly coloured drink with notes of honey, peach, citrus and berries.

And it pairs perfectly with the smoothie creamy finish of The Glenlivet whisky too. Try yours in Small Voice of Calm, a whisky lemon cocktail that’s the perfect tonic for a hectic day.

As well as elevating your cocktails, chamomile can be infused, brewed or muddled to make liqueurs, cordials and a calming tea for cool evenings.

Chamomile is an excellent herb for first-time growers and busy cocktail shakers, requiring very little care or attention. Grow your plant in cool conditions, either in part shade or sunny corners, and pick flowers regularly to pop in a highball or dry out in a warm, dark spot to use later.

3. Basil

Sweet basil leaves might be a more unexpected addition to a cocktail recipe – but they’ll soon become a go-to garnish. This aromatic plant adds a balanced touch of sweet and savoury, complementing most common fruits from lemon and lime to strawberry and rhubarb.

Try with a fruity whisky cocktail such as Grain and Cane, a refreshing raspberry highball with plenty of ice.

There’s a few types to choose from (or combine in one big pot), each of which have slightly different flavour profiles. The sweet and lemon variations are true to their name, whilst Thai basil delivers a bold liquorice flavour that works well with fruity ingredients.

Basil thrives in moist soil and sheltered environments, so keep your pot watered and shady. Make sure to pinch off any blooms to avoid flowering and promote a bushier plant.

4. Lavender

Your patio or garden may already be blessed with this fragrant, floral plant – but did you know you can embellish your cocktails with it too? Lavender isn’t just a beautiful bloom to sniff and admire; it’s a key ingredient that deserves a permanent place on your bar cart.

The beloved purple buds can be simply sprinkled or gracefully placed over a foamy sweet coupe glass. But if you want to inject lavender into your flavours too (and why wouldn’t you?) you’ll need to get crafty in the kitchen.

Steep some freshly picked stems in sugar and water to make a sweet lavender syrup you can readily pour into any recipe, from a lemon based spritz to a whisky royale topped with crisp champagne.

You’ll want to place your lavender plant in direct sunlight and keep it well pruned over summer to keep flowers growing back year after year.

5. Rosemary

This particularly herbaceous shrub is a favourite for kitchen gardeners – and cocktail makers. The dark, aromatic leaves feature in many herb cocktail recipes from crisp summer coolers to rich tangy warmers. We love to feature ours in Side Kick, the ultimate winter whisky cocktail for showing off your mixology skills.

Perfect for muddling, garnishing or acting as an au natural cocktail stirrer, a rosemary sprig has many uses behind the bar. Leave it as it is, or go wild and light it on fire to smoke a glass for extra aroma and theatrics. 

It’s best to nurture rosemary from a ready-grown plant. Pick a sunny, sheltered position and water regularly during hotter months. Just watch out for wet roots in rainy weather – like all of us, rosemary hates a soggy bottom and may need to be elevated to keep it safe from cold, wet floors.

Other great herbs for cocktails include thyme, lemongrass, sage and tarragon. You can’t really go wrong. So get down to the local garden centre and pick a few pots that take your fancy.

After more herby cocktail recipes? Take a look at our library of whisky cocktails to get inspired for your next round.