By Debbie Boutelier
Join Debbie Boutelier for a new webinar on Thursday, October 20th, at 1 pm Eastern. See below for details!
Fall and winter are the perfect “thyme” to enjoy some new seasonal herbal libations. As we move away from the oppressive heat of summer with our icy and light drinks enjoyed by the pool or lakeside, we can curate our offerings with the stronger, more flavorful herbs. Herbal cocktails and mocktails continue to be very popular and have the perfect flavor profile for wowing our guests as we entertain for the holidays.
Throughout the ages, herbs have been added to drinks because they aided digestion; they were fortifying for the seasons; they lifted one’s mood; and they smelled and tasted absolutely amazing! Crafting a flavorful cocktail to offer your guests is easy and a lot of fun. Using your creativity and a few good herbal tricks, you can develop your own signature cocktail that your guests will be talking about and begging you for the recipe.
Here are a few tips to get you started on your creative and tasty journey:
Start with the classics and embellish them with herbs. One of the very first cocktails I enjoyed was a classic Bloody Mary. I loved tomato juice, and I was totally infatuated and intrigued with the celery stick garnish. (It didn’t take much to impress me at that early age!) Now, I have so much fun with a Bloody Mary, and it doesn’t taste anything like that Plain Jane Bloody Mary of years past. There are so many herbs that pair nicely with tomatoes. With a high-powered blender, add a few Mediterranean herbs to the juice. There will be a wonderful flavor without the flecks of herbs floating in the glass. Then, to top it off, add a salted rim around the top. Not just any plain salt will do. Make your own finishing salt with chile and a little lime. Yum!
Make an herbal infusion as the primary base of a cocktail. One of my favorites this week (it changes frequently!) is a hibiscus, ginger, and mint infusion. Add a couple of droppers of a citrus bitter that you can easily make and top with tonic water or club soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint and an orange twist.
Make an herbal simple syrup. Simple syrup is in the DNA of any southern gal, but is easy to make. Start with one cup of filtered water. Add one cup of organic cane sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Add an herb of choice, remove from the heat and cover. Let sit for at least fifteen minutes. Taste. If a stronger flavor is desired, remove the herb and add some fresh. Let steep a little longer. Removing the spent herb is important as it may get bitter and ruin the syrup. The syrup can be refrigerated for up to a week and frozen if needed. For fall and winter, an elderberry syrup is a good choice. Elderberries are a great way to drink your medicine as they are very effective against colds and flu. Make an Elderberry Champagne Cocktail by adding 1 ounce of gin and 1 ounce of elderberry syrup to a champagne flute. Top with chilled Champagne and garnish with a berry skewer. This takes toasting to a whole different level!
Now it’s time to party! Invite a few friends over, serve some appetizers and your wonderful new herbal creations, and enjoy the accolades. Salut!
There is still time to register for Holiday Herbs Cocktail Party on Thursday, October 20th, at 1 pm Eastern. The webinar, free for members and just $7.50 for all others, will include recipes, tips, and techniques for creating your own signature holiday cocktails. A recording is emailed following the presentation if you are unable to attend. https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/herb-education/hsa-webinars/
Photo credits: 1) Bourbon mint tea (Creative Commons, thebittenword); 2) Bloody Mary (Creative Commons, TheCulinaryGeek); 3) Sage gin with rosemary (Creative Commons, danielle_blue).
Debbie Boutelier is The Herb Society of America’s GreenBridges Chair and HSA Past President. She is an Alabama Advanced Master Gardener and has studied the medicinal uses of herbs for many years, completing a three-year intensive study of the medicinal aspect of herbs at the Appalachian Center of Natural Health. Debbie now teaches nationally and presents seminars and workshops on the many aspects of herbs, organic gardening, nutrition, and other garden related topics. Debbie’s herb passion has led to the creation of her small cottage herb business, Rooted in Thyme Apothecary.