It may not be unusual to enjoy a drink in the garden. What is unusual—or was until recently when it started to become something of a fad—is growing ingredients for your drink. Leave the specialty hops to the basement brewmasters and the grapes to the boutique wineries, we’re talking about plants used in mixed drinks. In other words, a cocktail garden.
If that sounds far-fetched, consider that many of the most common suspects are grown for culinary uses. Many are herbs, among them mint, rosemary, lavender and sage. Others are berries, such as blueberry, strawberry and raspberry. They fit right in with your other plants. But half the fun of having a cocktail garden is to showcase the plants in a conspicuous area, such as in a large container on a patio, then make a point to harvest fixings for your next martini, spiked lemonade or mint julep in front of guests at your next soiree. It’s the power of the unexpected.
Fortunately, many cocktail plants grow fine in containers. There are even patio-ready berry bushes available. Consider grouping several containers of various sizes. You can add to the fun with unique containers and bar-theme decorations, like a “mulch” of wine corks or bottle caps, or a piece of garden art in the shape of a martini glass.
Fill the containers with soilless potting mix (one that includes a slow-release fertilizer and water-absorbing crystals to save maintenance), then plant what you like. Mint is an easy choice because it goes with so many drinks, including non-alcoholic ones like iced tea. And, a container will ensure the plant doesn’t become a thug in the garden. Lavender and rosemary prefer similar conditions (well-drained soil and full sun) so they can partner up. And sage can be grown with just about anything.
You can use herbs and fruits to either flavor or garnish a cocktail. Mixologists (that’s what they call bartenders who like to experiment with creating mixed drinks) are getting more adventurous every day, so you never know what will become the next “it” ingredient in a cocktail. Meanwhile, you can stick with the tried and true—yet still manage to impress your friends the next time you take a snip before taking a nip.