Autumn is the time of year where we start to relax. We love watching the colors change and enjoy the crispness in the air. Even though our gatherings may be smaller than usual this year, one social tradition that is likely not to change is the cheerful imbibing of delicious drinks. Let’s face it, it’s been a rough year. I think you deserve one.
I tend to add herbs to everything I do, and cocktails are no exception. Adding herbs to your cocktail can make for a much more flavorful drink and can also add a bit of a health boost in a slightly sneaky way. There are a handful of ways you can add fresh or dried herbs to your cocktails.
- You can infuse your alcohol with herbs.
- You can make herbal syrups to add to your cocktails.
- You can muddle (crush) fresh herbs into your cocktails.
- You can make a strong herbal tea to use as a mixer.
- You can freeze herbs in ice cubes and use those to chill cocktails.
For those of you who may be familiar with herbal preparations, you may be thinking that the first suggestion sounds a bit familiar. Infusing alcohol with herbs? Isn’t that the same as a tincture? Well…almost. A lot of well-known cordials and liqueurs started as health tonics and cocktail bitters double as digestive bitters. While you can mix cocktails with tinctures, keep in mind that tinctures are strong. Most drinks call for 1-2 ounces of alcohol per serving while most tinctures are recommended to be taken 1-2 dropperfuls (about ¼ teaspoon) at a time. When I’m wanting to make a tincture that can double as a cocktail mixer, I often start making a double recipe of the tincture I want and strain off half in the first 1-2 weeks of the process. That half is the part I use for making my cocktails. However, if you want to use an existing tincture in your cocktail, consider only adding a little bit to enhance the flavor of your drink.
For those of you who are not familiar with tinctures and alcohol infusions, here’s a basic rundown of how to make one.
Items to gather:
- Herb(s) of your choice (fresh or dried)
- 40% (80 proof) or higher alcohol (vodka, tequila, gin, whiskey, etc.) of your choice
- 1 glass jar
- Parchment paper
- Label and marker for labeling
Making the tincture:
- Fill up your glass jar about halfway with your herbs.
- Add the alcohol, filling the jar most of the way to the top. Leave about 1-2 inches at the top.
- Place the parchment paper between the lid and the jar to help keep the rubber seal from dissolving.
- Tightly seal the jar.
- Label your jar with what herb and alcohol (make sure to include the proof) you used, as well as the date.
- Place your jar in a cool (room temperature) dark area and shake it up 1-2 times a day.
- Most tinctures take about 4-6 weeks to infuse. Feel free to start tasting yours after about 2 weeks.
- If you’re just infusing for drinking purposes, feel free to finish the infusion off at the 1-2 week mark.
- Once it’s ready, strain out the tincture using the cheesecloth. Make sure you label this as well, adding the date you strained it out.
Now that you are familiar with the process of infusing alcohol with herbs, which herbs can be used? Any of them! Here are a few of my favorites.
Lavender is one of my favorite herbs to use in just about anything, and it’s health benefits (https://youmeanduni.com/2019/11/26/5-ways-lavender-benefits-the-body-mind/) are just out of this world. I enjoy adding lavender to gin or vodka, but it pairs nicely with darker berries and would make a great addition to quite a few whiskey or scotch cocktails.
This warming herb can liven up most cocktails. It’s already included as a mainstay in most bars, though usually in the form of ginger ale or ginger beer. And with ginger’s great benefits and wonderful flavor, there’s no wonder that it is. Ginger’s potent flavor tends to take over, so this herb is a good one to infuse into tequila, whiskey, vodka, and gin.
We are all familiar with the minty fresh mojito. Such a great summer cocktail. While it was invented to showcase the sweet flavor of rum, you can’t miss the fresh mint. You may also be familiar with mint tea but did you know about all of the benefits of peppermint? There are plenty! Try infusing your very own mint rum (white rum) or vodka.
Like it’s close cousin lavender, rosemary has a very distinct taste that lends itself well to quite a few flavor combinations. Rosemary pairs exceptionally well with many fruits including dark berries, apples, citrus, and pears. Infusions are best in vodka, gin, or whiskey.
Another herb we are familiar with from the kitchen. Basil has a fresh flavor that brightens up any dish, so of course, it’ll do the same for your cocktails. People are often surprised by the wide variety of flavors basil goes well with. One of the more commonly paired flavors is strawberry, but it does go with most fruits. It makes a great infusion in tequila, whiskey, and vodka.
This is the spice that reminds me of chai tea. It’s an exotically sweet and smokey flavor that brings out a feeling of warmth. It goes well with most other warming spices as well as vanilla and some floral flavors. I like infusing it in bourbon, rum (white or spiced), and gin.
Below are a few recipes to get you started!
Lavender & Fig Mule – four servings
6 oz Lavender infused Gin
4 oz Fresh squeezed Lime Juice
16 oz Ginger Beer
4-6 fresh Figs
Cut your figs in half and scoop the insides into a pitcher. Squeeze your lime juice in as well and muddle (mash) the two together. Add in the lavender gin and give it a real good stir before filling the pitcher with ice and topping it off with your ginger beer. Stir it up just a little more before serving.
Pear & Ginger Martini for one
1 oz Ginger infused Vodka
1 oz Vanilla Vodka
2 oz Pear Juice
Combine all your ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake it until your shaker feels super cold. Strain it out into a martini glass and garnish it with a piece of candied ginger.
Rosemary & Cranberry Collins – makes four
6 oz Rosemary infused Gin
2 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
2 oz Cranberry Juice
2 oz Agave
4 oz Seltzer Water
Combine the gin, juices, and agave in a pitcher and stir until the agave has fully dissolved. Fill the pitcher with ice and top it off with the seltzer. Stir it up a bit before serving.
Trust Your Gut Girl – makes four
6 oz Vodka infused with Know Your Gut Trust Your Gut
2 oz Blue Curacao
4 oz Cranberry Juice
2 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
8 oz Ginger Ale
Combine the gin, blue curacao, and juices in a pitcher and stir well. Fill it with ice and top it off with ginger ale. Give it a bit of a stir before you serve it.
Blood Orange Basil Margarita – four servings
5 oz Basil infused Tequila
2 oz Grand Marnier
4 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
4 oz Fresh Squeezed Blood Orange Juice
Sweeten with Agave to taste
Combine all your ingredients in a pitcher with ice and stir it up well. If you want a frozen drink, combine all ingredients in a blender with ice and blend it up!
Meditative Mojito for four
6 oz White Rum infused with Meditative State of Mind tea
2 oz Simple Syrup (or 6 tablespoons White Sugar)
12-16 Fresh Mint Leaves
1 Lime cut into wedges
16 oz Seltzer Water
Combine the mint leaves, lime wedges, and simple syrup in the bottom of a pitcher. Muddle (mash) them together well. Add in the rum and stir until everything is incorporated (if you used sugar, make sure it’s dissolved). Fill the pitcher with ice and top it off with the seltzer. Give it a bit of a stir before serving.
Exotic Old Fashioned for one
2 oz Cardamom infused Bourbon
.5 oz Maple Syrup
5 dashes Aromatic Bitters
1 Orange peel and 1 Cherry
Place the orange peel and cherry in a short (rocks) glass. Add in your maple syrup and bitters and muddle (mash) them together really well. Pour in your bourbon and give it a good stir, until everything is incorporated. Gently place a large ice cube into your glass and enjoy!
Trust Your Gut, Know Your Gut and Meditative State of Mind can each be made as a strong tea and added to just about any cocktail. For more information on You, Me and Uni, check out the website, created by Master Herbalist, Jennifer Vollbrecht. Browse the herbal tea articles on the site for more tips on adding delicious tea to your healthy non-alcoholic drinks to benefit your lifestyle.
Let us know which ones you make and show us a photo on Facebook!
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden
Freelance writer and editor at Walden Writes For Women, in Gainesville, Florida.