Why You Should Use Herbs In Cocktails
When you’re out shopping for cocktail supplies, herbs probably aren’t a top consideration on your ingredient list, but that’s a shame. Fresh herbs can offer great flavor and aromatic qualities to your cocktails, in addition to making a beautiful garnish. At Mad River Distillers, we often use fresh herbs grown right in our Burlington Tasting Room as a garnish on a number of cocktails. We have also used herbs to infuse flavor in ingredients, such as in a rosemary simple syrup.
Here are some top herbs that pair well with cocktails:
- Mint: this herb is a popular choice and used in a variety of warm-weather cocktails, such as in mojitos and fruit cocktails, because it is perceived to be both cooling and refreshing. Fresh mint also offers a very nice aroma, makes an excellent garnish, and can add a lot of flavor when muddled.
- Rosemary: this is a fragrant herb that is actually a member of the mint family, and it is often used in cooking. In a cocktail, it adds a piney aroma, so it works well in an infused simple syrup and as a garnish.
- Lavender: this herb is both fragrant and floral. When it comes to cocktails, lavender bitters are a popular choice, but it also makes for a lovely garnish with its pop of purple.
- Lemongrass: this citrusy herb works very well in rum cocktails, adding some extra aromatics and a bit of zest. It works well in simple syrups, can be found in bitters, but can also be used as a garnish.
- Basil: this herb is a bit sweeter (depending on the basil you select, some may be a touch more spicy than sweet). Like mint, it works very well with cocktails incorporating citrus or berries. It makes for a beautiful and aromatic garnish, but also tastes great in a syrup.
There are other herbs that add unique flavors and aromas to cocktails, including cilantro, thyme, sage, dill and tarragon. These tend to work better with specific spirits. For example, as a savory herb, thyme works best with gin cocktails. Cilantro and dill make for great additions to a Bloody Mary. Our top herbs above work great in whiskey and rum drinks.
If you’re new to incorporating herbs in your cocktails, a great first place to experiment is with bitters. There are a variety of bitters out there with herb flavors. Just a couple dashes of lavender or rosemary bitters and you’ll get a sense of what herbs can offer. Our Burlington Tasting Room has an entire wall of bitter options available, so you’ll have plenty to explore.
Another way to explore herbs is by making an infused simple syrup. A simple syrup is made from one part sugar dissolved in one part water. When you cook the herb in the mixture as the sugar dissolves, you infuse the simple syrup with flavor. Then you simply strain out the solids before using in your cocktail. You should wash your herbs in case any insecticides were used, and be sure to read which part of the herb to include. Some stems can impart a bitter flavor.
Lastly, and most simply, incorporate herbs as a garnish! Very little preparation is needed. You just buy or clip the fresh herb and add it to your glass once your cocktail is poured. We like to give our herbs a little slap before adding them to our drinks, as it awakens the aromatics and adds to the overall cocktail experience when you take those first few sips.
Have we convinced you to give herbs a try in your next home bartending adventure? We hope so! Herbs have been used with spirits for a very long time, and for good reason, so go ahead and hop on the herbal bandwagon. If you need any pre-made herbal ingredients, such as bitters or syrups, our team at the Burlington Tasting Room are always happy to answer questions and steer you in the right direction.
Written and published by Brianne Lucas on August 21, 2023.