Refresh Your Drink Menu with a Cocktail Garden
By Tripp and Carmen Eldridge
Cooler days are coming but you can keep enjoying refreshing cocktails long after summer ends. South Florida’s year-long warm weather provides the perfect environment for you to join the newest trend in gardening: cocktail gardens. Making your favorite drinks from home has never been easier and we have tips on how to spice up your bar and your backyard.
What is a cocktail garden? It is the best way to make fresh, garden-to-glass drinks right in your backyard that go beyond the lime on the side of your glass, or the mint muddled in your mojito. With the right fruits, vegetables, and herbs the possibilities for creative cocktails are endless. Better yet, all of the ingredients you need are ready to be picked right in your backyard when you need them.
Cocktail gardens are changing the happy hour game – so much so that restaurants and bars across the country are jumping in on this trend too. But with a cocktail garden right in your own backyard, you won’t need to go out to enjoy your favorite drinks. Whether you are making a drink for yourself after a long day, or entertaining a crowd, you will have the versatility to make a drink without relying on sugary mixers and artificial flavors. Why should you when you have fresh produce growing right in your backyard?
The first step to any garden is to decide where to start growing. All you need is a space with sunlight and some water – that means your backyard plot, planters on the balcony, or even pots by the window can become home to your ingredients.
If you like fruity drinks, you can start with strawberries. They’re easy to grow in hanging pots or small garden plots outside your home. If you have more space to plant a tree, Everbearing Mulberries do great in South Florida. You can muddle them in the bottom of your glass or blend to make fresh juices and purees. Pair fruits with vodka and soda water, and you have a refreshing cocktail that will make you feel like it’s summer all year long.
For any vegetables you are thinking of adding to your cocktail garden, you will need a larger container or garden plot and a vessel that has plenty of drainage holes. You can grow cucumbers or jalapeños, put them in a jar with your favorite liquor, and let it sit for infused drinks that pack a flavorful punch. For a jalapeño-infused margarita, cut up the peppers (with the seeds) and place it in a jar with your favorite tequila for a few days. When the tequila is slightly spicy, strain it and mix it with triple sec and lime juice for a unique twist on a classic drink.
Herbs are key components in many of your favorite classic drinks. There’s nothing quite like fresh mint in a mojito or a julep, but there are other herbs that can take your cocktail creations to the next level. Try a sprig of rosemary in a gin fizz, sage in a gin and tonic, or thyme in a martini. Keep small pots by your windowsill or on your balcony to easily pick and muddle into your glass or throw in your shaker.
It has never been easier to save the trip to the grocery store and grow your own drink ingredients. Whether you’re hosting happy hour or looking to add to your bar cart, a cocktail garden is the best way to freshen up both the outside of your home and the inside of your glass.
About the Authors
Carmen and Tripp Eldridge are small-scale farming experts and the current Farm Directors at Arden, an award-winning residential agrihood in Palm Beach County, FL. Managing the community’s five-acre farm, Tripp and Carmen are pioneering innovative farm-to-table living in South Florida.