Herbs and spirits seem to go together. Many of today’s premium liqueurs are made from centuries old recipes that paired herbs with alcohol. For example, Benedictine was made from a secret blend of herbs, closely guarded by the monks who distilled the drink. Creme de menthe’s flavor comes from Corsican mint, Mentha requienii.
Chartreuse is a French liqueur distilled by Carthusian monks since 1737. Chartreuse is made from over 130 herbs and flowers and has always included ample amounts of lemon balm. The German Jägermeister has over 50 different herbs and flowers, and the carefully guarded recipe is handed down from generation to generation.
Here are some recipes for adding herbs to liquors such as gin and vodka. And let’s not leave out the famous mint julep. Made with Kentucky bourbon and fresh picked water mint. A few of these juleps will have you “running for the roses” on Kentucky Derby Day !
2 jiggers of bourbon, a teaspoon of sugar, 1/4 cup of branch water, and a few sprigs of fresh mint. Stir the water, bourbon and sugar together. Add ice, pour into a tall glass and garnish with mint leaves. Sip slowly.
Simple syrup made with dried lavender buds
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of fresh or dried lavender
1 cup sugar
In a sauce pan, add water, sugar and lavender. Bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Cool, and strain out the lavender. Store the lavender-infused syrup in a glass bottle. Use within a week or so. You can make a Gin Rickey cocktail and stir in a teaspoon of the lavender syrup for a delicious cocktail with a floral hint. The lavender syrup also pairs well with a vodka tonic. Add a jigger of vodka to a tall glass, add 1/2 cup of tonic water or club soda, and a teaspoon of the lavender syrup. Stir and add some ice chips.
Simple syrup made with basil leaves
4 cups fresh basil leaves
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
In a sauce pan, add sugar, basil and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Cool and strain out the basil. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. How to make a vodka smash: add 1 jigger of vodka to a glass, pour in a dash of fresh lemon juice, and a tablespoon of the basil syrup. Add ice and stir.
For a piney/woodsy flavor, stir cocktails with a rosemary branch before adding ice.
Vodka, White Grape Juice and Rosemary Martini
1 pint vodka
1 – 64 ounce bottle white grape juice
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher, stir and add crushed ice or ice cubes. Serve in small party glasses. You can also strain out the ice before serving if you prefer no ice in the martinis.
Always drink responsibly. And always have a designated driver to see you safely home.