Vegetable gardens have been a pastime of choice for many residents of Los Gatos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Willow Glen as a shelter in place pastime. Another great option, especially for those who love a good cocktail, is to have a home herb garden designed specifically to enhance your favorite libations. As an added benefit, they also offer beauty and fragrance to any outdoor space, large or small.
Seeds or Starter Plants
Typically herbs are easier to grow and take much less maintenance than a vegetable garden. Herbs enjoy light and lots of it. They can be started from seed or seedlings and many can also be found as larger, established plants. Unlike most vegetables, many herbs will continue to grow year-round or will reseed themselves annually.
Sun & Soil
Herbs love the sun so be sure to place them in an area that gets between six and eight hours of light a day. Since they will be exposed to so much sun, the soil will also need to be kept moist. A good potting mix for vegetables will provide the nourishment and moisture retention needed. A sprinkle of mulch on top is another way to keep the soil moist.
Pots, Containers or Beds
Many herbs grow quickly and without a lot of effort or TLC. If you have a large outdoor space, you can plant them in a dedicated raised bed or intersperse them with your other landscaping. Herbs will also flourish in containers, either planted alone or, if the container is large enough, with other herbaceous varieties. For singular plants, use a container at least 12 inches wide by 8 inches deep. It is always best to err on the side of having more space for and between plants than not enough. Good drainage is important to keep roots from rotting.
How to Use
Fresh herbs can be used as a garnish or muddled and added to cocktails, mocktails, lemonade or ice teas. They can also be infused in spirits or added to simple syrups to create subtle botanical flavors. Many “cocktail” herbs can also be used in cooking, infused in olive oil or added to green or pasta salads.
Basil, mint, sage, lavender, lemon verbena and rosemary afford a myriad of uses and a broad flavor profile.
Mint comes in a variety of flavors besides the typical spearmint including chocolate, lemon and Mojito. Depending on the varietal, mint can be floral or spicy but always adds a bright and refreshing lift. Mint a an ideal garnish and is a commonly used muddled herb.
Sage has a distinct, slightly peppery bite and should be used sparingly. This complex herb is perfect for simple syrups, as a garnish or for infusing vodka or other spirits.
Lavender is slightly sweet and its floral notes are best utilized in simple syrups. For those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages, lavender pares well with iced tea and lemonade.
Rosemary has a savory, woody depth of flavor. A gorgeous garnish or muddled, it imparts a lovely warmth when infused with other spirits.
Lemon verbena and basil are both ideal for simple syrups, as garnishes and can be muddled. They, along with sage and rosemary, can also be used in cooking.
Elevate your summer cocktail craftsmanship with home-grown herbs. If you need some libation inspiration, check out this list of 8 fresh herb cocktails. Or, if you have an original creation or a favorite fresh herb cocktail, we’d love for you to share it with us!