Weather From Our Sponsors

Happy hours in the garden: Grow your own cocktails

Gardening can be an intoxicating hobby, especially if the botany is booze-related.
Consider the possibilities: grapes fermented into wine, corn distilled into bourbon, hops used to flavor beer and fruit to sweeten liqueurs.

Why run to a liquor store when you can savor the harvest from your own cocktail garden?
Three processes are involved in converting plants into serviceable drinks: fermentation, distillation and mixing, according to Amy Stewart, author of the new book “The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks” (Algonquin Books).

Fermenting — adding yeasts to turn plant sugars into alcohol — came first, she said. High-proof beverage alcohol (20 percent and above) came later with distillation, or heating fermented liquids into a vapor and then re-condensing that into a more concentrated mix.

A cautionary note: It’s illegal to distill anything in the United States without a license.
In addition, know your plants. “A dizzying array of plants has been converted into alcohol over the ages, everything from agave (tequila) to yams (beer and vodka). Many plants are used primarily as garnishes, such as spearmint (mint julep), olives (martini) and cherries (Manhattan).

The marketplace is untapped for this emerging type of niche gardening, said Tim Russell, a spokesman for Territorial Seed Co. in Cottage Grove, Ore. Territorial is teaming with Stewart to sell a cocktail-friendly line of herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers.

“A lot of young people are looking to do cooler things in their gardens like grow their own cocktail ingredients,” Russell said. “We’re hoping this will draw them further into gardening.”

The average liquor bottle contains a great deal more than straight alcohol, Stewart writes.
“Once a spirit leaves the still, it is subject to endless experimentation with herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, bark, roots and flowers,” she said. “Some distillers claim to use over a hundred different botanicals in their secret recipes.”

So if distillers are continuing to experiment, why not gardeners?
Stewart’s garden-themed recipes can be the foundation for:

— Infused vodkas. Fill a clean jar with fruit, herbs or spices and then add vodka. Seal, store and sample until your taste buds tell you it’s ready to drink.

— Homemade grenadine. Peel a half-dozen pomegranates, leaving the seeds and membranes intact. Squeeze and filter until you’ve made about two cups of juice. Pour that into a saucepan, add 1 to 2 cups of sugar, simmer and stir in an ounce of vodka, which acts as a preservative.

About

  Email | Twitter


Reader Comments

Tell us what you think. The Sheridan Press offers you the chance to comment on articles on Thesheridanpress.com. We power our commenting forum with facebook comments. Please take a look at our participation guidelines before posting.






For the best in Sheridan adventures, visit the new DestinationSheridan.com Visit Now