Three weeks into summer and three trips have come and gone. New York, Berlin and Amsterdam were warm and dense and laden with tourists. I kind of loved it. Everyone seemed so happy to be on holiday and while I was working, I couldn’t help but become totally infected by the happy-go-lucky perfume in the air.
In fact, despite work, I squeezed in a picnic of just-grilled lamb in a city park; a long, leisurely Whiskey Sour brunch to old Dutch albums; a sunny coffee on the roof deck of the Soho House; and, ample strong drinks on a German river. Oh and I worked too, promise!
My personal holidays don’t hit until August but, needless to say, I’m not waiting. This is the only weekend I’m at home this month – late July takes me to the Food and Wine Conference in Orlando and the Big Summer Potluck in Pennsylvania – so I’m taking full advantage of my cocktail herb tub, a simple metal tub I filled with potted herbs perfect for summer cocktails. There’s still time to make your own… here’s how:
Cocktail Herb Tub
1. Choose your plants. I went with atypical varieties that would lend well to warm weather beverage experimentation: orange mint, grapefruit mint, lemon balm, spicy oregano, pineapple sage and basil. I also grabbed some plant food, potting soil, a metal tub, and naming stakes (if desired), all at the local garden shop.
2. After drilling a few holes into the bottom of the tub, place the tub in its final mostly sunny destination (at least 6+ hours of direct sun) and add a shallow layer of pea stones. Both the holes and the pea stones help ensure some proper drainage. You’ll thank me for setting it in your desired locale before filling it up with heavy pea stones and soil!
3. Add in a layer of soil and position the plants as you like. I tend to place the tallest plants in the back of the pot (if placed against a wall) or in the center of the pot (if positioned in way that you’ll walk all around it). Tuck in enough soil to totally cover the root ball of each plant and add in plant food per your chosen brand’s instructions.
4. Generously water your brand new cocktail herb tub. When first planted, you can’t water it enough! The watering helps to settle all the soil in the right spots, giving the roots a nice path for expansion and growth.
5. If you purchased naming stakes – and really, you don’t have to but it certainly is pretty – then write the names of each plant on each stake and place them in the pot astride the corresponding plant.
6. Let your cocktail herb tub grow, grow, grow. As the mints expand, I aim to either keep the off-shoots within the pot or snip them entirely to avoid over-packing the pot. Don’t let those mint branches creep into the beds around the pot, or you’ll be picking mint from your beds for a while – mint is weed-like and takes over anything around it, a blessing and a curse, but mostly just a lot work.
7. When you want fresh herbs for your cocktails, snip off the top few leaves, wash and use as desired.
How do I use these gorgeous herbs…?
I just love to fill a big vessel of water with sliced lemons and mixed herb leaves – the mints and lemon balm are great in ice water. But I also garnish my Palomas with the grapefruit mint, craft Orange-flavored Mojitos with the orange mint and infuse pineapple sage into everything, especially my tequila drinks.
I plan to spend all of August coming up with my favorite mixtures. And when friend’s come over for dinner parties, everyone will have a blast snipping, sniffing and nibbling as the sun sets, the grill heats and the drinks flow.
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