Today’s restaurants & trendy bars are enticing patrons with the craft cocktail. Tasty, complex, and delicious, mixologists are using fresh ingredients like jams, herbs, muddled fruits, and other garnishes to create layers upon layers of flavor.
For many, duplicating cocktails created by their favorite restaurant or bar can seem difficult, but the trick is simpler than you think. From simple herb infused vodkas to creating the perfect rum and mint mojito, many consumers have decided to begin the process of creating their own bar gardens to create their own fresh garnishes & herbs, taking a drink from ho-hum to ‘wow‘ in a heartbeat.
Ingredients like mint, cilantro, raspberries, strawberries, celery, lavender, basil and other herbs are fairly simple to grow and some garden options can take up little space in your backyard. In addition to flavor, these ingredients can add aroma & flavors that store bought ingredients may not offer. The ability to create your own bar garden can also add an interesting element to your favorite at home craft cocktail.
At the recent Tales of the Cocktail-the world’s largest annual cocktail event in New Orleans, Louisiana-we had the opportunity to take part in an educational session by bestselling New York Times author, Amy Stewart. As part of a series of topics covered in her book, The Drunken Botanist, the botany and plant expert spoke at length to the audience about plants and herbs in cocktails, addressing several questions that a prospective bar garden grower might want to ask themselves prior to putting their cocktail dreams into a reality.
Here were seven questions that Stewart recommends asking before you start planting.
1. What do you want to grow?
Are you strictly a mojitos & margarita person? Is your mission to create the perfect Bloody Mary? Cherry tomatoes, cilantro, celery, or even jalapenos might work well. Decide what craft cocktail you would like to recreate, and then choose specific ingredients to add to your bar garden. Think of this as if you are planting a recipe in a box!
2. What time of year will be suited for each ingredient?
Gardeners are very aware of their local climate including rainfall. If you’re planting outdoors, climate information is vital to a successful bar garden. Choosing the right fruit , herbs and other ingredients to add to your bar garden can be fairly easy. Easy to grow fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cucumbers, and herbs are very easy to maintain but again climate, rainfall, and sun exposure should be on top of your list of questions to answer.
3. Will it take up too much space?
Specific plants in your bar garden can take up a substantial amount of space. Be practical, urban gardens are all the rage. Do your research on creative ways to accentuate space in your small backyard or apartment. Check out this shoe organizer as an herb garden, or you could even create a gutter garden – genius for anyone with a gardening space issues.
4. Where will I grow it?
Rooftops, container gardening, wall gardens, vertical gardens etc are creative ways to garden if space is an issue. A bar garden can be kept indoors or outdoors depending on your desired ingredients but again light is an issue to consider. A bar garden can be kept indoors or outdoors based upon your desired ingredients, but remember to take in to account the light in the space you’re thinking about.
5. What type of design will I need?
Take advantage of free interactive garden design found on the internet. Go to your local garden nursery for advice. Many local nurseries have designers on hand that can help you maximize your space. Ask a friend or a neighbor, and of course, research.
6. Who will get the project complete?
Will you be completing this task on your own? If so, plan well. Purchase or check out a book in your local library to assist in key elements of the planning stage. Perhaps consider consulting a professional to assist in soil prep and site selection. Ask a local 4H club or garden club for assistance at a nominal fee or donation to their club. Get creative! Swap services with another company if you are considering a large project.
7. Will it be worth my time and money invested into the project?
Time is money, so be prepare to invest one of the two into your bar garden! If money is an issue, consider starting at the seed stage during the winter for spring/summer planting. You will be investing more time, but reaping a bountiful harvest is worth the effort.
Consider the price of each ingredient at seed vs. plant stages. Buying seedlings of a specific exotic herb that cost very little that your local farmers market has already harvested may outweigh the effort & time you will spend growing your own herbs all spring & summer. Also, think about the investment of the specific seed/plant, overall soil and fertilization cost. Consider a neighborhood co-op if time or investment are an issue.
Once you have answered all your questions you are ready to tackle your new project. Answers may vary for many that desire a bar garden in their own home, but reaping the benefits will be very rewarding. If you have manage to begin the fulfilling yet daunting task of a creating your own bar garden we would love to hear some insight and possibly any advice you may have. I’m personally very excited to start my own bar garden. For more ideas, check out Amy’s curated seed list at Territorial Seed Company.
I can see perfect, minty mojitos in my future!
Maria Sinclair is a travel writer living just outside New Orleans, Louisiana. She can be found writing at BloggingBabiesandtheBayou.com. This is her first article for Crave Local. We’re happy to have her aboard!