In addition to being staples in the kitchen, many of the wonderful herbs that grow well in containers can be used to make tea and cocktails. If you’ve never tried sage bergamot or rosemary lemon tea, you are in for a real treat. Herbs also make delicious simple syrups that can be added to carbonated water or used to infuse alcohol for fun cocktails. Dedicate a single container as a “tea garden” or “cocktail garden” and plant it with all kinds of herbs, including chamomile, lemon verbena, and mint. There’s no need to keep all your tea and cocktail herbs together, though. Because so many favorite herbs are also colorful, flowering perennials, you can dot them in various containers throughout the garden. Whichever herbs you choose, they are easy to put to use. You can dry herbs and make your own tea bags out of muslin, or simply grab a few handfuls of fresh herbs to put in your teapot. Note that tea made from fresh herbs takes longer to steep than tea made from dried herbs. Pour boiling water over the fresh herbs and let them steep for fifteen to twenty minutes.
Simple syrups to use in cocktails are made by heating sugar and water together over medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn off your burner, add the desired herb, and let steep. Once the syrup has cooled for fifteen to twenty minutes, strain, and then use. A basil-infused simple syrup is an excellent sweetener for freshly squeezed lemonade and is the basis for a number of refreshing summer cocktails. Edible fruit and flowers such as cucumbers, lemon, rhubarb stalks, berries, and elderberry flowers are also great homegrown additions to your repertoire of cocktail ingredients. Some favorite herbs for making tea or cocktails are:
- anise hyssop
- lavender (great mixed with mint)
- lemon verbena
- mint (note that mint is quite invasive and can take over your herb garden quickly, unless it is constrained by edging, planted in its own container, or slowed down by shade conditions)
- rose hips