How to Plant a Cocktail Garden
We love artisanal cocktails, especially those made with fresh herbs and scented plants. Unfortunately, we’re not always the best at thinking ahead to our specialty cocktail of the day during our grocery runs. And we really don’t love it when we remember to buy a bushel of fresh herbs, only to have them go bad in the fridge before we use them.
Then we noted the cocktail garden trend that’s been taking over our photo streams, and decided it was time to start our own! It doesn’t matter whether you have a lush garden, a tiny patch of grass, or a windowsill: A cocktail garden is easy to plant (and maintain). Mint, rosemary, and basil are excellent indoor plants that happen to make delicious cocktail ingredients. Even lavender, while not a traditional houseplant, is easy to house indoors as long as you place it by natural light. Bonus byproduct: a soothing home that smells like a spa.
When selecting your plants, don’t purchase ones that have already been growing outside. This will traumatize them and stall their production! Also, have realistic expectations. Even though your cocktail garden may be inside, you can’t expect a full crop in the dead of winter. Like your hair and your nails, your herbs need to be clipped and trimmed. Use nail scissors and keep your greens tidy. Unlike us, your cocktail plants don’t need a lot of water. Not only does this make a cocktail garden drought-friendly (we’re talking to you, Californians), but it also helps minimize their daily maintenance. When it comes to planting, always make sure to give each herb its own home. Otherwise you’ll have invasive herbs attacking all of your subtler varieties. And finally, splurge on organic potting soil that contains vermiculite or perlite for adequate drainage. It’s really not that expensive, and soil from outside doesn’t work as well indoors.
Are you inspired to make fresh herb cocktails a part of your bar cart rotation? Scroll through to find our favorite plants and some delicious cocktails to go with each!
This plant is tricky yet entirely doable. The basil varieties most suited for indoor growth are the Spicy Globe or African Blue. Don’t mind the thin leaves of the African Blue variety. While dissimilar to the wide-leaf species found at the grocery store, this version resembles Thai basil and is more conducive to an indoor atmosphere.
Mint is one of the invasive plants we were referring to earlier. It’s notorious, in fact. The plus side? If you give your mint its own pot, it will definitely give you a lot to work with. But be wary of planting spearmint inside. While great for outdoor gardens (and lots of cocktails), it takes a lot of spearmint to yield the same minty taste as peppermint. Opt for the latter if space is limited.
This is one of those plants that is well suited to a drought. It’s easy to drown out your rosemary, so maybe hit this one once every other watering day. Keeping the soil on the dry side is definitely the way to go. If you’re growing inside, we suggest the Tuscan Blue or Blue Spire variety. Anything that grows upright is best for a windowsill or vertical garden.
One of our favorite cocktail/dessert plants, rhubarb is best grown outdoors. To make life easier, you’ll want to plant rhubarb crowns, not seeds. Crowns are much easier to nurture than seeds, which need to be planted in early spring. Rhubarb crowns respond well to autumn soil, so find a moist, sunny spot and get planting! This hearty plant can last for up to 10 years, so it’s a great staple to keep long-term.
Lavender needs a lot of light, so if your home is lacking daylight, opt for fluorescent tubes to mimic the sun. When growing lavender, pot size matters. Pick one that is one to two inches larger than the plant’s root ball. This keeps your soil from being too moist and prevents root rot. That old ground-eggshell trick you’ve probably heard about from your grandma applies here. Blend a tablespoon of lime and ground eggshells into the top of your soil once a month to give it more of an alkaline edge.
It’s sad to think that summer is winding down. But when we look ahead to delicious food traditions that come with the fall and winter months, we can’t get too glum. It’s a great time to consider planting sage in your garden or on your windowsill. This delicious herb just needs a lot of light, so keep your shades open or your leaves under fluorescent lighting. Clay pots are excellent for sage plants; the material helps with drainage.
Shop a few of our favorite herb-growing necessities below.