Few things are nicer than sitting in the garden on a sunny day, sipping a cocktail. One of those few things is sipping a cocktail that contains ingredients you’ve grown yourself. Not only does it work out far cheaper than buying herbs for home made cocktails – mint, in particular, is so prolific that all you need to do is plant it now and you’ll have a summer’s worth of mojito-mint on hand – but there’s also a sense of virtue in it, because you’ve worked for your drink (to balance up the vice of drinking cocktails at 4pm on a Friday afternoon.)
The above (rather blurry, I admit – photography is not one of my skills) photo is of my aspiring Pimms Plant. The flowering plants are strawberries (I’ve even got one half-formed berry already, thanks to growing them inside on a very sunny windowsill), the ones in the middle are cucumber plants and I’ve also got a separate pot of mint that I’ll be planting up with these into a much larger tub, once all the plants are strong enough to transplant. I’ll leave the mint inside its pot when I plant it inside the larger pot because it’s a terribly pushy plant. You start off with one small mint plant and before you know it, the roots have taken over your garden and there’s no room to grow anything else. As such you need to limit its expansion opportunities in some way. I’m drawing the line at planting oranges and lemons in there too as:
a) They require much bigger pots.
b) They’re incredibly expensive. A Pimms Plant the way I’ve made it costs about £7 (£1.50 each for the two strawberry plants – only one pictured – £2 for the cucumber seeds and £2 for the mint plant) plus however much the container costs. Add oranges and lemons into the mix and the price would go up to about £87, making it an unfeasible gift unless you’re loaded or *really* like the person you’re giving it to.
Other cocktail plants I’m toying with trying this year, for fun and possible presents for mates, are:
- Mojito plants: Mint planted in a giant cocktail shaker with *lots* of gravel at the bottom for drainage, possibly decorated with light up ice cubes on top, to hide the soil (and add a heap of kitsch)
- Bloody Mary plants: tomatoes, chilli and basil planted up together (unfortunately, celery needs a container that’s way bigger than the other three plants so it’s not feasible to include that too) possibly in a large old fashioned glass. I love these bright-coloured tumblers and these monochrome tumblers – at £14 for four, you could make Bloody Mary Plants for four friends for around £5 apiece (one packet each of tomato, chilli and basil seeds will easily give you enough plants for four planters, and more besides). Opt for Greek basil rather than sweet basil if you’re giving it to a friend with less-than-green fingers as it’s much more forgiving.
- Lavendar and blueberry tubs: One for people with gardens only, as you require a reasonable amount of space for both plants. Lavender is increasingly being used as a cocktail ingredient, either being infused with base spirits or used in lavender sugar or syrup. By combining lavender sugar and syrup with crushed blueberries and blueberry liquer, cachaca and lime to make a Paulista you get a delicious fruity and sophisticated mojito-esque drink for people who don’t like mint.
- A cocktail container: A windowbox full of mint, lemon balm, basil, tarragon, rosemary and other cocktail-friendly herbs for mixologist mates (there are lots of cocktail recipes using herbs). I may make some herb sugars or syrups from the contents of the container a few weeks before I give the plants away. The more you cut herbs, the more they thrive so it’ll be of benefit to cut the plants back regularly anyway.
Sadly, you still need to buy the spirits to make your cocktails – but if you want to get free booze then you could always go out looking for elderberry bushes so that you’re well-prepared for elderflower season, which runs from May until July. You can make elderflower champagne for surprisingly little effort, and unlike many home brews, it actually tastes delicious – like a dry but floral cava. Cheers!