We’ll Drink to That: A toast to botanical cocktails
I became acquainted with the delight of fresh nasturtium flowers during my summers in the Adirondacks growing up, where my best friend’s parents had a cottage with an epic vegetable garden. We threw the brilliantly colored nasturtium flowers into arugula and watercress salads for a wonderful spicy kick; the flower adds a crunch and a hint of heat reminiscent of a mild poblano. Between the spicy flavor and the bright orange color, this flower begs for a margarita. If you use margarita mix, stop reading immediately and go remove it from your home bar by any means necessary. Go for the real deal, and use the only margarita base I’ll ever touch: good tequila, agave nectar, and lime.
2 oz. silver/blanco tequila, such as Milagro Silver
½ oz. pure agave nectar (available at Wegmans)
½ oz. lime juice, plus lime slices for garnish
Handful of nasturtium flowers
Salt and a dish to rim glass
Muddle some of the flowers, leaving a few for garnish, with tequila in a shaker (the flowers aren’t so attractive muddled, so I discard them afterward). Add agave and lime, as well as ice if desired, and shake, then strain into a chilled glass rimmed with salt and lime juice. Add one or two flowers and a slice of lime for garnish. Place a final flower in your hair or the hair of your companion, just for fun.
Based on the Greek side dish, a cucumber and yogurt appetizer that’s a refreshing accompaniment to hearty lamb or bean dishes, this cocktail takes advantage of the sublimely snappy combination of cucumber and dill. Crop, my favorite organic vodka, makes a delicious cucumber variety that begs for fresh dill from your garden; a few olives add the salt-and-vinegar note that gives this drink an edge.
2 ½ oz. Crop cucumber vodka
Handful fresh dill
1–3 Greek olives
Cucumber slices if desired
A few drops dry vermouth (if you must)
Chill martini glass; muddle dill, add vodka, and garnish with olives and an additional sprig of dill. To get fancy, alternate olives with a cucumber slice on toothpick.
Lavender Tom Collins
What could be more summery and satisfying after a day of garden work than a Tom Collins? The botanical notes of gin are well-suited to the strong, perfumey flavor of lavender—but don’t overdo it; we’re making a drink here, not potpourri. Instead of my usual Hendricks or Sapphire I prefer to go old school for this drink with Old Tom. Popular in eighteenth century England but unavailable in the United States until recently, Old Tom Gin is the original and, in my opinion, best Tom Collins gin thanks to its lightly sweetened, balanced character with hints of citrus and muted botanicals. Be gentle when muddling the lavender. It’s pungent enough on its own.
2 oz. Old Tom gin
1 oz. lemon juice
1 spoonful sugar or simple syrup
1 tsp. crushed lavender buds or chopped lavender leaves, plus 1–2 sprigs for garnish
Mix ingredients over ice in a tall glass and top with soda water. Garnish with a lemon slice or twist and lavender.
Julia Burke works in the local wine industry and writes about food and drink for "Spree".