Grow Herbs for Cocktail Infusions and Simple Syrups

Vodka infusions

Infused vodkas make great gifts (photo by Ashley English)!

There are several different reasons that you may grow herbs to make an infusion. You can infuse herbs in water to make a healing medicinal liquid; or you can infuse herbs in olive oil to make salad dressings. But the most fun way to make an infusion? To infuse herbs in booze, or course!

What is an infusion?

An infusion is the result of steeping botanicals in liquid to extract their flavor, scent, and nutritional or healing properties. Many of us create a simple infusion every day without even thinking about it by brewing herbal tea. Typically, the botanicals used in infusions are leaves, berries, fruits, and/or flowers.

Herb Infused Vodka

Rosemary, mint, and thyme are common ingredients

We recommend using a good quality vodka for your infusion. Since it is primarily colorless and flavorless, it really takes on the flavors of the infused herbs and spices very well (some people even call it the chameleon of liquors).

To create a vodka infusion, you will need:

  • 1 liter of vodka
  • an airtight mason jar – 1 liter capacity
  • an airtight bottle – 1 liter capacity
  • a funnel
  • a piece of cheesecloth or a small strainer
  • herbs, fruits, or spices to flavor your vodka

The goal of any infusion is to extract the delicious scents and flavors into your vodka. This means that you will allow the herbs, spices and fruits to “steep” in the vodka, then discard the solids. The amount of time that each flavor needs to steep will vary. For example, lemon peels will need to be left in the vodka for a good week or two, whereas strawberries will only take about 24 hours to steep.

Our Favorite Infused Vodka Recipes

Lavender-Lemon MartiniRosemary and Lavender Infused Vodka

This vodka lends a wonderful soft floral note to all of our favorite vodka drinks. Try it in a vodka martini, a vodka tonic, or mixed with lemonade for a fragrant twist.

Directions:

  1. Pluck 1 large sprig of rosemary and 2 sprigs of lavender from your garden. Rinse them well, and add them to your clean mason jar.
  2. Pour 1 liter of vodka into the jar. Give the jar a few gentle shakes.
  3. Seal the jar of the lid tightly, then store it in a cool, dry place for 3 days.
  4. After 3 days, open the jar and give the vodka a taste test. If the flavors are as strong as you would like, it’s time to remove the vodka from the jar. If not, store the vodka in the jar for 1-2 more days.
  5. When ready, hold a strainer or piece of cheesecloth over a pitcher, and pour the vodka from the jar into the pitcher. This will strain out any lavender blossoms and rosemary needles.
  6. Place the funnel on the top of the bottle, and pour the vodka from the pitcher into the bottle.

Garlic and Basil Infused Vodka

Basil-Lime GimletIf you want to really pep up your next Bloody Mary, add this vodka. Or, for an excellent savory sip, try it on the rocks with a sprig of basil or an olive as garnish.

Directions:

  1. Pick two large sprigs of basil (for a fresh twist try lemon basil or lime basil) from your garden. Rinse them well, and add them to your mason jar.
  2. Peel and separate the cloves of one bulb of garlic, add these to your mason jar.
  3. Fill the jar with vodka, seal it and store it in a cool, dry place for 4 days.
  4. Follow the above steps for straining and storing your flavor infused vodka.

For more delicious flavor combination ideas, check out Small Measures With Ashley. Ashley English, a Design Sponge regular, will surprise you with some unexpected pairings. For example, lemon balm pairs well with fennel bulb, honeydew melon, black tea, nectarines, and/or blackberries. Delicious!

The many uses for infused vodkas

Infused vodkas are not just a bangin’ way to impress all your friends at your next party. Homemade flavored vodka in a decorative glass bottle makes a beautiful gift. Try pouring your finished infused vodka into a Roost Copenhagen Carafe and Terrarium for a perfect presentation. You can also try cooking with your infused vodkas – both sweet and savory flavors.

What is a simple syrup?

Once you have a nice selection of infused vodkas and start to get adventurous with cocktail recipes, you will notice that many recipes call for simple syrup. Simple syrup is a bar essential that is made by mixing equal parts of sugar and water, then heating it until the sugar is dissolved. The sweet liquid can then be blended seamlessly into cold drinks. Because of the heating process, subtle flavors may easily be added into simple syrup. Then, all you need is a little dash to add your desired flavor to any drink.

How to make flavored simple syrup

The process really is simple! All you need is:

  • a cooking pot
  • water
  • granulated sugar
  • a strainer or cheesecloth
  • a glass bottle for storage
  • herbs, spices, and/or fruits to flavor your syrup

Our favorite simple syrup recipes

Dill Simple Syrup

What would you use dill simple syrup in, you ask? We discovered the recipe at the Russian food and drink blog called The Troika Table, where they recommend adding it to a mighty tasty drink called the Slippery Russian.It combines 1 shot of lemon infused vodka, 1 shot of pepper infused vodka, the juice of 1 lemon, and 1 tablespoon of dill simple syrup. Shake it up, then top it with seltzer. Easy and impressive!

Directions:

  1. Combine equal 1 cup of water and and 1 cup of granulated sugar in the pot and bring it to a boil.
  2. Let it boil hard while constantly stirring it for one minute.
  3. Remove the pot from the burner, set it aside, and add in a few sprigs of dill.
  4. Let this steep, uncovered, for 2 hours.
  5. Strain out the solids and pour the syrup into a glass storage bottle.
  6. Store the cooled syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Mixed Herb Simple Syrup
Rosemary Simple Syrup

Rosemary Simple Syrup

For an herbal simple syrup, you toss in a few sprigs of just about anything that you have growing on your windowsill.

Follow these directions to create your own herb infused simple syrup, and don’t be afraid to try unique flavors! Think about the flavors that you like in your food and drinks, and play off of these in your simple syrups.

Some flavor combinations we like are:

  • mint + spearmint
  • lavender + lemon peel
  • rosemary + orange peel
  • tarragon + peppercorns
  • lemon thyme + lemon basil
  • vanilla bean + ginger root

The many uses for simple syrup

Lavender-orange Limoncello Sorbet

Lavender-orange Limoncello Sorbet

Your homemade simple syrup will taste great mixed up in your favorite cocktail. But its uses sure don’t end there– oh, no. You can drizzle simple syrup over pound cake, toss fruit salad in it, or include a splash in your iced tea. For the easiest and prettiest dessert ever, place a scoop of fruit sorbet in a martini glass, drizzle it with simple syrup, and add an herb sprig for garnish. Voila!

Are you on Twitter?

Follow the hashtags #gartender and #gartending for more cocktail garden resources.

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3 Responses to “Grow Herbs for Cocktail Infusions and Simple Syrups”

  1. Kara says:

    Oh my, the the rosemary and lavender vodka sounds so good! I’ve been dreaming of starting a little kitchen garden this spring, and you might just have motivated me to do so. :)

  2. Nice, Kara! We love hearing comments like that, it’s the reason for our existence! Our advice? Start small and don’t start a garden larger than you can weed. Best of luck to you this season!

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