Few things brighten up a winter kitchen like a cheerful container of herbs on the windowsill, but those savory stems take on glamorous appeal when used to class up some classic cocktails. More than just looking pretty, however, these everyday herbs add interesting dimensions when infused into otherwise ordinary tipples. This winter, wow your guests and your taste buds with these winterized versions of cocktail classics.
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, de-stemmed, more for garnish
2 tablespoons frozen cranberries, more for garnish
1 teaspoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons of zest of orange
1 cup cranberry juice
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 squeezed lemons)
3-6 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (depends on desired sweetness)
4 oz of vodka
In a cocktail shaker, add the rosemary, cranberries, juniper berries, and orange zest, and muddle until fragrant. Add maple syrup or honey, and muddle some more. Add the citrus juices, vodka and some ice. Top the shaker and shake. Strain into each glass. Top with a splash of sparkling water and garnish with fresh rosemary and fresh cranberries.
¼ cup (2 ounces) spiced rum
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 ounce)
1 ½ tablespoons herb-infused simple syrup (3/4 ounce)
10 to 12 fresh mint leaves
⅓ cup club soda
Fresh herb sprigs (such as sage, rosemary and mint)
Lemon wheel for garnish
Stir together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup boiling water in a heatproof measuring cup until dissolved. Add 5 rosemary sprigs and 5 sage leaves; press with a spoon until submerged. Steep, uncovered, 30 minutes. Pour through a fine wire- mesh strainer into a 2-cup glass jar; discard solids. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
Combine rum, lime juice, syrup, and mint leaves in a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Cover and shake vigorously until chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with herb sprigs.
Blood Orange-Grapefruit Cocktail or Mocktail
A few sprigs thyme
1 large sprig rosemary
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
Juice of two blood oranges
Juice of one ruby red grapefruit
3 ounces vodka, or as much (or little) as you like
In a small pot, combine the thyme, rosemary, sugar and water. Set over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and liquid is just shy of boiling. Remove from heat and set aside for at least 30 minutes. The longer it sits, the stronger the herb flavor will be. Strain the liquid into a little cup or container and discard herbs. When ready to serve, fill two medium glasses about ⅔ with ice. Juice the citrus into a liquid measuring cup with a spout and stir in two tablespoons of the herb syrup. Divide between glasses, garnish with herb sprigs and blood orange slices
Drunken Cranberry Cobbler
For the Drunken Cranberries:
1 cup of cranberries
3 sprigs of rosemary
2 cups brandy
For the Cocktail:
1 1/2 ounces cranberry-infused brandy
1 1/2 ounces fino sherry
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Drunken cranberries and rosemary for garnish
Place the cranberries, rosemary and brandy in a bowl and lightly muddle. Cover the bowl and put it in a cool place for 12 to 24 hours. Combine the cranberry brandy, sherry, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with a spoonful of the infused cranberries and a sprig of rosemary.
Homemade, Herb-Infused Simple Syrup
Stir together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup boiling water until dissolved. Add herbs of your choosing and steep, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar and discard solids. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Muddling is simply a term for mashing ingredients to release the flavors held within, as well as for blending flavors together with a little brute force. If you don’t have an official muddler (sold inexpensively in any home goods department), any object with a blunt end will work. I’ve used a potato masher, a toothpaste case and the bottom of a glass to muddle my ingredients together. Take care when muddling so that you break down ingredients enough to meld the flavors but not so much that you disintegrate them into oblivion.
Cynthya Porter is the editor of Northern Gardener magazine. A professional writer, photographer and editor for 20+ years, she's freelanced for USA Today, Huff Post, AAA Living, Minnesota Monthly, Midwest Living and more.
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