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How To Use Herbs To Enhance Your Drink

When we think of herbs, our immediate thought is savoury, and yes, rosemary goes well with garlic and lemon in a roast chicken, but did you know it also pairs beautifully with grapefruit, cranberry or watermelon? Herbs are incredibly versatile, and their flavours adapt to the environment that they’re exposed to. Their savoury flavour can be enhanced using garlic, cheese, oil or chilli, and we can heighten their sweetness by simply pairing them with sugar, fruit, chocolate or cream.

Make the most of herbs 
There are a few ways to tap into the delicate flavours of herbs when you’re next making a round of drinks for a party. Here are some to consider.

Creating a simple syrup using water, sugar and your herb of choice helps create a strong herb infusion. Simply add a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar to a pot, heat gently and stir to dissolve the sugar, then add your herb of choice (amount depending on your strength preference). Bring this mixture to a boil for about 2–3 minutes without stirring, then remove the pot from the heat and set it aside to infuse for a further 20 minutes. Strain and add this syrup (in tablespoons, to taste) to some crushed ice, throw in some alcohol and you’ve got a delicious, herb-infused cocktail.

Add your herbs of choice along with the paired drink to a glass or jug and throw in a bunch of ice. Using a wooden spoon, stir and distribute the herbs. The flavours will slowly infuse into the drink. The best way to ensure enough flavour is getting
in there is to lightly bruise or tear the herbs before adding them.

If you’re creating a fruity drink, add your herbs and fruit of choice to a high-powered blender and blitz. Strain this mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to make a puree. Add this puree to a fizzy filler such as soda water or lemonade. You can also add the mixture back to your blender with some ice and blend to finish it off, creating a frozen cocktail.

Maybe simple syrup isn’t your thing, and the food processor you need is still at the shop, but infusing flavours can be done easily with just your own strength and a cocktail shaker (or a sealable cup or glass jar). Chop up your fruit of choice and add to a bowl, sprinkle over some sugar and stir to coat. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow for the sugar to draw out the fruity flavour. Add this mixture, (as well as your herb of choice) to your shaker. Shake vigorously for a minute to start breaking down the fruit. Use a wooden spoon to help bruise the mixture. Add some ice to your shaker and continue to shake until the mixture is broken down. Add this to a glass with your drink of choice. We would recommend strawberries and mint paired with soda water, or watermelon and basil paired with some lemonade.

When it comes to experimenting with herbs, the best way is to start simple. Use herbs you have available to you in your kitchen or growing in your garden such as mint, rosemary, thyme, sage or lavender to name a few. A special trip to the shops can include lemongrass and even coriander. 

There would be no better opportunity to use mint than for a classic mojito. A mojito consists of six elements: mint leaves, lime juice, simple syrup, white rum, soda water and ice. To make your mojito, add 10 mint leaves and the juice from half a lime to a shaker or sealable glass jar. Add ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water to a pot and warm until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 3 minutes, then take off the heat. Add 1 tbsp of this simple syrup to your shaker, along with 1 can of soda water, 1 shot of rum and a few blocks of ice. Seal and shake for about 1–3 minutes until well infused. Pour into your serving glass and top with more ice. Leave out the rum for an alcohol-free drink that’s just as tasty. 

If you’re looking to create fun, tasty drinks without all the specific measurements, go wild and try out different combinations and amounts. Watermelon juice and thyme, orange and rosemary, pomegranate and sage – who knows, maybe you’ll create the next best cocktail! 

Words by Sjaan Van der Ploeg
Photography: Unsplash

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