Recipes: Garden-Fresh Cocktails for Summer
Mixing a cocktail for someone, I often think, is a little act of kindness – even if it just amounts to mixing a Martini for someone you see every night of the week. Perhaps that’s why the cocktail hour has seen such a revival lately. In a world where everything has been turned upside down, it creates a momentary oasis of order, of ceremony. It’s a chance to switch off and tune into each other, and do something a little kind.
These days, a lukewarm G&T no longer cuts it – you’ve got to shake, stir, muddle and spritz with all the flair of a five-star bartender. An easy way to give your cocktails a bit more elan is to add a seasonal twist – if you can do it with ingredients plucked from your own garden, all the better. ‘Oh this Lavender Old Fashioned?’ you can say, gesturing nonchalantly to the drink in front of you, ‘is just a little something I threw together with things from the garden.’
And the English garden at this time of year is especially fun to plunder, as flowers, herbs and fruits all reach their absolute peak.
Peach and Basil Fizz
I grow several types of basil for playing around with in drinks: Sweet Basil (the most common variety), Greek Basil, Lemon Basil and more anise-y Thai Basil, too. Basil and peach is a gorgeous combination that features often in summery Italian salads, and it’s the key to the Bellini-inspired fizz below. Be sure to a really good-quality peach juice made from fruit that’s as ripe as can be. And if you’re using vodka, make it count: The Reid Single Malt Vodka is a flavoursome, full-bodied barley vodka that’s made at the Cardrona Distillery in New Zealand.
Juniper and Fig G&T
One of my favourite scents in late summer is the smell of fig – green, floral and fruity all at once. I have a fig tree growing right outside my study window and on hot days its heady perfume fills the air. In the G&T twist you’ll find below, the ripe fruit notes are a delicious counterpoint to the more peppery/citrus notes of gin. The sprig of rosemary – from your own garden, ideally – adds a herbal lift.
A gin inspired by the English countryside is ideal for this. Bartholomew Country Garden Gin is distilled in a micro-distillery housed in a backroom of The Newbury Pub in Berkshire – pub landlord Pete Lumber recommends enjoying its floral and herbal notes with ice-cold elderflower tonic.
Lavender Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned is a drink that can be adapted in all kinds of ways to capitalise on whatever is in season. The variation below uses two ingredients that are synonymous with English summer: lavender and mint. Before you add the sprig of mint, give it a clap between your palms, to really maximise the scent.
Thyme is another herb that works brilliantly in cocktails. The below is an aperitivo-style drink that would be great on a warm summer evening. Bittersweet red vermouth is a cornerstone of this recipe: try it with Mancino Rosso Amaranto, a traditional-style Vermouth di Torino made with 38 botanicals including vanilla, rhubarb, orange, juniper and myrrh. To make the drink extra-tantalising, give your coupe a few minutes in the freezer first.