Summer in Des Moines is all about long afternoons and relaxing in the gorgeous weather, often with a delicious cocktail in hand. And fresh herbs taken straight from the garden are the perfect way to finish a summer drink!
The “drink your yard” trend is a few years old and in full swing, and has to be one of our favorites to come around in a long time. It’s a great way to get creative with the staples in your garden in new and interesting ways you may never have explored before. Here are our top 4 herbs to grow indoors to keep your glass full all summer.
While not incredibly original, there’s a reason that mint is such a classic when it comes to summer cocktails. With such fresh flavor, it’s simply meant to be enjoyed on a back patio. From mojitos, to sweet teas, to mint juleps—mint gives a special lift to summer cocktails.
Mint fresh from the garden is so much more flavorful than store-bought. Thankfully, this herb is easy to grow and will only spread with more enthusiasm when you pinch the leaves off often, so feel free to be greedy with your mint this summer. Mint plants are so enthusiastic, you’ll have more than you can drink! You may find yourself giving it away, or hosting friends and family just to make more cocktails. All mints are famous for their growing prowess, but we love Mojitio mint in particular – and we like to keep it contained to a pot to keep it under control.
Try not to let your herb bloom, as flowering changes the flavor of the herb – ironically, though, the flavor will be at its best right before flowers appear. Plant in moist soil and don’t bother with fertilizer. Mint works well in containers, but it’s also been said to improve the taste of peas and tomatoes when grown as a companion plant.
BasilBasil has a bad reputation for being difficult to grow. We won’t deny that it takes a bit of patience and the perfect Goldilocks-like balance of soil conditions that are Just Right, but it isn’t impossible to grow at home. Once you find the right mix, your basil will thrive. Just remember if you don’t succeed the first time—it’s not you, it’s the basil!
The key is to get the moisture right: not too much and not too little. Start with soil that has great drainage, and find a location that gets a generous 6-8 hours of sun. It’s easy once you find the right fit.
If you’re used to eating packaged or dried basil, buckle up and get ready to have your culinary world changed. Leaves fresh off of the plant pack an intense flavor that is peppery and delightful. If you’re cooking, add fresh basil at the end as the flavors deteriorate quickly with heat – but if you’re adding leaves to a chilled beverage, you’ll be treated to the full flavor experience. We love the unexpected-yet-refreshing edge that basil gives to so many of our favorite beverages. It’s the perfect summer-fresh flavor.
Full sun is key to the growing basil with the best flavor. The heat of bright sunlight is essential to develop the oils that give basil its signature aroma. Try to prevent your basil from going to flower, as the flavor will change, but when it inevitably does bloom it makes for a pretty ornamental plant. Older plants and older leaves have less intense flavor, so replant new ones every few years to keep a top-quality supply on-hand. In the meantime, pinch leaves off regularly to season your dinner table and drinks. The more you take, the more leaves it grows
There aren’t many flavors more summery than the tangy taste of lemon – whether in a marinade, a dessert, or a cocktail. Get ready to fall in love with lemon all over again with lemon balm. While it’s not on the usual roster of herbs for many people, this subtle flavor workhorse is a great addition to your herb garden. Simply add it to anything you’d consider adding some citrus zest to.
A member of the mint family, lemon balm is simple to grow and easy to love. You’ll start enjoying this herb as soon as you pick it up to plant it—the plant releases a potent blast of lemon fragrance when you rustle its leaves. Plant in a container to give it a boost in warm soil conditions. Although related to the more aggressive mint plant, lemon balm actually makes a great container mate with other plants. Cut it back often to keep a healthy and bushy plant, and use it on everything from tea, fish, drinks, or even in decorative arrangements. To keep the flavor fresh and full, do not fertilize; water and sun are enough for this low-key plant. To sweeten the deal even further, this herb repels most insects—except bees!
Herbs are the surprising cocktail ingredient for taking your drinks from simple to satisfying. Experiment with sprigs of fresh herbs, or try infusing simple syrups with them to take your home bar to the next level. Enjoy them all to yourself or impress your friends with your mixology skills!