Whether it’s fresh basil sprinkled over a simple plate of tomatoes or a sprig of mint in the pan with some new potatoes, fresh herbs elevate the most basic of dishes to new flavoursome heights. It’s the same with drinks!
Fresh herbs work well with most spirits, but I think they work even better with gin, probably because plants and herbs (botanicals) are at the heart of how gin derives its flavour. Some herbs even contain the same organic compounds found in juniper berries.
I’m not very green-fingered but have managed to grow all of the above in pots and in the garden. Adding them fresh to drink is best, but you could also add them to ice cubes or make up a herb-infused sugar syrup to use in cocktails.
Julips, mojitos and Southsides wouldn’t exist without mint. The warm, aromatic, sweet flavour that comes from fresh mint leaves offers a wonderful lift to a drink. A couple of Australian gins, Archie Rose and Botanic Australis have used a native variety as a botanical.
Mint goes well with strawberries as a G&T garnish or try it in a classic Southside, a simple blend of gin, lemon juice and mint, so refreshing!
Rosmarinus officinalis, to be fancy, is also a member of the mint family and has a bitter, astringent flavour. I’ve droned on for years about my love of rosemary paired with gin – it’s even a key botanical in one of my favourite gins, Gin Mare, which is unsurprisingly when you learn that α-Pinene, one of the organic compounds found in juniper berries, imparts a rosemary flavour.
The aroma of Basil is such a favourite of mine, conjuring up holidays in the Mediterranean and I adore how it brightens a simple tomato and mozzarella salad. I was surprised to learn it too is a member of the mint family. I’m not sure whether the delicate leaves would stand up to making a sugar syrup, I would suggest maybe infusing the water first before removing the leaves then adding the sugar.
The Gin and Basil Smash is a winner at GQHQ, and so pretty, it must be good for you!
You could also try it with Poor Tom’s gin and strawberries!
As you’d expect lemon verbena adds a lemon flavour to food and drinks. You can also make a tea with it, but I liked it in this Peach and Verbena smash from Ryan Chetiyawardana’s book. I’m going to experiment with lemon verbena as a garnish in a G&T and maybe as a substitute for a twist of lemon in a martini.
Tarragon imparts a slight anise flavour that might not suit all palates, but I think most people would enjoy this Tarragon & Gin Lemonade. It adds just the right amount of savoury to a traditionally sweet drink.
Thyme’s subtle flavour minty flavour goes brilliantly with lemon in cooking so naturally that was where I started when experimenting. However, I stumbled across this recipe for a Thyme Gin cocktail and loved the delicious flavour of thyme honey water.
Do you have a favourite herb you like to use with your gin? Let me know.