It’s harvest season, and that doesn’t just mean growing dinner in the yard. Plenty of garden-fresh herbs and vegetables can spruce up great cocktails. Here are five simple garden cocktails from prominent magazines and TV shows, and our ratings. My wife and I put each of these recipes to the test, with herbs, peppers and tomatoes from my garden, and other fruits and vegetables from local organic farms. It’s a tough job but, hey, somebody has to do it.
Frozen Yellow Mary
(from "Food and Wine" magazine)
2 pounds yellow tomatoes, halved and cored
4 sliced jalapenos
16 Thai basil leaves
1 cup vodka
Garnish: halved yellow tomatoes and basil leaves
In a jar, cover the jalapeño slices with vodka. Let stand for three hours, then strain. Puree tomatoes in a food processor, then filter the puree through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup. Pour juice into ice cube trays and freeze until firm, about three hours.
In a blender, combine the jalapeño vodka, tomato ice cubes and basil. Blend until smooth and season with salt; if the drink is very thick, add a little water and blend again. Pour into glasses, garnish with cherry tomato halves and basil flowers and serve.
Yellow garden tomatoes are like a completely different food group than the mealy red globes at the supermarket. Likewise, yellow tomatoes make a very different drink than a standard Bloody Mary. The flavor of the Yellow Mary is just a little sweeter and more refreshing, and the Thai basil adds a strong but pleasant flavor. The jalapeño vodka adds a nice little bite you can just feel in the back of the throat.
Garden Gin and Tonic
(from "Good Housekeeping" magazine)
4 oz tonic water
½ oz fresh lime juice
3 oz gin
3 sprigs mint
2 cucumber slices
Garnish: cucumber wheel
Muddle one slice cucumber with two sprigs mint in a glass, then fill with ice. Add gin, tonic and lime juice. Stir and garnish with a cucumber wheel.
Garden mint and cucumbers are a refreshing addition to a traditional gin and tonic. Also, the flavors of mint and cucumber are not overpowered by the lime juice, which instead adds to the complex flavor.
(from "Good Housekeeping" magazine)
1/4 to 1/2 oz agave nectar
1 and ½ oz vodka
10-15 fresh blueberries
½ oz lemon, cut in pieces
2 -3 fresh thyme sprigs
Muddle berries and lemon in a glass. Add vodka, agave nectar and ice, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Rub three sprigs of thyme between palms to release fragrant oils. Place two sprigs in the bottom of a highball glass and fill with ice. Strain the cocktail over ice and stick the last thyme sprig in the cocktail as a garnish.
I was curious about the name of this cocktail, but it fits. The thyme flavor is very strong, but the drink has a unique and pleasant flavor. It’s also quite strong, with roughly equal parts vodka and all other ingredients. It was a little much for my wife, but I enjoyed the vodka kick.
(from "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine)
2-3 oz gold rum
6 mint leaves
1 tsp lime juice
2 tsp superfine sugar
Crush mint in the bottom of a tall glass. Pour in rum, lime juice and sugar. Add ice, stir and top with club soda.
It’s hard to go wrong with a mojito, but garden-fresh mint makes a great, refreshing summer drink even better. It is very light, probably dangerously so. I could drink these all day. I also used the pineapple mint that has been growing wild in our vegetable patch since before we bought our house. It added a wonderful, subtle hint of pineapple.
Fresh Peach Bellini
(from Food Network’s "Barefoot Contessa" show)
1 bottle Prosecco sparking wine
1 TBS lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp sugar
2 diced and seeded ripe peaches
Blend peaches, lemon juice and sugar in a food processor. Press the mixture through a sieve and discard the peach solids. Place two tablespoons of the puree into each champagne glass and fill with Prosecco.
The flavor of Prosecco dominates this drink, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, the taste of all those Palisade, Colorado, peaches is a little bit buried in this drink (and that’s a shame, because I think Palisade peaches hold their own against Georgia’s famed crop). Consider a higher peach-to-Prosecco ratio when making this drink.