The festive season is a fine excuse or motivation to dust off the cocktail shaker and whip up something fancy, all the better if you can draw upon the provender of your garden for inspiration and substance.
Depending on what you grow, you’ll likely have plenty of mouth-watering options – fresh strawberries, raspberries, early stone fruit, including peaches and Japanese plums, and citrus of at least a few lingering kinds.
The summer herb garden has much to offer the bartender too – mints of various kinds, lemongrass, verbena, balm and myrtle, stevia, kaffir lime, sorrel, rhubarb, lavender and even acrid, invigorating wormwood.
A range of summer drinks can be made with homegrown ingredients. The only real limit is your own good taste.
So what should you go if you want tasty summer cocktails and mocktails?
If you have a loquat tree, you can try making your own DIY amaretto. This almond-flavoured liqueur is traditionally made from bitter almonds, which are not grown or sold here due to their moderate degree of toxicity. You can make a much safer, but still very almondy version, from sun-dried and cracked loquat kernels. Soak 1 cup of kernels in a litre of vodka for about six months. Sweeten to taste with sugar syrup and use in place of amaretto. Blend it with almond milk, white grapes and ice for an almost-nutritious heat buster.
Got a peach tree? Why not make homegrown bellinis. One of the simplest of all cocktails, it relies absolutely on perfect peaches and just enough cold, sparkling wine, simply stirred together and served. Squeeze ripe peaches to a pulp by hand. Force through a sieve, chill and mix 1:2 with dry, sparkling white wine. For something cutely kiwi, use ‘Blackboy’ peaches instead, blended with sparkling rosé.
Or, if you have homegrown cherries, cherry brandy couldn’t be easier. Remove stems from ripe, whole cherries and prick them all over before filling a large jar to the top. Add enough caster sugar to fill the jar a third from the bottom. Fill the jar with brandy, seal and store in a cool, dark place for at least six weeks. Add cracked cherry stones for an almond flavour.SUPPLIED
The garden can offer a bounty when it comes to making cocktails.
You can use your berries to make a fizzing pink berry spritzer too. In a blender, blitz frozen or fresh berries of your choice, with sugar syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar and water) and ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Press the mixture through a sieve and discard the solids. Pour into a jug and top with sparkling wine, lemonade or soda water. Pour over ice into glasses with added berries and herbs.
Fancy something non-alcoholic? To make the best lemon cordial ever, add the finely grated zest and juice of 5 lemons, along with a pinch of salt, to a litre of strong sugar syrup (2:1 with water). Bring to the boil for 3 minutes. Cover and set aside for 12 hours or overnight. Re-boil, strain and bottle. Dilute roughly 1:10 with chilled water – preferably sparkling.