That lonely maraschino cherry is sick of being the only thing that resembles a plant in your drink. It’s time for cocktails to wake up to the bright summer sun—and the garden bounty it brings.
In the few months of prime growing season in the Northwest, gardeners do their darndest to eat through their harvest while it’s fresh. Whether you’ve run out of ideas for what to do with the case of peaches you bought or your mint plant is threatening to swallow your garage, a new crop (pun intended) of books is ready to help you bring the same plethora of plants to your glass.
Dark, stormy skies call for brooding whiskey, and chilly winter nights for spiced wine, but summer opens up all the cocktail doors and welcomes more options than there are thorns on a raspberry vine.
To get started, check out one of these books, all ready to help you turn your plentiful plums into cider—or if you garden like me, perhaps just your dandelions into wine.
A great handbook for the beginner bartender, this book starts with the very basics. Organized by season, nearly every drink is a simple, fruit-forward twist on a classic cocktail. More experienced drinkers will be bored by the raspberry French 75 or the peach julep, but the simple layout, easy-to-read recipes, and big pictures make a good introduction to drinks for first-time mixers.
On the other end of the spectrum, this is the expert’s manual. Covering everything from heat-extracting strawberry juice to fermenting your own mixed-berry mead, the book offers a technique-focused look at beverage creation. Starting at the beginning—how to tend to your garden to end up with enough ingredients for drinks—the book goes on to illustrate how to make watermelon-mint syrup, and even the step-by-step of fermenting your own herb wine.
Unlike the previous two books, this is about plants first, and drinks second. Each page is about a specific plant, with an explanation of how it’s used in various beverages. While the drink ideas are mostly general information and method (how rum is made, for example) the occasional cocktail recipe sneaks in—and they aren’t messing around. The Dombey’s Last Word is one of the easier ones, employing fresh lemon verbena in a twist on the Seattle favorite. For the more daring, the Mamani gin and tonic involves peppers, cucumbers, cilantro, basil, and cherry tomatoes.
For the project-inclined, local author Maggie Savarino’s book offers instructions for making bitters, shrubs, liqueurs, syrups—and anything else you might ever need to make a wide variety of cocktails from whatever grows in your garden. The cocktail recipes range from classic to inventive, using both fresh seasonal fruit in drinks like the picnic gin (watermelon is involved) and the already-processed garden ingredients from earlier in the book, like the Pimm’s garden, which uses fennel liqueur.