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Recipes : Good Vibrations with Herbal Libations
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 Message 1 of 1 in Discussion 
From: MSN NicknameTipsyCad147  (Original Message)Sent: 4/10/2007 8:46 AM

 Good Vibrations with Herbal Libations

Toward the end of summer, nothing’s more relaxing than kicking back on the porch and enjoying a nice, cooling beverage ?especially one that’s enhanced with herbs.

By Susan Belsinger
Illustrations by Avram Dumitrescu

“There’s booze in the blender and soon it will render those frozen concoctions that help me hang on.?BR>—Jimmy Buffet,
Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville

After a long, hot day in the summer sun, most of us look forward to relaxing with a cool drink. These recipes combine just-picked herbs with fresh fruit, fruit juices, liqueurs and distilled spirits to make inspired cocktails. Some are classics enhanced with herbs, while others are inventions or concoctions from years of practice enjoying libations. Sharing a cocktail before a meal is not only a great way to unwind, but it is a long-standing social practice, whether it is for a fundraiser, a celebratory occasion or just boat drinks on a sunny day. These herbal libations lend themselves to smooth sipping, so kick back and put your feet up ?whether you’re on the veranda, patio, deck, tailgate, picnic blanket, lawn or beach chair ?and enjoy the refreshment.

Warning: These cocktails are smooth and go down easy, so be judicious, and remember that you are legally responsible for the amount of alcohol your guests drink. Most of these beverages can be made without the alcohol (noted below in recipes), and still make for a lovely libation.

Boat drinks. Waitress, I need two more boat drinks. Then I'm headin?south ‘fore my dream shrinks. I gotta go where it’s warm.
—Jimmy Buffet



Makes 1 drink

This drink is named after an art history professor, Eugene Marseglia, who we lived with in Italy many years ago. It was his favorite aperitivo and he had one just about every evening; he always ate roasted peanuts as an accompaniment. Although it seemed bitter to me at first, I grew to enjoy it.

1 sprig or about 6 leaves lemon verbena
2 ounces sweet red vermouth (Cinzano or Martini & Rossi)
Lemon verbena leaf garnish
About 2 ounces sparkling water or seltzer
Slice of lemon or twist

Muddle lemon verbena in the bottom of an 8-ounce glass. Add ice to fill about halfway. Add vermouth. Rub verbena leaf around rim of glass. Pour in sparkling water, stir and garnish with lemon slice. Eugenio used the twist, I like to squeeze in the slice and float it. Serve immediately, preferably with peanuts.


Makes 1 margarita

Here’s a tropical blue take on the classic margarita. The orange-scented geranium works harmoniously with the curacao. Any of the orange pelargoniums will do, but ‘Prince of Orange?is my personal favorite.

4 or 5 orange-scented geranium leaves
1 cup limeade
1? cup good-quality tequila
2 tablespoons blue curacao
Lime wedge
Crushed ice

Muddle orange geranium leaves in the bottom of the cocktail shaker. Add limeade, tequila and curacao. Run lime wedge around the rim of a chilled margarita glass, and dip rim in salt. Squeeze lime wedge into cocktail shaker and add about a cup of crushed ice. Shake for 10 seconds and strain margarita into prepared glass. Add a little crushed ice to the drink if you desire.

Balmy Sunset
Balmy Sunset

Balmy Sunset

Makes 2 tall or 4 smaller drinks

Carolyn Dille and I created this drink for Gourmet magazine back in 1980. My kids like this one a lot ?just leave out the rum for a fruity summer drink.

4 or 5 lemon balm sprigs
11? cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3? cup dark rum
11? teaspoons grenadine
Few dashes of Angostura bitters, optional
Ice cubes or crushed ice
Lemon balm leaves
Splash sparkling water or seltzer, optional

Muddle lemon balm in the bottom of a pitcher. Add juices, rum and grenadine and stir well. Add bitters, if desired. Steep punch in the refrigerator until ready to serve; sometimes I make it in the morning to serve that evening.
To serve, remove lemon balm sprigs. Rub rims of 4 chilled cocktail glasses, or 2 chilled tall glasses, with a lemon balm leaf. Serve punch on the rocks or over crushed ice. Garnish with lemon balm leaves, and add a splash of sparkling water if desired. Serve cold with a straw.

Humdinger Rum Zinger

This drink evolved from a “Dark and Stormy,?which is dark rum and ginger beer. Combining this zesty ginger (Zingiber officinale) syrup, which has the unexpected flavor nuances of vanilla and lemon, with sparkling water to make a homemade ginger ale elevates this from everyday to extraordinary soda. I drink this syrup hot when I have a scratchy throat or cold, and keep it in the fridge to make a delicious natural soda.

Ginger Syrup:
Makes about 4 cups

4 cups water
7- to 8-inch piece gingerroot, peeled and sliced
1? vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups sugar
1? lemon, sliced

In a small saucepan, place water over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Add ginger and vanilla bean, reduce heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Stir sugar in to dissolve; add lemon. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for at least 30 minutes, or until room temperature. Strain and refrigerate. (If you are in a hurry, use an ice bath to cool the syrup quickly.) This syrup will keep in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days. Store for up to a year in the freezer.

To prepare Rum Zinger:
Makes 1 drink

Ice cubes
11? ounces Mount Gay Special Reserve or a dark rum, such as Myer’s or Pusser’s
3 ounces Ginger Syrup (recipe above)
1 to 2 ounces sparkling water or club soda
1 tablespoon cassis (black currant liqueur)
Lime wedge

Fill a tall glass halfway with ice cubes. Pour in rum and Ginger Syrup. Add sparkling water, drizzle in cassis and stir a few times. Garnish with lime wedge and serve with a straw.

Strawberry Margarita
Strawberry Margarita

Frozen Strawberry Margarita

Makes 2 drinks

This is a gorgeous, bright-red slush highlighted with the aroma of citrus herbs. I buy fresh, local berries when they are in season ?wash, core and slice them ?and freeze one-cup quantities in zip-close freezer bags so that I am always prepared. You could try this with frozen melon chunks, too.

8 to 12 lime- or lemon-scented geranium leaves
1 cup limeade
1 cup frozen sliced strawberries
1? cup good-quality tequila
1? cup triple sec
2 cups crushed ice

Muddle scented geranium leaves in a pitcher and add limeade. Set aside. Put frozen strawberries, tequila and triple sec into a blender. Strain limeade into blender and blend for 10 seconds. Add ice and blend until frozen and smooth. Pour into frosted margarita glasses and serve immediately with a straw, garnished with a scented geranium leaf, if desired.

Frozen Mint Daiquiri

Makes 2 drinks

This drink is both tart and tangy, yet refreshing and cooling. Use peppermint (Mentha ¥piperita), or if you grow or can find it, Madalene Hill’s red-stemmed doublemint (Mentha ¥gracilis ‘Madalene Hill?.

2 limes
3 tablespoons sugar
5 large peppermint sprigs
11? cups water
About 2 cups crushed ice
3 ounces Mount Gay Special Reserve or other light rum
1 tablespoon clear Créme de Menthe
2 small mint sprigs

Squeeze juice of 2 limes into a small pitcher and dissolve sugar into juice. Muddle mint sprigs in pitcher and add water. Adjust to taste with more lime juice or sugar, if necessary. Put ice into blender, add rum and Créme de Menthe, and strain in lime mixture, squeezing excess liquid from mint leaves. Blend until smooth and pour into two well-chilled party glasses. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve immediately.

Randy Rose or Scarlet Lady

Makes 1 drink

When I first made this, I imagined a tart pink drink, and decided to use rose-scented geranium. I was quite pleased with the results, but a few testers (male) found the rose geranium too perfumey for their taste. I made it again with red-flowered bee balm (Monarda didyma) and loved it. It is a scandalous scarlet pink.

2 rose-scented geranium leaves or 5 bee balm leaves
11? ounces vodka
3 ounces pink grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon grenadine
Heaping cup crushed ice

Muddle geranium or bee balm in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add vodka, grapefruit juice and grenadine, along with ice and shake for 10 seconds. Pour into a well-chilled martini glass and serve immediately.

Bay Piña Colada

Makes 2 drinks

Bay syrup is one of my favorite flavorings ?it has hints of spice, citrus, balsam and a whiff of vanilla ?quite pleasant in this version of the pina colada. I make this for my kids without the rum.

1 cup pineapple juice
1? cup light rum, such as Mount Gay Special Reserve
1? cup cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez
1? cup bay syrup (see ?A target=_top href="">Sweet Thing: Make an Herbal Syrup?
2 generous cups crushed ice
Pineapple wedges for garnish

Combine pineapple juice, rum, cream of coconut and bay syrup in the blender. Blend to combine ingredients. Add crushed ice, blend until smooth and pour into frosted balloon or tall cocktail glasses. Serve with straws and a pineapple wedge, if desired.

Herb of the Year Kir Royale

Makes 1 drink

This well-known cocktail has a bit of a twist to it in honor of this 2006 Herb of the Year, scented geraniums. Their perfume and flavor add interest to many dishes ?just be careful to use judiciously and not overwhelm. Kir is a classic French cocktail made with white wine and cassis (black currant liqueur), while Kir Royale is champagne with cassis.

Scant 1? ounce rose geranium syrup (see ?/FONT>Sweet Thing: Make an Herbal Syrup?
Scant 1? ounce cassis
Champagne, well-chilled
1 rose geranium flower or small leaf

Pour syrup and cassis into a champagne flute and pour in just a bit of champagne. It will bubble up and want to spill over. After bubbling subsides, carefully fill glass with champagne. Garnish with a blossom or leaf and serve immediately.
Use ginger ale or sparkling white grape juice for a nonalcoholic version.

Basil Bloody Mary
Basil Bloody Mary

Basil Bloody Mary

Makes 2 tall drinks

Fresh basil gives great fragrance and flavor to a Bloody Mary. For a tasty nonalcoholic drink, leave out the vodka.

Small handful basil leaves
11? cups V-8 or tomato juice
3 ounces vodka
About 2 teaspoons lime juice
Few dashes Angostura bitters
Few dashes Tabasco, optional
Basil ice cubes
2 stalks celery, washed and trimmed
Freshly ground black pepper

“Some prefer their basil green, Or perhaps that’s all they’ve seen. If your mood’s is contrary, Try ‘Opal?Bloody Mary. Perhaps your demeanor will demean.?BR>—Dr. James A. Duke

Muddle basil leaves in a pitcher. Add V-8 or tomato juice, vodka, lime juice, bitters and Tabasco, if desired, and stir well. Make ahead and refrigerate until chilled, or pour into tall chilled glasses filled halfway with basil ice cubes (or regular).
Garnish each glass with a sprig of basil and a celery stalk for stirring or crunching, and a grinding of black pepper, if desired.

Lemonade & Gin Fizz with Rosemary

Makes 1 drink

The resinous flavor of the rosemary works with the gin; the lemonade and seltzer combined with them is reminiscent of a gin and tonic, only more refreshing and thirst-quenching. For those who don’t prefer gin, this also is very good with vodka. This is an assertive flavored drink; lemon herbs could be used in place of the rosemary for a less resinous flavor. Simply leave out the alcohol for a nonalcoholic beverage.

4-inch sprig rosemary
2 ounces gin or vodka
2 ounces lemonade
3 dashes Angostura bitters, optional
Ice, crushed and cubes
3 to 4 ounces seltzer water or club soda
Small sprig rosemary for garnish
Lemon slice for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle rosemary with gin or vodka. Add lemonade and bitters, if desired. Fill a chilled highball or Collins glass halfway with ice cubes. Add about 1 cup crushed ice to shaker and shake for 10 seconds. Strain liquid into the prepared glass and add seltzer or soda; stir briefly and garnish with rosemary sprig and lemon slice. Serve with a straw.

Sweet Thing: Make Herbal Syrups

Makes a generous 2 cups

Herb syrups can be added to beverages, as well as fruits and desserts. The syrups here are designed for beverages; they are lightly sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. My favorite herbs for drinks include bay, basil, lemon herbs, mints and the citrus-scented geraniums.

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
About 8 to 10 herb sprigs (4 to 5 inches long) or a large handful of leaves (for bay, only use 6 leaves)

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Add herbs, cover, remove from heat and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Remove leaves, squeezing them into the syrup to extract their flavor. Once cooled to room temperature, refrigerate. (If you are in a hurry, set the hot pan of syrup in an ice bath to cool it quickly). This syrup will keep in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days. Store for up to a year in the freezer.

Mojos con Menta

Makes 4 tall drinks

These are a version of mojitos ?but sweeter. They are different from the mojitos that you get in a bar, because they have a mint syrup and limeade rather than mint, sugar, lime juice and rum. The traditional mint to use is spearmint (Mentha spicata) ?but any mint will do. Use any kind of rum that you like ?nbsp; however the lemon-flavored Bacardi Citron is quite perfect here. Make the mint syrup ahead to have on hand.
1 cup mint syrup
3 cups limeade
1 cup rum
2 limes, squeezed
8 to 10 drops Angostura bitters
Sparkling water or seltzer
Ice cubes
Mint sprigs
Lime wedges

Combine mint syrup, limeade, rum and lime juice in a pitcher and stir. Add about 8 drops of bitters to start; I quite like them so sometimes I use more than average. Taste and adjust with a bit more lime, bitters or rum ?keeping in mind you’ll add a splash of bubbly and garnish.

To serve, fill four tall, well-chilled glasses halfway with ice and jam a few sprigs of mint into each glass. Pour the mojos into each glass, leaving room for a top-off of sparkling water. Squeeze a wedge of lime into each glass, stir and serve with a straw. Leave out the rum for a refreshing summertime beverage.

Rupert’s Rum Punch

Makes 6 to 8 drinks

When I visited Jamaica many years ago, I stayed at a memorable place called Scotch on the Rocks. The cook’s husband, Rupert, took care of the garden and made a batch of this rum punch every day. He told me that using the bitters would prevent a hangover. So far it has worked.

Using Wray & Nephew 126 Overproof Rum gives this drink an inimitable special flavor. You can substitute any other overproof rum or a good-quality dark rum. If you are new to bitters, perhaps you should use about half the amount called for. Leave out the rum for a nonalcoholic version. This keeps well in the fridge for a few days ?so make a whole pitcher while you are at it.

21? cups fresh-squeezed orange juice
21?  cups fresh limeade
11? cups 126 overproof rum
1? cup grenadine
Handful lemon verbena leaves
20 to 24 shakes Angostura bitters
6 to 8 halved lime slices
Ice cubes
Soda water, optional

In a large pitcher, combine orange juice, limeade, rum and grenadine and stir well. Add lemon verbena, bruising leaves against the side of the pitcher with a wooden spoon. Shake in bitters, to taste. Refrigerate punch until ready to serve.

To serve, fill glasses with ice, pour in rum punch and garnish with a slice of lime. Add a splash of soda water to each glass, if desired, and stir. Serve immediately and think of the sun setting over the Caribbean.

Susan Belsinger is a frequent contributor to The Herb Companion who loves to sip herbal libations in her Maryland home.

Web Bonus Recipes:

Cool Trick: Make Herbal Ice Cubes

Makes about 1 quart of infusion; fills 2 or 3 ice cube trays.

You can use herbal ice cubes to flavor all sorts of beverages. Experiment and come up with your own combinations.

1 quart water
Generous 2 cups packed fresh herb leaves or flowers

Bring water to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. Add herbs and cover. Remove from heat and let steep for about 30 minutes, or until infusion is room temperature. Strain herbs and pour infusion into ice cube trays and freeze until hard. Once frozen, store cubes in zip-close freezer bags.

Lemonade or Limeade with Herbs

Makes 6 to 8 servings

A simple glass of lemon or limeade becomes intriguing by adding a handful of herbs or by adding herb-infused ice cubes.

6 lemons or limes
2 quarts water
1 cup sugar, or to taste
1 lemon or lime, sliced and seeded
Handful of fresh herbs or herb-infused ice cubes

Squeeze juice from fruit. Bring water to a boil and stir in sugar to dissolve. Add juice, stir well and add citrus slices (reserve a few slices for garnish). If you are adding fresh herbs, put them in now to infuse. Let cool to room temperature. Strain herbs and refrigerate until ready to serve. Fill glasses with ice cubes, or herb-infused ice cubes. Fill with lemonade or limeade, leaving room to add a splash of sparkling water, if desired. Garnish glasses with herb sprigs and citrus slices and serve.


Makes 1 drink

Lemon balm elevates the cosmopolitan to new heights. You could use lemon verbena or lemon basil here, but the name won’t sound as good. Make a nonalcoholic version substituting lemonade for the vodka and triple sec.

10 to 12 lemon balm leaves
11? ounces lemon-flavored vodka
3? ounce triple sec
3 ounces cranberry juice
Wedge of lime
Crushed ice

Muddle lemon balm leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice, and squeeze in juice of lime wedge. Add a generous cup of crushed ice and shake for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon balm leaf.

Breeze Easy: Make an Alcohol Infusion

Pretty much any alcoholic beverage can be infused with herbs. The clear spirits such as vodka and rum lend themselves to herbs, but I also like brandy. I find chiles in tequila to be quite wonderful medicinally. Jim Duke, who is a delightful herbalist/ethnobotanist, keeps his anise hyssop-infused vodka icy cold for summertime sipping. Jim wrote a book in 1987 called Living Liqueurs with illustrations by his wife, Peggy Duke, published by Quarterman Publications. If you are lucky enough to find a copy, it is well worth it for the recipes, lore, and history, but especially for his poetry. Here’s a sample of Jim’s poetry about one of my favorite herbs:

“Some know it as Oswego Tea,
What’s Bergamot to you and me
The Boston Tea Party
Would have turned out more hearty
Reddened with Balm-of-the-Bee.?/FONT>

1 quart alcohol of your choice
Handful of herb sprigs

Infuse herbs in alcohol overnight, for a few weeks, or until you finish drinking the spirits. The herbs will begin to break down after a few weeks, so you may want to strain them out.

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