Garden to Glass: A High Summer Cocktail Party (with Experimentation)

It is high summer, ladies and g's, and there are herbs EVERYWHERE! The garden at home is bursting! You wouldn't know it driving by high above, but just beneath the Prospect Expressway, pots of mint, oregano, thyme, tarragon and rosemary are taking over a back yard in Brooklyn. Inside, the mini-fridge is stocked full--not with beer, but with green and purple basil. A few blocks up the hill, HA's fire escape is flush with herbs.

And it's not just Brooklyn. It's New Jersey too. YL hosted the July meeting of the NY Cocktail Club in her beautiful home and garden this past weekend in Maplewood--a pretty town physically only 20 miles away from NYC, but mentally lightyears from the sweaty, crowded metropolis.

Until a few days ago, the heat had been bearing down on NY with relentless abandon lately. So, us city-bound clubettes (LP, HA and Mrs. O) were happy for the day trip. We had a wonderfully relaxing afternoon in the garden.

YL started with online recipes for food and cocktails that highlight the best of summer, but in perfect Cocktail Club style, there was a fair amount of tasting, playing and adapting. The menu and loose recipes (or suggestions) are below.

It's summer! No time to worry too much about following recipes--unless of course you're doing something scientific like canning, in which case you should read: Fear and Respect in the Canning Kitchen (And Peach Melba Sauce) on the awesome blog Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen. Watch out for that elk!

Just know that experimentation can have mixed outcomes. Sometimes, the results are delightful! Take YL's strawberry-basil lemonrita. Everything was made and mixed to taste! Bravo, YL for hitting the mark with this beautiful and balanced, go-down-easy, summer sipper.

And, HA's last-minute surprise garnish was a hit! She wrapped blueberries in spearmint leaves from her fire-escape herb garden... We froze them for about an hour and then used them at will to top our libations. Delicious and beautiful!

HA also cleverly tossed popcorn with olive oil, salt, grapefruit zest and juice, and globe basil (also from her fire-escape herb garden. Globe basil is sweeter, subtler and smaller than the more familiar varieties. Not a kernel was left by the time dinner hit the table.
Gooseberries! Tart!

Other times, experimentations fall short of mouthwatering expectations. But they are interesting nonetheless! We attempted a cocktail using fresh gooseberries and strawberry jam that initially tasted just like cough-syrup. We almost abandoned it straight away, but a healthy dose of lemon juice and a splash of Elderflower liqueur, the great mediator, led to a drinkable dram... not shareworthy, but drinkable.

Of course, yes. I hear you. It's always helpful to stick to the recipe for a at least a few menu items. It's comforting to see that note, "Perfected in our Test Kitchens!"

YL whipped up a few on-point dishes to recipe-tested perfection... with the help of her beau who was manning the grill. The main course chicken was so beautiful and perfectly cooked that when Mrs. O spied the cover of Bon Appétit on the coffee table she declared, "That looks like the chicken we just ate!" In fact it was... to the recipe!

Get to it, ladies and g's. Pick those herbs while there still abundant! And find some way to toss them into a cocktail shaker and whatever else you're cooking up!

Garden to Glass Menu

Strawberry-Basil Lemonrita (Untested "recipe")
  • Make fresh lemonade to taste with lemons, water, and simple syrup (plenty of recipes online)
  • Add tequila to taste
  • Add 1 cup or so of sliced strawberries and a handful of basil leaves
  • Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, stir before serving
Berry Cocktail

Berry-Rosemary Cocktail (Untested recipe)
(adapted from a recipe on the blog Inspired Kara)
--20 blackberries 
--20 strawberries
--2 sprigs of rosemary
--3 tbs simple syrup
--2 limes, juiced
--4 ounces gin
--club soda
  • Muddle the blackberries, strawberries and rosemary in a small pitcher or measuring cup with a spout
  • Add the simple syrup, lime juice and gin
  • Stir with ice
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a separate container
  • Divide evenly among 4 rocks glasses filled with ice
  • Top with soda
  • Garnish with a few berries and tiny sprig of rosemary

Bourbon and Peach Smash
Follow this recipe from Imbibe, or for our version, omit the simple syrup and use ginger beer instead of ginger ale.

--Popcorn tossed with olive oil, salt, grapefruit juice and zest, and globe basil (Experimental by HA)
--Sambal Chicken Skewers (Bon Appétit)
--Mediterranean Farro Salad with Green Beans (Food Network)
--Summer Vegetable Ceviche (Food and Wine)

Garden Map!
Popcorn with globe basil from HA's fire escape