Herbs for cocktails: the best fresh herbs for delicious cocktails


I am a student of agricultural sciences and a real country kid. At home, I love tending my small vegetable garden and spending time out in nature. When not outdoors, I love to write. Beyond gardening and writing, however, I am particularly passionate about wildlife.

Favourite fruit: currants and raspberries
Favourite vegetables: salsify, savoy cabbage and potatoes

More and more people are adding herbs to their cocktails. And no surprise, when you can grow your own at home! Read on to find out which home-grown herbs work best in cocktails.

Cocktail with basil
Herb cocktails are a real trend [Photo: Jacob Lund/ Shutterstock.com]

Cocktails are changing, and herbs are playing a staring role. Whether you are looking for an exotic hit of lavender, the playful aroma of orange mint, or the surprising taste of lemongrass, here is everything you need to know about growing fresh cocktail herbs at home.

1. Cocktails with mint

The herb most associated with cocktails is mint (Mentha). Its sharp flavours blend particularly well with citrussy fruits, which is why it is often found in Mojitos and Caipirinhas, whose zesty lemon flavours are staples of any good bar!

Fortunately, mint is easy to grow at home, but which variety is best for cocktails? There are over 600 varieties to choose from, but most cocktails are prepared with either spearmint (Mentha spicata) or mojito mint (Mentha nemerosa), both of which taste relatively mild. If you want a real kick, add some peppermint (Mentha × piperita) to your cocktail, for a sharper, menthol flavour.

Bearded tail cocktail with basil
Mint is one of the cocktail classics [Photo:Pixel-Shot/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Add a delightful, fruity aroma to your cocktails by growing pineapple mint (Mentha rotundifolia variegata), or opt for a playful, citrus note with orange mint (Mentha piperita var. citrata).

2. Cocktails with basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) has become increasingly popular in the cocktail world since the invention of the Gin Basil or Basil Smash, a cocktail made of gin, lemon juice and basil. Basil’s flowery, spicy taste pairs wonderfully with citrussy flavours, and works well with some fruits, like strawberry.

Although basil makes for wonderful decoration in a cocktail, be sure to mix it into your drink as late as possible. This will preserve its green colour; the leaves tend to turn brown very quickly.

Mojito with basil
The Basil Smash is slowly becoming a cult cocktail [Photo: 5PH/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: For cocktails, the fresher the herb, the more decorative and aromatic the drink.

3. Cocktails with rosemary

Herbaceous rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) can be so much more than seasoning for meat dishes and herbal liquors. Not only is it easy to grow, but its unique, fragrant flavour is an excellent addition to cocktails. Our recommendation: gin, citrus, fruit juices and some rosemary – give it a try!

Cold Brew Coffee with Ginger and Rosemary
Rosemary sprigs in the drink are extremely decorative [Photo: Marvin Glodek/ Shutterstock.com]

4. Cocktails with lemon balm

With its aromatic, fresh scent, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is perfect in citrussy, lemon and lime cocktails; a lemon balm mojito is particularly good! Lemon balm is also refreshing by itself. Simply mix it with sparkling water and ice, and you’re away! Best of all, not only does lemon balm add an aromatic touch to both drinks and dishes, it also is very easy to cultivate.

Mojito with lemon balm
Lemon balm is often combined with citrus flavours [Photo: Snowbelle/ Shutterstock.com]

5. Cocktails with sage

Healthy sage (Salvia) is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. However, it is also great in cocktails. Sage has a very distinctive, slightly bitter aroma, so be sure to pair it with something sweet and fruity, otherwise your drink will be bitter. Pear, raspberry and melon juice are all great choices. A particularly popular combination includes gin, lemon juice and vanilla syrup.

Sweet old-fashioned Cocktail with Gin
Sage should be combined with fruity-sweet juices [Photo: Andrew Pustiakin/ Shutterstock.com]

6. Cocktails with thyme

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) can be found in almost every garden. Like sage, it has well-known medicinal properties, and is a popular culinary herb. Thyme is fresh and aromatic with a slightly bitter taste that, for cocktails, works best with berry flavours. Raspberries and blackberries are great, as are sweet apple and sour rhubarb. And for an added flowery, lemony flavour, try using lemon thyme (Thymus x citrodorus).

Cocktail mit Grapefruit und Thymian
Thyme can also be used for cocktails [Photo: Radachynskyi Serhii/ Shutterstock.com]

7. Cocktails with lavender

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a wonderful cocktail herb. Its strongly perfumed, almost soapy notes harmonise surprisingly well with elegant, mature flavours, such as bitter orange and tonic. Cocktails with lavender look amazing and taste exotic. Try lavender with a dry sparkling wine for a delicious and refreshing summer tipple.

Lemonade with lavender
Cocktails with lavender are a real eye-catcher [Photo: New Africa/ Shutterstock.com]

8. Cocktails with lemongrass

Add lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) to a cocktail for a delightfully tangy, fresh surprise. Its zesty, diverse taste pairs wonderfully with tart flavours, like tonic water, gin and ginger, as well as fruity-sweet strawberry and cranberry. Lemongrass is very easy to grow, and even if you are not a fan of the taste, its stalk makes for an environmentally friendly cocktail stirrer!

Lime cocktail with lemongrass
A stalk of lemongrass is great for stirring [Photo: PHENPHAYOM/ Shutterstock.com]

9. Cocktails with woodruff

Whilst woodruff (Galium odoratum) is rarely used in drinks nowadays, it is splendid next to strawberries, lemon flavours and sparkling wine. Woodruff also pairs well with the stronger aromas of whiskey, gin and brandy. Woodruff has a very unique, herbal aroma that is reminiscent of vanilla and honey. 

Woodruff punch in a jug
Woodruff punch is a real classic [Photo: Foxxy63/ Shutterstock.com]

Warning: Woodruff contains coumarin, which can be toxic to the liver if it is ingested in high doses. As such, woodruff is not recommend for children. However, eating a reasonable amount at home is quite safe for adults.

10. Cocktails with tarragon

Although tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) may not be your go-to cocktail herb, give it a go, and you won’t be disappointed. The fine aniseed flavour of tarragon; its spicy, bittersweet aromas, create some exceptional cocktail flavours. Combine it with sweet, fruity flavours, like kiwi and cherry, or blend it with fresh, citrus flavours and gin.

Summer cocktail lemonade with ice cream, strawberries and tarragon
Tarragon is best combined with sweet fruits [Photo: koss13/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: By growing your own herbs, you can be sure that you are not eating any pesticide or fertiliser residues. Choose a peat-free, organic, herb soil, like Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, to provide your herbs everything they need to thrive. Best of all, this compost contains no chemical additives or mineral fertilisers.

Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
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  • Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
  • For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

To ensure your herbs are full of flavour, it is essential to harvest them at the right time. Read our article on harvesting herbs to find out how to get it right.

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