The Plant Origins of Your Favorite Cocktails

Many delicious cocktails have their roots in the garden. Discover the spirits that come from fruits, berries, blossoms and grains.

Photo By: Courtesy United Sorghum Checkoff Program

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©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

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©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

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Photo By: Image courtesy of F&B Atlanta

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Sorghum Plants

Grain sorghum is said to have been introduced to the U.S. by Benjamin Franklin, and this coarse grass is considered one of the most important cereal crops in the world.  A potent Chinese drink with a high alcohol content and strong flavor, Baijiu, is made with sorghum. Some beers, whiskeys and cocktails are also sorghum-based.

Twisted Sorghum Cider Cocktail

This delicious drink starts with sorghum syrup and a cinnamon-flavored whiskey called Fireball. 

Ingredients: 1.5 oz Fireball, 1/4 ounce sorghum syrup mix (equal parts water & sorghum syrup) / 2.5 ounce apple juice / 2 dashes Bar Keep Apple Bitters.

Directions: Mix together 1/4 ounce sorghum syrup with equal parts water. Then mix Fireball, sorghum syrup mixture, apple juice and Dashes Bar Keep Apple Bitters. Shake over ice, strain and enjoy.

Blue Agave and Tequila

Both tequila and mezcal are made from agaves, although tequila is made only from blue Weber agaves and comes from Jalisco and a few other states in Mexico. The alcohols are distilled from their succulent source by different methods.

Purple Rain Cocktail with Tequila

A Purple Rain cocktail from the Four Seasons Atlanta blends Don Julio Blanco tequila, fresh lemon and lime juices, cranberry syrup and a lavender flower from the luxury hotel's rooftop garden.

Elderberries for Liqueur

Fresh elderberries are mixed with sugar, some lemon, and vodka or gin to make sweet, aromatic elderberry liqueur. The berries will form in autumn from the flowers on this elderberry bush.

Elderflower Liqueur

The Bitter Truth's golden Elderflower Liqueur has a natural floral flavor. Serve it chilled on ice, as a champagne aperitif or use it in a cocktail or tall drink recipe.

Grains for Vodka

Grains such as corn, rye and wheat are used for making vodka. Potatoes and beets are other options. This so-called "white drink" is considered a neutral spirit, lacking a distinctive color, taste or aroma.

Pomegranate Vodka

Pomegranates steeped in vodka make a colorful cocktail. You can infuse spirits with other fruits and herbs to make the liquors pictured here, which include rosemary-infused gin, lemon vodka, ginger dark rum, blackberry rum, mint rum and habanero tequila.

Wheat for Whiskey

Whiskey is made by distilling fermented grains, which may be wheat, rye, corn or barley. It's aged in wooden barrels. Bourbon is a popular kind of American whiskey.

Wolf's Blood Cocktail with Rye Whiskey

This Wolf's Blood cocktail is made with 2 ounces of rye whiskey / ½ ounce vermouth / ½ ounce of blood orange liqueur / 1 dash of bitters and 1 dash of orange bitters. Cereal rye, which is used to make rye whiskey, isn't the same thing as the ryegrass in your lawn.  Known botanically as Secale cereale, this grain is often sown as a cover crop and green manure. It's also used as livestock feed, and as a grain for making flour, some kinds of whiskeys and vodkas and rye beer.

Fado Irish Whiskey Jig

This Fado Irish Whiskey Jig, served at Fado Irish Pub and Restaurants in Atlanta, is made with hot apple and cinnamon-infused whiskey and brown sugar. It's served warm and garnished with oranges and cloves.

Grapes for Wine

Grapes grown for wine need full sun and a sheltered site that's protected from strong winds. They're usually grown outdoors in cool climates.

White Wine Sangria

The flavors of strawberries and limes come through in this White Wine Sangria, also made with superfine sugar and sparkling water.

Juniper Berries Make Gin

Gin distillers use a variety of different recipes, but most gins have a strong flavor of juniper berries. Spices, citrus and other botanicals are often infused for additional flavor.

Lavender Gin Collins

This Lavender Gin Collins, served at F&B Atlanta, is based on a lavender-infused gin mixed with lemon and lime juices.

Sugar Cane

Rum comes from the juice of sugar cane stalks. Hardy sugar cane (Saccharum arundinaceum), used as an ornamental, is pictured here.

Prince Street Cider With Rum

Sprinkle a little cinnamon on—and in—the Prince Street Cider, which mixes apple cider with rum over ice.

Fruits for Flavored Brandies

Brandies may be colored or clear; aging in oak barrels adds color and flavor. Brandy can be made from grapes, cherries, apples, apricots, pears, plums or berries and other fruits.

Apricot Brandy

Light and sweet, The Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur is a brandy with a hint of almond that comes from the pits of the fruits.