How to Grow a Cocktail Garden

"The Drunken Botanist" shares secrets for a garden full of cocktail-ready ingredients.
Bottle Color

Bottle Color

These bottles of violet liqueur inspired Stewart's cocktail garden color scheme. 

Photo by: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

These bottles of violet liqueur inspired Stewart's cocktail garden color scheme. 

You'd think Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks and co-founder of the popular garden blog GardenRant, would have a massive cocktail garden with square footage for every fig tree, raspberry bush and cilantro plant imaginable. 

In reality, the side-yard space outside her Victorian home in Humboldt County, California—where temps rarely rise above 70 degrees—is 45 feet long by seven feet wide. And within that she has everything from lemongrass and Mexican sour gherkin cucumber to strawberries, Thai basil, 'Redventure' celery, Johnny jump-ups, pineapple sage and 'Black Lace' elderflower with rhubarb underneath.

Oh, and did we mention the vertical planter made out of an old wooden medicine cabinet or the bar with a built-in planter?

"I didn't have the heart to throw out an old rhododendron that had been with the house forever, but other than that, every single thing is drinkable and mixable," Stewart says on her blog drunkenbotanist.com

Like any other garden, cocktail gardens require planning and care. But the joy of walking out into it, snapping off some lemongrass and muddling the stalks into drinks to deepen the citrus flavor makes every step between sketches and sloe (the fruit used in sloe gin) worth it.  

Check out the photos below for a look at Stewart's side-yard masterpiece and start planning your own cocktail garden: 

Cocktail Garden Design

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Simple Syrup All-Stars

These cocktail garden planter boxes are full of ingredients ready to jump into the glass. Shiso, rosemary, thyme and lavender fill out this space. "The best way to get a little lavender flavor in a cocktail is to make a simple syrup with it," The Drunken Botanist author Amy Stewart writes. 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Cocktail Garden Design

Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist, asked Susan Morrison of Creative Exteriors Landscape Design to maximize her small space. "Susan is a cocktail aficionado and an expert in small-space gardening," Stewart writes.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Small But Mighty

Worried about not having enough space? Much of Stewart's garden is only 7 feet wide. 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Bottle Color

These bottles of violet liqueur inspired "The Drunken Botanist" author Amy Stewart's cocktail garden color scheme. 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Pallet-able

"This is a fancier version of a 'pallet garden,'" Stewart says of her strawberry and nasturium planters. "I've added trim to dress it up and some bits of Victorian gingerbread on top from an antiques salvage place." 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Inside (and Outside) the Planter Box

Stewart fills her planter boxes full of edible flowers she uses in infusions and garnishes. Here she has scented geraniums, lavender, Rosa rogusa and golden oregano just outside and beneath the box. 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Planter Box Bar

Stewart's handmade planter box bar is a genius idea for the cocktail enthusiast-slash-gardener. 'Black Lace' elderberry grows behind the bar and jasmine grows on the fence.     

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Calendula

Stewart uses calendula for syrups, infusions and even as a garnish. "The advantage of calendula is that it isn't colorfast," Stewart writes. "The bright orange hue will actually seep into the vodka or simple syrup." 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Rhubarb

Rhubarb makes many appearances in Stewart's cocktails in the form of syrup, bitters and liqueurs. "There is no special trick to planting rhubarb," Stewart writes. "Just give it some sunlight, plenty of compost and choose a permanent spot, because rhubarb doesn't like to get moved around." 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Pomegranate for Grenadine

"Growing a pomegranate tree just so you can make your own grenadine may sound like a completely crazy idea, but there actually are dwarf varieties that could be nursed along in a large container and sheltered through the winter," Stewart writes. She suggests the 'Nana' and "State Fair' varieties. 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Black Pansy Garnish

Stewart uses black pansies to garnish her drinks. "Make a very thin slice of lemon or lime and cut a pansy so that a little bit of the stem is attached to the flower," she writes. "Pull the stem through that little space in the center of the citrus slice and float that in a cocktail glass." 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Herbs At The Ready

Stewart's Triolife planter is filled with cilantro, basil, mint and edible flowers. According to Stewart, it's perfect on a table "for easy access at parties." 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

Miniature Gherkin Cucumbers

Stewart uses miniature gherkin cucumbers for garnishes. Try her Gherkintini: Muddle 1.5 ounces of gin with sour gherkin cucumbers. Add ½ ounce of dry vermouth, shake over ice, strain into a martini glass and garnish with a miniature gherkin cucumber. 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Amy Stewart

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