The Good Life

Three Herbal Cocktails to Beat the Heat

| By Jack Bettridge | From Charles Barkley, March/April 2020
Three Herbal Cocktails to Beat the Heat
Photo/Jeff Harris

After a winter of fighting the cold with nogs and toddies, sprightly herbal cocktails can be a more welcoming harbinger of spring than robin red breast or the crack of horsehide against a Louisville Slugger.

Long before fruits ripen, nature gives up its herbs to resourceful mixologists to experiment with. Herbal flavors offer possibilities from tarragon’s bittersweet mix to the sharp aromatics of onions to the cooling spiciness of menthol. Here are few favorites to get you started.

Tarragon Gin & Tonic

Tarragon is one of the first gifts of spring. It’s the herb that brings beguiling notes of anise and basil to béarnaise and white-wine sauces. It’s also touted as an herbal remedy for stomach problems. So why not use it in a G&T, a homeopathic mélange containing quinine water and a complex, aromatic spirit. You could muddle the tarragon leaves, but this recipe involves making a simple syrup.

  • 1 cup tarragon leaves sugar
  • 2 oz gin
  • 2 oz tonic water
  • seltzer water
  • squeeze of lime, plus lime for garnish

Make tarragon syrup
Heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add a cup of tarragon and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Make cocktail
Place 1 tablespoon syrup, lime juice and gin in large highball glass. Stir. Add ice and tonic water. Stir again. Top with seltzer and a wedge (or slice) of lime.

Spring Onion Martini

The Gibson (a Martini with a cocktail onion garnish) has long been the standard method to get that pungent bulb in drinks, but its overall effect is weak compared with using an onion-informed vodka. Many species of small, spring onions are available for this quick and easy infusion. You can even enlist onion grass from your lawn, putting good use to a weed.

  • one 750-milliliter bottle vodka
  • 1 pound spring onions
  • 2 oz spring onion-infused vodka
  • 1 oz dry vermouth cocktail onion garnish

Twelve hours ahead, place spring onions in vodka bottle. Strain. Combine 2 oz infused vodka and 1 oz vermouth in shaker with ice, stir or shake. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with cocktail onion.


Mint is another early riser in the spring herb world, which is part of the reason the Mint Julep became synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, which runs in early May. But Bourbon whiskey isn’t the only friend of mentha spicata. Rum lovers can enjoy this easy-to-grow plant in a Mojito, a refreshing drink that adds lime to the mix.

  • 1.5 oz fresh lime juice 
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 oz white rum
  • seltzer
  • lime wedges or slices

Muddle the lime juice with sugar and mint leaves along with a splash of rum in a double Old Fashioned glass. Add ice and rum. Top with seltzer and stir. Garnish.


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