Easy-to-grow fresh herbs can really complement your liquor cabinet | On The Rocks | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Easy-to-grow fresh herbs can really complement your liquor cabinet

Even a pint-sized Pittsburgh yard can support a few cocktail-friendly crops.

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The sun is sticking around longer and the ground is getting softer, so it must nearly be time to return to the garden. Though your home garden might not be large enough to feed the family, it can certainly yield enough herbs and garnishes to enhance any liquor cabinet. Whether you've got several acres or several windowsills, you can plant a cocktail garden this year.

A 19th-century poem declared the mint julep "the very dream of drinks." I agree, and would add that it's made all the dreamier by fresh garden mint. A generous measure of bourbon and a dose of sugar are elevated by a handful of gently muddled spearmint, one of the easiest herbs to grow at home. It grows so well, in fact, that it tends to take over the whole yard; plant it in a pot to keep it in check.

Though mint has many possibilities (think mojitos and mai tais), it's far from the only herb at home in a shaker. Hardier herbs, like sage and thyme, are great for muddling and infusing. And though it needs lots of heat and sun, basil plays well with clear spirits in all sorts of smashes and coolers.

If you've got a bit more space, grow some tomatoes next to that basil. Making your own tomato juice demands a bit of work, but it takes your Bloody Mary game to a whole new level. Plant some dill or hot peppers for infused vodka, and start planning summer brunches now.

Edible flowers are a great way to add color to cocktails. Nasturtiums, with their lovely hue and peppery bite, are welcome garnishes on a tart Tom Collins or a glass of sangria.

Even a pint-sized Pittsburgh yard can support a few cocktail-friendly crops. Whether you stick to safe bets or get a bit more adventurous (gin and beet juice, perhaps?), summertime drinking is sure to get a lot more interesting.

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