So last year I planted this cocktail garden. It was a huge undertaking that I wrote not a word about, in part because I was too busy doing it. The space was one of those typically difficult side yards found around a lot of old houses: as little as seven feet wide in its narrowest spot, partly shaded by the house itself, and used, over the years, for all kinds of utilitarian, unattractive things.
But now, thanks to Susan Morrison’s excellent design advice and the help of lots of local tradespeople, I actually have a garden worthy of a cocktail party. And every plant in the garden (with the exception of an existing rhododendron I couldn’t bear to remove) can be used to mix a drink.
More about the garden itself later. Today I wanted to let you know that the building of the garden led to many conversations with Alice Doyle, plantswoman extraordinaire and owner of wholesale nursery Log House Plants, and that led to the creation of The Drunken Botanist Plant Collection in partnership with Territorial Seeds.
Territorial is selling plants and seeds, and the collection is also going into West Coast garden centers supplied by Log House Plants as well. (check their site for a list of participating retailers.) We had a lot of fun putting them together: in addition to offering the plants individually, we gathered them into collections by spirit. We came up with great titles like the Old Havana Rum Garden, Heart of Agave Tequila Garden, etc., then put together some plants and recipes to match. So we’ve got collections organized around rum, tequila, gin, vodka, and whiskey, and a sixth collection designed just for making botanical simple syrups. Everything can be mixed into a drink, and there are some interesting and unusual plants that were surely made just for cocktails, like the olive-sized Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumber, or the dark, dramatic Redventure celery, or the oh-my-gawd-it’s-actually-from-Havana Mojito Mint.
Territorial’s taking orders now, and seed shipments can go out over the winter, but live plants will be shipped later. Check their website for shipping details. The garden centers supplied by Log House will have the collections for sale starting in March or April.
Oh, and I can also share, at last, the final, official cover for the book. It’s off to the printer now, coming out March 19. You can pre-order it at your local independent bookstore, or at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Tour dates are coming together too: check those out here.
Okay! Have fun with that. There’s not much growing in anyone’s garden right now, but here’s a mid-winter drink you can make with dried chamomile while you wait for the fresh stuff to bloom.
Chamomile Hot Toddy
1-2 oz whiskey
1-2 oz honey-chamomile syrup (see note)
Note: Make honey-chamomile syrup by combining equal parts honey and hot water. Add fresh (or dried) chamomile blossoms and allow to steep for 1 hour, then strain.
Pour hot water into a heat-proof glass. While you wait for it to heat the glass, press cloves into the rind of the lemon wedge and set aside. Empty the glass and coat the inside with syrup, then add the whiskey and top with hot water. Squeeze the lemon into the drink and drop it into the glass.