I've developed a real passion for mixing cocktails lately.  It all started with a phone call from my local watering hole.  They were trying to conjure up a new summer cocktail with cucumbers and asked me to come down and help out.  I had such fun collaborating on that drink and it got me thinking about the ingredients from my apothecary. 

Infused Vodka

First I started experimenting with infusing vodka with herbs from my local community garden.  I began with angelica which is in the celery family but with a twist.  It's one of the main ingredients in Chartreuse.  It's been a big hit at garden parties this summer. After spending quite a bit of time on the internet reading about infusing vodka I was surprised by how quickly the vodka took on the flavor.  Although I had read that it took weeks to infuse, some were ready in less that 12 hours.  I tried to filter them before the herbs released their bitterness.  Simply chop up the herbs (I used about six or seven six inch stems of plant material per cup of vodka, discard any brown or damaged parts) and place in a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid and cover with vodka, shake and test in about eight hours.  I tried my hand at lemon verbena, lavender, chocolate mint, lemon thyme, tomato leaf and basil. Angelica was done quicker than most but I hardly left any of them in longer than 24 hours.  The exception was the vanilla.  Vanilla pods can be sliced and scraped, chopped and added to vodka (I found one pod per cup worked) and leave for at least a month.

Take good notes while you're working. That way you can repeat your efforts when you finds something you really like.

I realize that all of the herbs I worked with might not be available to everyone. Look over the herb selection around you and see what's reasonable. Other herbs would be lemon balm, rose geranium, fennel, shiso, citrus, berries, etc. I made one with cucumber and mint that was interesting, but it might be better in white rum. I also tried a couple of chocolate vodkas.

I took a good hard look at my essential oil collection and came up with a few that might lend themselves to a good cocktail, yet not so ordinary that you couldn't just get the original material (such as orange or peppermint). I've made up dilutions that can readily be mixed into cocktails. A bottle holds about 90 drops and in general you use one drop per drink.   You can purchase the dilutions from my website:

Then it was a visit to the food coop and local bodega to contemplate juices. What I've come up with are three cocktails that my good friends were happy enough to help me hone.  

Summer Crush

1.5 oz. lemon verbena infused vodka
1.5 oz. passion fruit nectar
one drop petitgrain essential oil, 10% dilution

Give the combined ingredients a good shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. 

The Silk Route

1.5 oz. apricot nectar
one drop jasmine absolute, 5% dilution
one drop coriander co2, 10% dilution

Give the combined ingredients a good shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. 

The Sprite

1.5 oz. basil infused vodka
one drop yuzu essential oil dilution, 10%
one drop black pepper essential oil dilution, 20%
1.5 - 2 oz. tonic water

Shake with ice and pour into a short glass. Garnish with a fresh basil sprig. 

More Drink Ideas

At another garden gathering I brought an assortment of infused vodkas for everyone to sample. I also bought four bottles of seltzer and put a tablespoon of rosewater in one, orange blossom water in another, rosemary and chamomile waters in the last two. Guests mixed and matched concoctions and I got a chance to sample quite a few. It would be hard to pick one combination! The flavored seltzers on their own were lovely and refreshing.

And one more cocktail!

After my initial experience with the "Cujito" at Barbes I stopped back in to mix up some more magic. In a collaboration with bartendress Hannah Cheek came the Bloody Hell.
The Bloody Hell 

Muddle a few sprigs of mint in about a tablespoon of creme de cacao. Add two ounces of white rum and two drops of blood orange essential oil dilution, 10%. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Outrageous.

Disclaimer:  I must unfortunately dampen the mood of this cocktail page by a standard discalimer. These recipes and instructions are purely a tale of how I spent my summer.  I don't recommend any of this.   Please use caution and discretion.  Make sure to know the effects of any herb or essential oil before you begin.  Essential oils are intense concentrations so use carefully.  None of this is FDA approved.  Use only the amounts specified, never use synthetic oils, do not drink essences directly from the bottle, keep away from small children, be cautious of allergies, do not ingest if you are pregnant or nursing.  And of course never get behind the wheel of a car after imbibing alcohol. 

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