Alice Whitehead shows you how to grow your way to glamorous this Garden Day with cocktails using some ingredients from your homegrown harvest.
Vegetables can bring a grown-up balance to sickly sweet cocktails.
The rule of thumb is anything that can be eaten raw in a salad can be juiced for drinks! Beetroot and carrot work particularly well, thanks to their savoury/sweet flavours.
If you sow carrot seed thinly, covering with a papery layer of compost, they will shoot in 14 weeks. You can grow some real beauties in pots, as they tend to be straighter and less prone to attack by pests such as carrot fly.
Baby beets can be grown in a 20cm by 20cm pot, 2cm deep and if you harvest them when they're about golf ball-sized, they will be much sweeter.
Try 2 fl oz beet or carrot juice with 1 ½ fl oz vodka, ½ fl oz ginger syrup and a good squeeze of lemon juice over ice. Mix it up in a cocktail shaker before serving.
Growing botanicals for cocktails is easy! Window boxes or pots can offer up a larder of aromatic shoots for gin and vodka.
Mint is the staple ingredient in Mojitos – and it's worth experimenting with different flavours such as apple, pineapple and chocolate mint (like leafy After Eights!).
Pick young shoots in the morning when the oils are at their most fragrant. If you're growing from scratch, you can sow coriander thinly as cut-and-come-again veg, every three weeks, for pickings all year.
Mint, thyme and rosemary can be grown from plug plants, divided supermarket herbs, or cuttings rooted in water.
Mint will romp in sun but tolerates shade – so is a good choice for a north facing patio or balcony.
Always grow mint in a pot (in the garden it will take over), and keep the soil nice and moist.
Thyme likes full sun with free-draining soil, and will even grow between paving stones.
Once you've chosen your fragrant herbs, infuse them in sugar syrup. Boil equal parts water and sugar, until the sugar dissolves. Add your chosen herb and let the mixture steep for half an hour. Strain through a muslin cloth into a sterilised bottle and cool in the fridge. Add a good drop to sparkling wine.
Pea shoots are a cinch to grow, ready in less than two weeks – and can be blitzed into a delicious cocktail incredible easily!
Add the fat seeds to trays of peat-free compost (have a couple of trays on the go at once), and cover with a pea depth of compost. Keep moist and snip when they have three or four true leaves.
Add a couple of handfuls to a blender with 2tbsp of water and blitz into a puree. Shake over ice with 50ml gin, 20ml sugar syrup (see recipe above) and the juice of ½ lemon. Strain into chilled glasses to serve.
The peppery crunch of radish might not be your first choice for a cocktail but its pretty pink skin, high water content and refreshing flavour makes it a secret back-bar star. '
'Plum Purple' is a nice variety to grow for drinks as it has sweetness as well as spice. Sow seed 1cm deep, with 2cm between each seed, and they'll be ready in three weeks.
Blend 10 scrubbed radishes with two peeled and cored apples and pears, and three celery sticks.
Add to vodka or gin, or sieve for a smoother texture and shake with a little lemon or lime juice. Radish slices look lovely frozen into ice-cubes!
If you fancy a cuppa instead of a cocktail, check out my herbs for tea article for some more inspiration.
Don't forget to share a picture of your Garden Day celebrations tagging @GardenDayUK with the hashtag #GardenDayUK to be in with a chance of winning £250 worth of National Garden Gift Vouchers!