Now that summer is in full bloom outside, take some time to stop and smell the roses—and then mix them into your drinks. Summer is the perfect time to spruce up classic cocktail recipes, from gin and tonic to Tom Collins, and flowers are an easy, flavorful way to feel a whole lot fancier (and seriously step up your Instagram game, if you're into that).
While floral notes can get lost in most foods, cocktails are a different story. “A cocktail is much more like a spritz of perfume in that the bright, floral notes are really wonderful,” says Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist.
Flowers are the perfect garnish for a favorite drink, but because floral notes are volatile and unstable, you'll rarely find lavender or rose liqueurs at the local liquor store. "It's hard to work with them on a large, commercial scale," Stewart says. Her simple solution: "Add them as you're mixing the drink, so you get a hit of that flower flavor right as it's coming off the plant."
Here are Stewart's top two DIY techniques:
1. Muddle the flowers to release their fragrance. Place the stemless flowers and any herbs you’re using in the bottom of a cocktail shaker or tall glass with a splash of water (and sugar, if you’d like). Using a muddler or wooden spoon, press down on the flowers and herbs and give a few gentle twists until you start to smell their fragrance. Then, mix in the rest of the drink's ingredients and, if desired, strain the liquid into a serving glass.
2. Make a simple syrup with the flowers. Mix equal parts sugar and water in a sauce pan until the sugar melts. Turn off the heat, add the flowers, let the mixture cool for at least an hour, then strain the liquid. The simple syrup works like honey to sweeten the alcohol of your choice, from vodka to gin.
To take full advantage of nature’s best summertime scents (and also establish yourself as the Martha Stewart among your friends), try one of these nine cocktails with edible flowers.
Get Mixing: 9 "Pollinated" Cocktail Recipes
Photo: Transient Expression
Two floral notes for the price of one! This rum drink mixes homemade lilac simple syrup and creme de violette, a liqueur made from violets. Lilacs are known to have a lemony, slightly bitter taste, while violets are known for being sweet—so you’re basically drinking the floral equivalent of Sour Patch Kids.
Photo: Pretty Girls Cook
Frozen margs are pretty much the perfect summer drink, and this one doesn’t disappoint with infusions of hibiscus’s cranberry-citrus undertones. Once you combine all the ingredients, put this cocktail in your ice cream maker (or go the blender route if you don’t have an ice cream maker). Twenty minutes later, you’ll have the frostbitten drink you’ve been looking for. Leave the mixture in the ice cream maker for three hours to get a sorbet-like consistency. Drinks for dessert? Yes, please.
This vodka cocktail packs quite the punch. The natural, spicy pepper flavor of nasturtiums mixed with the lemon spice simple syrup will make lips pucker. But the splash of St. Germain, a liqueur made from elderflowers, gives this drink a smooth, sweet finish that will keep you (and your guests) coming back for more.
Photo: A Cozy Kitchen
This drink makes for the perfect nightcap, thanks to chamomile’s ability to quell upset stomachs and help with sleep. The recipe calls for using chamomile teabags, but if you have access to the real thing, you can mix chamomile flowers with the hot water and honey to make a fresh, fragrant syrup.
Photo: Neighborhood Kitchen
Combine two of the best summer market finds—blackberries and scented geraniums—into a gin cocktail. The best part about geraniums? They come in so many different varieties: lemon, citrus, spice, and a number of fruit-like scents. Pick your favorite flavor and get mixing.
Photo: Cook Eat Live Vegetarian
This sweet, vodka-based cocktail will make you feel like you’re on a magic carpet ride. The simple ingredients—jasmine, honey and vodka—make a drink that’s like a spiked iced tea, or what the recipe’s author so cleverly calls a “mar-tea-ni.”
Photo: Honestly Yum
This spin on the classic prohibition-era cocktail is so simple, it’ll have you buzzing for days. Just mix gin, lemon juice, and lavender-infused honey syrup, and voilà—you have a sippable, sweet summer drink.
Have you heard of Tom’s edgier sister, Rose? This gin cocktail improves upon its well-known sibling by substituting rose syrup for simple syrup and cucumber water for club soda. Garnish this drink with a few rose petals and a cucumber spear for some gritty sophistication.
Okay, okay, so this drink recipe doesn’t technically include any DIY floral mixing. But how could we pass up a Willy-Wonka-themed cocktail? Head to the liquor store to pick up creme de violette, which is made from violets (but when you’re in line to check out, make like Violet's better judgment and skip the gum).
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