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Bar Blips #6: Herbs + Cocktails

Posted on Friday, Jul. 25, 2014


As summer marches on, we at Metropole are helping you  celebrate every last minute of it with some new mid-summer cocktails. Guests always ask how we come up with our cocktails or where we draw our inspiration from. In my last blip I touched lightly on how wonderful herbs are in cocktails, and in the middle of the summer nothing inspires me quite like fresh herbs. I love to cook and when I first started cooking for myself I remember distinctly the first time I used fresh herbs instead of dried herbs– I think my brain melted from the difference it made!  I also remember the first time I enjoyed a cocktail utilizing fresh herbs and had a similar brain melting reaction.  The cocktail was a Bloody Mary that used fresh rosemary as the garnish and the aromatic element from the rosemary was such an elegant and subtle, yet powerful, way to change the entire flavor profile of the drink.  I of course have had both mojitos and mint juleps before, but I think mint is sort of like the little black dress of the cocktail world.  The earliest Mint Julep recipe goes back to 1784, so herbs in cocktails is not a new innovation but I never dared to live outside of that little tiny minty box, so that rosemary in the Bloody Mary opened my eyes to a whole new colorful and delicious world.
There are so many different types of fresh herbs begging to be incorporated into cocktails (just thinking about the different varietals of basil out there boggles my mind).  Sweet herbs like basil and mint are easy and wonderful to use, but savory herbs like sage, rosemary and cilantro make for surprising additions to cocktails. I love using herbs like lemon balm, or tarragon that seem like unsung drink ingredients but always seem to add the last missing ZING to a cocktail.

In the new additions to our menu, herbs are used to complement seasonal fruit and to add a last piece of “wow” to our cocktail puzzles.We’re adding a new shrub to our line up of blackberry, orange blossom, spice bush berries and sage.  The sage with it’s beautiful earthy flavors was just thing that really anchored this shrub, keeping it from becoming too sweet or too floral.  Upstairs on ourCocktail Terrace we are presenting a delicious take on the Brazilian national cocktail, the Caipirinha, to which we’ve added blueberries and anise hyssop for a distinct take on a classic. Anise hyssop is one of my favorite herbs because of  it’s unique flavor, which is slightly minty with hints of licorice.   We love herbs so much that we’ve started growing our own in our roof top garden! It will be our first year trying to grow anything so it’s purely experimental, but we’re growing: thyme, lemon balm, pineapple sage, rosemary, spicy globe basil, purple ruffle basil, and salad burnet.  Stay tuned to see how our garden thrives! Keep your fingers crossed!

Using herbs in cocktails at home can be as simple as adding an aromatic herb as a garnish to a cocktail.  You can also muddle fresh herbs with citrus or berries for different takes on classics like mojitos.  Summer staples like sangria always seem to be a little fancier with the addition of herbs like rosemary or thyme.  There isn’t a beverage as quintessentially summer time as lemonade. You can make herbal lemonades as simple or creative as you like. Below is one of my favorite recipes but feel free to experiment with different herb combinations like basil and mint, or rosemary and thyme.

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cups lemon juice
6 sprigs tarragon
3 sprigs rosemary
3 cups cold water



-Create an herb simple syrup by combining the sugar, water and herbs in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

-In a large pitcher, combine lemon juice, herb simple syrup, and 3 cups of cold water. Fill pitcher with ice, and serve.

It’s always fun (and let’s face it—efficient) to create a batched beverage everyone at a party can enjoy and lemonade is something everyone from little Billy to Grandma can get on board with.  And if Uncle Tony wants to take the BBQ up a notch he can always add vodka, gin or bourbon, for a delicious grown up beverage.

So here’s to what is left of this beautiful summer, and I hope to see new guests at our bar trying our herbalicious cocktails!


Your neighborhood bartender,

Catherine Manabat