The Drunken Vegan's Herb Garden: What to Plant and Drink This Spring

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The herbaceous Thai-jito. | Patrick Hurley
The herbaceous Thai-jito. | Patrick Hurley

The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.

Few things do the Drunken Vegan's heart as good as sitting on his tiny front porch, drink in hand, and surveying his minuscule, south-city front-yard herb garden, like the owner of a midget plantation. While he doesn't wear a white linen suit and panama hat, he does sport a pair of optical white Converse All Stars.

Summer cocktails can be better, fresher and cheaper than you thought possible. With a little forethought and not too much effort, the enterprising drunk can plant an outstanding herb garden that will serve him or her all summer long. Mint, by the way, is not the only herb that should find its way into your cocktail shaker. Rosemary, thyme, basil in all its wondrous varieties, dill, chamomile... let's get creative.

See also: The Drunken Vegan's Guide to Bloody Marys

Herb Seedlings at the Schlafly Farmers Market | Patrick J. Hurley
Herb Seedlings at the Schlafly Farmers Market | Patrick J. Hurley

What is the Drunken Vegan planting this summer? Thai basil, lemon basil, cilantro, German chamomile, oregano, thyme, rosemary and French tarragon are just a few. Plenty of mint sprouts up every year as well. And it turns out herbs are very rich in antioxidants, so you can feel even better about your cocktail consumption.

Get a jump-start on your Lilliputian paradise by stopping by the Missouri Botanical Garden's Herb Days -- the early sale starts today at 4 p.m. and goes on all weekend.

But how does a drunkard decide which herbs to use in all those cocktails? It's not as hard as you think. The easiest way to pair herbs with the other ingredients is to either complement the primary flavors, or balance them with an interesting counterpoint. There are examples of every category of alcoholic beverage that already contain herbs. Think of gin, vermouth and Fernet Branca. Even beers were bittered with various herbs before the use of hops became widespread.

Start with easy and obvious additions. The intense celery flavor of lovage is a good choice for bloody marys. Try exaggerating the botanical flavor of Hendrick's gin by adding some borage (it tastes like cucumber) and a dash of rose water. But don't be afraid to experiment. Even your failures will probably be potable, if not worth repeating.

Here is how the Drunken Vegan mixes one of his favorite summer tipples:

The Thai-jito

  • Muddle a few leaves of Thai basil with a couple of lime wedges in your cocktail shaker.
  • Add two ounces of white rum.
  • Pour in an ounce or so of simple syrup (one infused with ginger and white peppercorns is perfect for this recipe).
  • Shake this concoction up then strain it into a tall glass of crushed ice.
  • Top it up with soda water.
  • Drink.
  • Repeat.

If you'll excuse the Drunken Vegan, he's headed to the porch. See you there. Oh, and bring some ice if you don't mind.

Gut Check is always hungry for tips. E-mail us!

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