Consumers have grown accustomed to herbs like mint and basil in their cocktails, so they seem willing to try more aromatics, such as sage, rosemary and thyme. Herbs add depth to floral flavors such as elderflower and can add a savory or bitter note to fruity and other sweet flavors.
Comparing menus from fourth-quarter 2014 with the same period of 2013, Technomic’s MenuMonitor online trend-tracking resource finds the number of adult beverages with sage as an ingredient or flavor has increased by 54%. Rosemary’s incidence is up by 29%, and thyme’s by 175%, though the number of these beverages is still quite low.
Mint, whose overall incidence is much higher, thanks in larger part to Mojitos, also saw a healthy increase (7%) over the prior year. Mint’s use has grown beyond the sweet and limey drink to spiked teas and lemonades, melon coolers and cucumber cocktails. Basil’s incidence is also up slightly—by about 2% year over year.
Here, some herb-enhanced adult beverages recently added to menus:
Melon with Mojo: Housemade watermelon syrup, fresh watermelon, limes, mint and Flor de Cana Blanco rum (California Cafe)
Jack’s Southern Honey: “Move over Jack and make room for honey.” Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey, lemon juice and mint, topped with Sierra Mist (O’Charley’s)
Twisted Shirley: Ultimat Vodka, guava syrup, crushed mint, fresh lime juice, bitters and ginger ale, served on the rocks (The Palm Restaurant)
Peppered Watermelon: American Harvest Organic Vodka, Finest Call Watermelon Puree, ginger ale, simple syrup, fresh mint and a pinch of cayenne pepper (Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub & Grill)
First Down: Earthy Hendricks Gin, silky St-Germain Elderflower Cordial, house sour and sage (Shula’s Steak House)
Thanksgiving Cocktail: Prairie Organic Gin with white cranberry juice and sage (Seasons 52)
English Gentleman: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, sage simple syrup, pomegranate juice, Fever-Tree Tonic Water (EDGE Restaurant & Bar, Four Seasons Hotel, Denver)
Smokey Mt. Rye: Bulleit Rye Whiskey, blood orange bitters, smoked honey, cranberry and rosemary (The Florentine, JW Marriott Chicago)
Farmer’s Market Gimlet: Lime, housemade rosemary-basil-infused simple syrup and Tito’s Handmade Vodka (ZED451)
Lemon Thyme Margarita: Patrón Silver Tequila, honey, muddled lemon and thyme (China Grill)
The Improved Bees Knees: No. 3 Gin, lemon, thyme and honey shrub (Red Star Tavern)
Sunburn: St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Malibu Pineapple Rum, orange bitters, cranberry juice and pear cider, garnished with fresh thyme and orange peel (Yard House)
If you are easily suggestible to potential earworms, as I am, you are humming “Scarborough Fair” and wondering where the parsley drinks are. Few and far between, I’m afraid. Claddagh Irish Pub offers a Gin Julep made with gin, simple syrup, parsley and club soda, and you’ll find a few Bloody Mary garnishes. The flat or curly herb was used in ancient Roman times to ward off intoxication—an attribute that may hinder its use or provide a good reason to use parsley to add grassy and peppery flavor to new cocktails.