How wonderful to sit out on a summer’s evening, lean over and pluck the garnish for your sundowner from your own edible gin garden. Glyn French of Flowstone Gin has some lovely suggestions.
Beauty enhances every human experience. When it comes to cocktails, garnishes add real visual appeal. They can also complement or add another dimension with their aromatics and subtle flavours.
As the final touch, a garnish also accentuates the enjoyment of a moment, whether it be a celebration, a nod to the end of a hard day, or an acknowledgement of the most perfect peaceful present.
This is a list of some of my favourite fresh garnishes. I’ve also recommended which Flowstone Gin I like to match with which garnish but be adventurous and try your own combinations.
Oxalis pes-caprae or wood sorrel / wild clover You’ll probably have spotted these growing as weeds in your lawn. They have pretty little yellow flowers and clover-shaped leaves. They are wonderful in drinks and salads (and a staple ingredient of waterblommetjie bredie). Both flowers and leaves are lovely as a garnish – slightly bitter and lemony. Lovely in all the Flowstone Gins
Borage or starflower. Also called the bee flower because the pretty blue star-shaped flowers attract masses of bees. The flowers or the green-grey leaves have a mild cucumber taste that’s a natural match with Flowstone Wild Cucumber Gin.
Pineapple sage. This is an absolute favourite. The leaves have a wonderful pineapple-sage nose and the bright red, tubular flowers have a pineapple scent. To release the scented oils, smack the leaves between your palms before adding to Flowstone’s Bushwillow Gin with a thin slice of pineapple.
Pelargoniums. These indigenous plants are similar to and often confused with geraniums. The bright or pale pink flowers make any drink look gorgeous. Look out for the wonderful, orange and red highlights that develop on some of the leaves – beautiful as a garnish. Depending on the species, the scented leaves have notes of nutmeg, peppermint or citrus but don’t crush them before adding as pelargoniums are strongly scented.
Other florals. These look lovely and usually impart a little edge as you sip your drink but don’t affect the flavour much. Pluck a few fresh petals to turn your drink into a bouquet or add to more flavourful garnishes. Experiment with roses, pansies and violas (don’t crush, just float them), violets, nasturtiums (the slightly peppery taste is lovely with Flowstone’s Wild Cucumber or Marula gin), cornflowers (their startling blue is a winner in Snuffbox Gin with a clove and three warmed coffee beans), miniature carnations (their slight clove scent is great with Snuffbox Gin), primroses, impatiens, Queen Anne’s lace, marigolds.
Herbs. There’s such a rich pantry of kitchen herbs. Grow them in pots or amongst your flowers to have fresh garnish on hand all the time. Look out for their shy flowers and add a flowering stalk to your drink. Our favourites are dill (both the leaves and flowers are lovely in our Wild Cucumber Gin), rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil and mint. If you like coriander, try it with our Bushwillow Gin.
Trees. A citrus tree is always a wonderful addition to a garden. Plant a lemon, orange or kumquat and use a few new young leaves as a garnish. First smack them between your palms to release the wonderful citrus smells. And a blossom or two in spring time in a Marula Gin is pure ambrosia. A few fresh curry leaves and a chilli will really spice things up!
Climber. Cucumis metuliferus, known as wild cucumber or horned cucumber, is the lead flavour note in our Wild Cucumber Gin and will be coming into season in about a month’s time. The plants are starting to pop up in nurseries and the fruits are available at some speciality food stores. Plant where you have space for a climber – a slice in our Wild Cucumber Gin is amazing.
A Wild Cucumber Coupe
On a hot summer’s day, this is the perfect drink to sip on from your sun lounger. Serve in a coupe glass – the broad, shallow saucer is perfect for glamorous, beautifully garnished drinks.
40-50 ml Flowstone Wild Cucumber Gin
15 ml Limoncello (or Grand Marnier)
15 ml dry vermouth
15 ml simple sugar syrup*
3 mint leaves, bruised by smashing between your palms
Put everything into a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake really, really, really well then strain into a chilled coupe or dessert glass. Garnish with a curl of lemon rind and float a few edible flowers from your gin garden on top. Shades on. Lie back. Enjoy.
*Simple syrup: Equal parts water and sugar. Heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool and use.