Organic Cocktails: I Grew It in the Garden, Then Drank It with Booze!

Made with organic and sustainable liquors, these cocktail recipes make use of garden-fresh herbs and fruits. Try one to impress your friends at end-of-season BBQs!

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Blackberries

Sick of mint in your summer drink? Mix blackberry puree for a berry-twist on the classic mojito, or into a cocktail made from vodka or gin. Try blackberries in these summer cocktails:

Country Thyme
Blackberry Mojito
Wonderlust
Forest Crush

Growing Tips:
Blackberries are most easily grown using a pre-grown blackberry cane (either "upright" or "trailing") ready for planting. The most common variety of blackberries stop producing new berries by late August, so cut back the canes in early July to produce melt-in-your-mouth ripe berries.

Square One Vodka

First appearing on liquor store shelves in 2006, Square One Vodka is a pioneering brand of the organic spirits market. In addition to its signature vodka, the USDA-certified organic vodka company offers two unique flavored spirits: Square One Cucumber and Square One Botanical.

Square One produces its vodka at Distilled Resources, a distillery in Idaho that participates in a local renewable energy program promising at least one-quarter of its electricity comes from wind-generated power. Square One is made from organically grown American rye from North Dakota, and distilled using water from the Teton Mountains, part of the Rocky Mountains range in neighboring Wyoming. With fewer impurities to distill, thanks to its chemical-free organic, the vodka needs only a short fermentation time and a single distillation — guaranteeing a distinct taste with a smooth finish.

Square One Vodka, $35 for 750 ml, can be purchased at liquor stores in 33 states or at squareonevodka.com.

basil
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Basil

A favored spice for epicureans in the kitchen, basil also adds spicy zing to caipirinhas. Mixologists, take note. Try basil in these summer cocktails:

Pepper Basil Caipirinha
Track 11

Growing Tips:
With suitable light and a temperate climate, basil can be grown in pots by a sunny window sill, or planted outside after late spring frosts. Use organic compost or manure to fertilize soil for optimal growing conditions.

cucumbers
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Cucumber

Adding cucumbers to your drink can be easier than adding them to your salad. Mixed with mint, cucumber adds flavor to a standard gin and tonic for a stiff drink with some vitamins straight from the garden. Try cucumber in these summer cocktails:

Cucumbe Mint Gin and Tonic
Sun Shower
Cucumber Mint Gin & Tonic

Growing Tips:
Cucumbers are subtropical plants that thrive in 70-degree heat. Plant the cucumbers in late spring or early summer to avoid frost, allotting a healthy plot of space in your vegetable garden for each vegetable to grow.

Use organic compost to stabilize the recommended soil pH level to 6.5, and add fertilizer after the cucumbers have flowered.

VeeV Açai Spirit

VeeV is uniquely different. The 60-proof alcohol isn't quite a vodka, but isn't quite a liqueur, either. Rather, it's a unique spirit made from wildly harvested Brazilian açai (pronounced ah-sah-EE) berries and organic winter wheat grain.

Founders and brothers Carter and Courtney Reum discovered the antioxidant-rich, blueberry look-alike super berry while on a surfing trip to Brazil in late 2003. A few years later, the brothers dropped their Wall Street jobs to launch VeeV, introducing the world's first açai spirit to the market in 2007.

Açai berries are found at the peak of palm trees off the banks of the Amazon River. VeeV maintains a commitment to protect the biodiversity of the harvested areas by donating $1 for every bottle sold to Sambazon's Sustainable Açai Project. The company also protects its crop workers by paying them roughly 50% more than the standard $40 a day rates for the average Amazon basin worker.

While not USDA-certified organic, the company's commitment to the environment has awarded it a different kind of status: the honor of being the first carbon-neutral spirits company. Two-thirds of employees drive hybrid vehicles; everything from the bottle's packaging and labels, to business cards, press releases and more are recyclable; and the company's distillery in Idaho is powered by windmills.

VeeV açai spirit, $35 for 750 ml, can be purchased at liquor stores in 21 states or at melandrose.com.

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Celery

Not just for munching, celery is great for drinking, too. Try celery in these summer cocktails:

Celery Cup
Bloody Maria

Growing Tips:
A hard frost can completely destroy a whole crop, while hot weather will produce tough and stringy stalks. Once the temperatures hit 55 degrees, plant germinated seedlings (about 3 inches tall) in soil mixed with organic compost. Water and check for weeds regularly.

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Cilantro

Cilantro isn't just a key ingredient in guacamole — it's a great flavor in that drink to pair with your meal on Mexican night, too. Try cilantro in this summer cocktail:

Guayabera
Celery Cup

Growing Tips:
Soak coriander seeds (yes, coriander and cilantro are one and the same) up to two days before planting either indoors or outdoors. Seeds can be planted indoors and then moved outdoors to a shady location where plants will receive sunlight in the early morning and late afternoon.

Avoid locations where the temperature will reach higher than 75 degrees, or cilantro will return to its seed for protection from the heat. Plant new seeds every 6 weeks to help maintain steady crop growth.

Papagayo White Rum

Award-winning Papagayo Rum has a unique history as the world's first organic rum. The single-estate rum (meaning the sugarcane used to make it is grown on one plantation) continues to be produced in Paraguay, where founder Eduardo Felippo began an organic farming project in 1933. His objective: to help the lowly paid sugarcane farmers by providing them with better pay and education on organic farming practices.

Today, USDA-certified organic Papagayo rum is produced by more than 800 families receiving fair wages, education and support from the Fair Trade Association. Both the white and spiced rum carry a long list of awards, including bronze medals in both the 2007 and 2008 International Wine & Spirits Competition and recognition by various competitions and publications.

Papagayo White and Spiced Organic Rums, $32.50 for 750 ml, can be purchased at select retailers and at internetwines.com.

Koval Spirits

Koval Distillery is a modern day ma and pa shop — except instead of the operating the standard family diner or corner store, founders Sonat and Robert Birnecker serve up a variety of certified organic and kosher liquors and liqueur spirits.

The husband-and-wife power team left their respective day jobs (she as a professor, he as an assistant press secretary for the Austrian embassy) to found Chicago's only currently operating distillery. The boutique distillery capitalizes on its singular status to keep all production in the family — literally. Robert's Austrian bloodline carries 40 years of family distilling and brewing experience (his grandparents were in the business), and the distillery controls production from start to finish: they mash grains; peel and slice ingredients (like ginger root) for flavored liqueurs; and distill, filter and bottle their spirits on-site.

The benefits of this family workmanship to you: Five kinds of rye spirits, three kinds of flavored liqueurs (with limited releases offered seasonally), brandy and twice-distilled organic rye vodka — all certified organic.

Koval Spirits, available at binnys.com and in select Chicago liquor stores.

Mint

A cherished garnish and ingredient for bartenders everywhere, mint is the pillar ingredient of mojitos and caipirinhas. Try mint in these summer cocktails:

Grapefruit Rum Cooler
Cucumbe Mint Gin and Tonic
Ginger Rhubarb Elixir
Bitter Kiss
Moroccan Bazaar
Rainforest on the Rocks
Sun Shower
Cucumber Mint Gin & Tonic
Blackberry Mojito
Ginger Mint Caipirinha
Imperial Berry
Razzmatazz
Ginger Tree

Growing Tips:
This perennial herb's seeds should be sown indoors while there's still a threat of frost, germinating after 10 to 15 days. Space seeds apart in rich soil, as each plant will cover approximately one square feet of ground. The plant is also often easy to transplant.

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Ginger

Ginger has long been renowned as a healthy herbal supplement. Try the sweet-smelling root with a caipirinha for natural remedy in a mixed drink. Try ginger in these summer cocktails:

Guayabera
Ginger Tree
Ginger Mint Caipirinha

Growing Tips:
Growing ginger indoors is easy and low-maintenance — just buy three fresh ginger roots from the grocery store and plant them in a container that's about 14-inches wide by 12-inches deep. Only move the roots outside when the weather reaches about 50 degrees.

Ginger takes about 10 months to reach maturity — you'll know when the plants reach two to four feet tall.

Vodka 14

Vodka 14 is the only product distilled by Altitude Spirits, an independent spirits company in Boulder, Colo.

The USDA-certified organic vodka is made from Rocky Mountain spring water and organic grain purchased from individual farmers, rather than commodities markets selling products that might be infused with chemical additives.

The vodka's continuous distillation process is unique. First, grain mash is heated until it becomes a vapor. Once the vapor rises to the top of a four-cylinder still, it condenses back to liquid and returns to the still's bottom, where the distillation process begins anew.

When imbibing with Vodka 14, you can be confident that your bottle is entirely recyclable, too. The safety seal is made from PETG, an environmentally sound and recyclable plastic, along with recyclable cork. Plus, the bottle's decorative elements are baked on and not made from plastic.

Vodka 14, $36 for 750 ml, can be purchased at select locations in Colorado and Tennessee, and at totalbeverage.net.

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Green Apple

Apples are one of the easiest fruits to eat on the go, and to mix into drinks using everything from absinthe and champagne. Johnny Appleseed would be proud. Try green apple in these summer cocktails:

Chilean Mojito Martini
Track 11

Growing Tips:
A young apple tree will take around three years upon planting to grow its first edible fruit, and if you plant from seed, up to 10 years. Harvesting the fruit is a daunting task for the recreational gardener — but easy for anyone to find at local farmers' markets.

Try green varieties for a mixed drink with tart flavor. Ask for Barkley Rome, Braeburn, Blacktwig, Glen Seedling, or Granny Smith varieties.

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Lemon

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade — but when your garden gives you lemons, make mixed drinks instead! Try lemon in these summer cocktails:

Red Hawk Cocktail
Tallgrass Tea Cocktail
Glass Eye
Brazilian Thyme
November Rain
Grapefruit Rum Cooler
Track 11
Wonderlust
August Sun
Razzmatazz
Ginger Tree
Celery Cup

Growing Tips:
Growing a lemon tree from a seedling takes up to two years to produce edible fruit. Buy a nursery-grown tree to grow outside in warm weather months. Once temperature dips below 30 degrees, trees must be covered in a warm blanket or brought inside to grow until spring.

360 Vodka

When the McCormick distillery began brainstorming for the launch of an organic brand of vodka, research showed that using organic grain would actually leave a larger carbon footprint because of additional resources and fuel costs required to grow and transport the grain to its Weston, Mo., distillery.

After consulting with environmental experts, the 150-year-old company decided to forgo organic certification, instead choosing to grow its grains less than 95 miles away and pursue self-regulated standards to become a more eco-responsible company.

Some examples: It boasts a distillation process that uses 200% less energy than the most common methods. Bottles are made from 85% recycled materials and shipped using 100% recycled materials. 360 Vodka also encourages recycling with a pre-paid envelope included with each bottle that can be used to return bottles for a $1 donation to a local environmental organization in the purchaser's area.

Also commendable are the company's green initiatives on the corporate level, including on-site recycling for employees, use of renewable energy sources, and distribution of green supplies (CFL lightbulbs, recycled paper, organic cleaning products, etc.) to employees for office and home use.

Vodka 360, $20 for 750 ml, can be purchased nationwide or at garnetwine.com.

Lime

Lime juice is an essential ingredient in many mixed drinks. The proper mixologist (and gardener) should have an arsenal at hand for mixing and squeezing in coolers, daiquiris, caipirinhas, and other summer drinks. Try lime in these summer cocktails:

Ginger Rhubarb Elixir
Moroccan Bazaar
Rainforest on the Rocks
Cucumber Mint Gin & Tonic
Strawberry Daiquiri
Rum Caipirinha
The Ultimate Caipirinha
Spicy Caipirinha
Rainforest Cooler
Pepper Basil Caipirinha
Ginger Mint Caipirinha
Forest Crush

Growing Tips:
Growing limes is easiest in warm-weather regions, but lime trees can grow in a variety of climates with the right care and by choosing to grow the appropriate variety. While most commonly used at the bar, key limes are the most difficult variety to grow. Try Persian or Tahitians if you live in a cooler climate.

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Blueberries

All it takes is a handful of blueberries to make a blueberry puree that can be added to just about any daiquiri, mojito or mixed drink for extra flavor — not to mention healthy antioxidants. Freeze extra blueberries to enjoy a taste of summer all year long. Try blueberries in these summer cocktails:

Country Thyme
Rainforest Cooler
Russian Spring

Growing Tips:
Forgo the $5-per-pint cost for blueberries by growing a bush in your backyard. The berry can be grown almost anywhere and withstand temperatures as cold as minus-10 degrees.

Give your blueberry bush a home it'd want in the wild: where it can absorb full sun, and in acidic soil with a pH level between 4.0 and 6.0, depending on the variety.

Rain Vodka

USDA-certified organic Rain Vodka is made from 100 percent organic white corn farmed in Yale, Ill., and produced at Buffalo Trace, a historic distillery in Frankfort, Ky.

Rain boasts of a 20-day production process, giving the vodka its smooth, crisp taste. The vodka's production begins with the corn itself, which is milled within 24 hours of arrival at the distillery for inspection (all kernels must be whole, low-moisture and fungus-free). The corn then undergoes sweet mash fermentation — unlike a sour mash, sweet mash is a slower fermentation process that is free of additives that might alter the vodka's distinct grain taste.

Following the seven distillations, the vodka is ready for bottling after a multi-month period of "rest" in stainless steel tanks, where the vodka absorbs oxygen and is finished.

In 2008, the brand was awarded a double gold medal in the super premium vodka category of the San Francisco World Spirits competition. In addition to its original vodka flavor, Rain Vodka can be purchased in four flavored spirits — lavender lemonade, honey mango melon, red grape hibiscus and cucumber lime.

Rain Vodka, $20 for 750 ml, is available nationwide and at internetwines.com.

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Oranges

Add some Vitamin C to your cocktail with fresh orange juice, or just mix with organic vodka for a traditional screwdriver. Try oranges in these summer cocktails:

Brazilian Thyme
Sun Shower
Honey and Marmalade Dram'tini

Growing Tips:
Research which variety will adapt best to your area — Washington navels grow well in California, while Valencia oranges grow best in Arizona, Texas and Florida, for example. If you don't live in a Mediterranean climate, look for a variety bred to withstand colder weather - or just buy them in season (winter). General care requires full sun, monthly fertilization and regular watering.

Peaches

This trademark fruit of Georgia can replace any fruit mixer for a unique take on the daiquiri or mojito. Try peaches in these summer cocktails:

Moonlight on the Peach

Growing Tips:
Growing a peach tree from a seedling takes up to four years to produce edible fruit, and a young tree from a nursery will still take another one to two years for the first true fruit to blossom.

Remove dead branches and trim back bushy areas annually to guarantee a larger crop once the tree begins to produce fruit. If you're not up to the task of growing your own fruit tree, look for fresh peaches from the farmers' market.

UK5 Vodka

A British-based company, UK5 Organic Vodka's ingredients are derived from a 30-year-old organic farm in Germany. The award-winning vodka — taking home gold medals in the 2000, 2001 and 2004 International Wine & Spirit Competition — is a completely unfiltered organic vodka.

Other organic vodkas boast only one filtration to heighten flavor. UK5 Vodka, on the other hand, remains unfiltered due to the quality of its organic ingredients and the pure water used during the distillation process.

UK5 vodka, $28 for 750 ml, is available at select retailers and at internetwines.com.

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Raspberries

Like blackberries, raspberries add sweet flavor to your summer drinks in unexpected ways. Try raspberries with liqueur (we suggest VeeV), or mixed with blackberries and lime for a fruity, refreshing mojito. Try raspberries in these summer cocktails:

Rainforest on the Rocks
Rainforest Cooler
Strawberry White Bellini
Le Baiser De Noilly
Mangojito
Forest Crush

Growing Tips:
Depending on the variety and climate, raspberries can be grown through mid fall, with the "Heritage" variety blossoming late into autumn. Raspberries grow in thickets that need to be trimmed only twice a year. If low on garden space, raspberries grow well on fences, too.

Rosemary

Rosemary is part of the mint family and can be used similarly in drinks — crushed and mixed, or used as a delectable garnish to a glass rim. Try rosemary in these summer cocktails:

Strawberry 14 Infusion

Growing Tips:
Rosemary thrives in frost-free conditions with full sun and minimal soil saturation. In the winter months, grow rosemary inside using artificial sunlight to give the herb it's required six to eight hours of sun.

Highland Harvest Whiskey

Organic alcohol is hard enough to find — and organic whiskey seems next-to-impossible. Highland Harvest is one of the world's first organic Scotch whiskeys, blended in Scotland with three organic malts and organic grain and matured in oak barrels for four years.

Highland Harvest is certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (a highly regarded certifier) as well as the British Soil Association, a leading organic certification organization in the UK.

Highland Harvest whiskey, $55 for 750 ml, is available at select retailers, and at organicwine.com.

Strawberries

The popular summer berry is most commonly mixed with daiquiris made from rum, but also makes for a great ingredient when combined with vodka, champagne, cachacha Brazilian rum or even absinthe. Try strawberries in these summer cocktails:

Melting Snows 14
Strawberry 14 Infusion
Strawberry Daiquiri
Rainforest Cooler
Strawberry White Bellini

Growing Tips:
Strawberries come in two growing types: June-bearers, which produce in late spring or early summer, and ever-bearers, which continuously produce their crop from spring to fall. Growing ever-bearers requires attentive care, including cutting off early crops and fertilizing between plants throughout the growing season.

You can usually find strawberries at farmers' markets -- and you'll taste the difference between fresh little berries and their showy grocery store cousins.

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Thyme

Mint isn't the only essential drink-making herb. Thyme can also be mixed with alcohol for a from-the-ground fresh taste. Try thyme in these summer cocktails:

Organic Royale
Country Thyme
Brazilian Thyme

Growing Tips:
Thyme is a perennial herb, so it will return to your garden year after year without any of the initial grunt work. Introduction of the herb to your garden takes time, including 21 to 30 days growth indoors before germinating. And because not all thyme seeds will germinate successfully, only a fraction of the seedlings may be ready to plant. One plant will slowly grow to cover one square foot of ground, growing more quickly in successive seasons.

Once the first planting season passes, things get easier — all you need to do is divide thyme plants every few years to keep them healthy.

Juniper Green Gin

The world's first organic dry gin, Juniper Green Gin is produced at a London distillery using organic grains and organic botanicals. The organic grain requires less processing than its conventional counterparts, so Juniper Green tastes soft and smooth without help from added artificial softeners.

Juniper Green Gin is USDA-certified organic in America, and certified organic by the British Soil Association in the UK.

Juniper Green gin, $33 for 750 ml, can be purchased at select retailers and internetwines.com.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes — the most popular fruit grown in the United States — are the main ingredients in drinks like the Bloody Mary, a favorite accompaniment for a weekend brunch. Try tomato in these summer cocktails:

Bloody Maria
August Sun

Growing Tips:
For small gardens, buy a "determinate" tomato variety at your local nursery. Determinate tomatoes have vines that grow to a determined point and stop, while "indeterminate" vines keep growing and need support from fences.

Research which of the many tomato varieties grow best in your region. Heirloom varieties, known for their varied flavors and colors, provide an endless number of options for making unique drinks.

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Prairie Organic Vodka

Prairie Organic Vodka is certified kosher and organic by the USDA. Prairie requires that the entire process, from the field all the way to the shelf, be free of synthetic chemicals, pesticides and genetically modified seeds and enzymes.

Crafted in Benson, Minnesota, Prairie Organic is micro-distilled from organic, yellow corn. The leftover corn cobs are gasified to provide energy for the stills.

Prairie Organic Vodka, 1.75 ml bottle, $34.99 can be purchased nationwide or at Marketview Liquor.

Watermelon

Biting into a juicy watermelon is a delicious summertime treat. But what about sipping a juicy watermelon bevy? Try watermelon puree for a daiquiri, or mixed with lime, mint and other fruits for a sweet mixed drink. For best results, sip on a porch swing. Try watermelon in these summer cocktails:

Rainforest on the Rocks

Growing Tips:
If garden space is limited for this large, mouth-watering summertime fruit, grow the "sweet baby" or "bush" variety that require about 1/3 of the space. When grown outside, watermelons should be planted on hills or in rows.

To combat shorter growing seasons, first grow watermelons indoors using peat pots, which can be planted directly into the garden once the weather turns warm.