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Four Great Ways to Extend Harvest Season With Winter Drinks

by Michelle L. Holshue on Dec 12, 2012 in Culture
Four Great Ways to Extend Harvest Season With Winter Drinks

As the hours of daylight disappear and temperatures continue drop, it’s easy to become wistful recalling summer evenings spent outdoors, sipping cocktails made with garden-fresh ingredients after days of soaking up the sun. However, just because you’ve buttoned up your garden or put away your farmer's market tote bags until next spring doesn't mean you can't enjoy a taste of sunshine in your glass. Here are some suggestions to help you extend the fall harvest through the spring thaw.

Preserve herbs to liven up your cocktails year-round


If you grew fresh herbs this year, or if you can still find them at the market, there are few ways to preserve them for use in cocktails year-round. Herbs with a high water content, like mint, basil, or sage, can be frozen in ice: simply wash & chop, place in a plastic ice cube tray, cover with water, and freeze. The herbs will be wilted when thawed, but they'll retain all of their flavor. Just pop a cube out at any time you're craving a mojito, or add some frozen mint to your spiked hot chocolate (and strain before serving) for a refreshing treat.

Another way to preserve herbs is to make a simple syrup by boiling them with water and sugar. This method works well with thyme, basil, rosemary, and sage — or feel free to combine your favorites for a unique syrup that will liven up any winter cocktail.

Incorporate cold-weather fruits into your drinks

If you can find locally-grown apples and pumpkins, you've got great options for making fresh cocktails. Fresh-pressed apple cider is a delicious hot drink when mulled with spices and rum (and garnished with a slice of fresh apple). Or try a making your own pumpkin pie purée to use in a pumpkin martini — it's like drinking your favorite pie in a glass! As a bonus, fresh pumpkin purée will keep for months in the freezer.

Infuse your own liquor

Infusing liquor with fruit, herbs, and spices is an easy way to create unique cocktails that taste garden-fresh. Start with your favorite liquor — gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey all make good candidates. You can add herbs or citrus peel right into the bottle, or if you'd like to infuse fruits like apples, cherries, or pineapple, fill a clean mason jar with sliced fruit and fill with liquor. Either way, you'll want to cover the bottle or jar tightly and store on a shelf away from light or heat.

That's it! Fruit-infused liquor will be ready in just a few days, while herbs and spices may take a few weeks. When it's time to serve, strain the liquor and mix away. Bonus: If you use fruit to infuse your liquor, don't forget to eat it, too — it's like a boozy fruit salad! Double bonus: Infused liquor makes a great holiday gift.

Consider a window box for fresh herbs year-round

For a final option to ensure fresh-tasting cocktails, you can always try your hand at indoor gardening. Herbs like basil, thyme, mint, and rosemary grow well indoors as long as they have lots of light (a south-facing window is ideal). I grow mine in my kitchen, so a fresh garnish is always an arm's length away.

Photos via Flickr users Kirti Poddar, 3liz4 and Kichen Wench, respectively

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