by Tara Roberts
But one sweet and simple trick will help put your spare produce to good use. Simple syrup forms the base of many classic cocktails. It’s easy to make and easy to dress up with summer flavors.
I made mint, basil and cucumber syrups. Plenty of other herbs (think thyme, lemon balm, lavender, pineapple sage) are perfect. Veggies require a bit more of an adventurous spirit — but try experimenting with hot peppers, tomatoes, carrots, fennel or whatever strikes your fancy.
Garden-Fresh Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Fresh herbs (chopped fine) or vegetables (sliced or chopped small)
Prep your produce in proportion to the amount of syrup in which you plan to soak them. If you’re dividing the batch in three parts, put ⅓ cup veggies or herbs in three small heatproof containers; if it’s four parts, put ¼ cup in four small containers, etc.
Stir together sugar and water over medium-high heat until bubbly. Simmer about two minutes, until mixture is clear and all sugar has dissolved.
Remove from heat and let cool about 15 minutes.
Pour syrup over veggies (you could measure, but I’d eyeball it).
Let soak and cool 1 to 2 hours, then strain and store in the fridge.
With your simple syrups, you can assemble any number of boozy drinks. Follow a simple 2:1:1 ratio: two parts alcohol, one part simple syrup, one part sour juice. Shake or stir (whatever your preference) then pour over ice. If you’re fond of bubbles, add club soda or champagne. No fancy tools needed; a mason jar can serve as shaker and serving vessel.
Basil Whiskey Sour
2 ounces whiskey or bourbon
1 ounce basil-infused simple syrup
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Dash of bitters if you’ve got ’em
2 ounces vodka or gin
1 ounce cucumber-infused simple syrup
1 ounce fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
8 ounces club soda
If you don’t drink alcohol or want to make a kid-friendly treat, try mixing 12 oz. iced tea, lemonade or club soda with 1-3 teaspoons of simple syrup (depending on your taste).
Now you have a cool drink to enjoy as the dog days of summer keep your garden growing. Stumble upon a great combination? Let Inland 360 know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #inland360.
Side Note: Zucchini doesn’t make great simple syrup, but it does make an excellent homemade bar snack. Dip zucchini rounds in egg beaten with a little milk, dredge in a mix of flour, black pepper and garlic salt, and fry in vegetable oil in a hot cast-iron pan or skillet. Drain on a paper towel; devour.
Tara Roberts is a mediocre gardener and excellent drink-enjoyer who lives in Moscow with her husband, kids and poodle.