Dill offers a slightly sweet, delicately tangy, grassy flavor that commingles excellently with vodka- and gin-based drinks, especially ones with cucumber garnishes. Try it as both a syrup and wispy garnish.
Grow it: Dill does well as soon as temperatures get above freezing, but it needs lots of sunlight. Plant some dill in containers that will get at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Infusing an herb’s flavor into a drink is best done by adding it as a simple syrup or using a muddler—an 8-to-10-inch baseball-bat-shaped tool designed to help gently mash or “bruise” the herbs to release their oil and fragrance. I prefer the look and feel of old-fashioned handmade wooden ones, but newer stainless-steel ones are easier to clean and offer “teeth” at the bottom that allow for some serious mashing—a plus for blending fruit alongside herbs in, say, a mojito. The flat end of muddlers works best for a flat-bottomed glass and the round for a round-bottomed glass. In lieu of a muddler (ranging from $2 to $25), a simple bar spoon will work fairly well.
Any cocktail-perfect herb can be made into simple syrup, which adds flavor with ease and speed. Here’s how I make my mint syrup: Add about 12 to 14 fresh mint sprigs or a cup of loose leaves to 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water that’s come to a boil. Remove the pot from heat, cover it with a lid, and let the syrup cool to room temperature before straining it into a clean container (usually a squeeze bottle) that can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks. The same can be done with other herbs. When working with more delicate-flavored herbs, use twice the amount of leaves to capture as much of the flavor essence as possible.
Additional reporting by Emily Main
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Photo: (cc) Carl E. Lewis/Flickr