In the summer we want our cocktails to be nice and refreshing. One of the best ways to perk up a cocktail for a hot day is to add fresh herbs. From mint juleps to a basil martini, we've rounded up our favorite herbal cocktail recipes.
The mint julep—a simple combination of mint, bourbon, and sugar virtually synonymous with the Kentucky Derby—is a super variable drink. For a very old-school twist, try replacing the bourbon with cognac, a popular spirit in the antebellum South. If you want something bitter, make your julep with vegetal Cynar and effervescent grapefruit soda. Or try our Swedish julep made with mint aquavit and rum.
Basil is another bright herb perfect for cocktails. Chopped basil leaves lend crispness to a simple vodka martini. Watermelon and basil is a classic pairing—we combine them with tequila, lime juice, and yellow Chartreuse. In the Poddington Pea, a basil simple syrup is shaken with gin, sherry, mint, and blanched peas.`
Delicate, floral lavender lends itself to elegant drinks. Our lavender paloma is made with grapefruit juice, mezcal, and a lavender simple syrup and served in a glass with a lavender salt rim. Or try a lavender sour with gin, lemon juice, green Chartreuse, a lavender simple syrup, and a sprinkling of lavender dust.
Find all of these drinks and more in our collection of herbal cocktail recipes.
Danny Sanchez of Rancho Pescadero in Mexico gave us the recipe for this vibrant, summery cocktail in honor of our 21st birthday. He starts with a tea made from dried hibiscus, then adds tequila, a rosemary-infused simple syrup, and lime juice. Get the recipe for Romero and Julieta »
Muddled sage leaves add an earthy freshness to this blueberry vodka and white cranberry potion from Lavo nightclub and restaurant in Las Vegas.
This green cocktail combines kale-infused rum with a housemade green harissa syrup, which adds sugar for balance and a hint of jalapeño for pop.
Basil-infused vodka gives this simple cocktail a light, crisp edge.
Gin, lemongrass, ginger, and kaffir lime combine in this savory cocktail from Alex Straus of LA’s E.P. & L.P., who created it to complement the restaurant’s spicier dishes.
JB Bernstein, bar manager at Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia, celebrates summer with this simple, floral gin cocktail, sweetened with lavender-infused syrup and garnished with lavender dust. Get the recipe for Lavender Sour >>
Cool muddled cilantro balances the heat from a fresh Fresno chile in this sweet-spicy refresher.
Eamon Rockey of Manhattan’s Betony restaurant cures grapefruit peel in granulated sugar to create oleo-saccharum, the citrusy syrup that goes into this tarragon-laced drink.
Tonic water derives its bitterness from quinine, a purified substance derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. Paired with gin, tonic water makes for one of summer’s most refreshing cocktails. At Bar Code in Bellevue, Washington, the gin and tonic is made in a unique manner: The gin itself is infused with cinchona bark, citrus, and other aromatics. Then, rather than tonic, soda water is added to make the drink.
This highball uses a homemade tonic infused with raspberry-flavored orris root and peppery, flowery grains of paradise to complement the specific flavor profile of Bombay Sapphire gin.
At Spanish-born chef José Andrés’ U.S. restaurants, including the Washington, D.C.– and Las Vegas–based tapas bars called Jaleo, at least ten different variations on the gin and tonic are served. One of our favorites is this pretty version that’s dressed with whole pink peppercorns, citrus, and rosemary. A dry gin lets the aromatic garnishes shine. Get the recipe for Hierba Gin and Tonic »
Conquistador Gin and Tonic
Recently some unexpected vegetables—ramps, butternut squash, and beets—have started showing up in creative cocktails. Now, mushrooms are getting in on the fun(gus). At Dallas farm-to-table restaurant FT33, The Truffle Pig features a refreshing mix of tequila, lemon juice, and muddled mushrooms sweetened with rosemary-cinnamon honey. Topping it off is a seared hen of the woods mushroom.
In addition to using caraway and dill—the most traditional flavors for aquavit—in Sweden, home cooks make the spirit with an infinite variety of spices, herbs, and other flavorful botanicals. Get the recipe for Swedish Mint Julep
Inspired by a recipe developed by mixologist Lynn House of the Chicago restaurant Blackbird, this is an ideal cocktail to show off the fruity side of Cognac. Peach preserves meld beautifully with the spirit’s soft sweetness, while mint adds a bright finish. Get the recipe for The Wild Ruffian »
This sweet (but not too sweet) cocktail is a terrific vehicle for Chartreuse; when we tested it, it converted even the most adamant opponents to the herbal, bright-green liqueur. Get the recipe for Chartreuse Smash »
This surprisingly balanced cocktail offers up layers of fruit, spice, and sweetness, with a hint of vanilla from the rum.
Rosemary brings an herbal note to this whiskey drink.
Made with mezcal, grilled pineapple, jalapeño, and lime, this festive take on the classic margarita is smoky, sweet, and spicy, with an herbaceous kick from cilantro. Get the recipe for Mezcalita de Piña »
Shiso leaves muddled with spicy Thai red chile and slices of cooling cucumber make for a refreshing and festive cocktail.
In this refreshing spring cocktail, muddled basil and tarragon add freshness and intensify Pernod’s green hue, while a squirt of fresh lime juice and splash of champagne cut through the sweet anise flavor. Get the recipe for The Green Thumb »
This version of the classic three-ingredient cocktail—which combines three parts bourbon to one part of a simple syrup bracingly infused with fresh spearmint—is sanctioned by the Kentucky Derby itself as their official mint julep recipe. Get the recipe for Thousand-Dollar Mint Julep »
This lemonade gains herbaceous depth from lavender and thyme, while vodka delivers a good, clean punch.
The floral flavor of gin is a natural match for bright grapefruit and elderflower liqueur in a refreshing cocktail. Fresh tarragon adds an aromatic, peppery anise note.
Before the Civil War made foreign products hard to come by in the South, French cognac was the preferred liquor in a mint julep.
Cynar’s vegetal bitterness, derived primarily from artichokes, pairs nicely with mint and grapefruit soda in this refreshing julep variation.