Cocktails mixed with flowers and gardening? Does that sound like the perfect combination in our quest to learn how to mix an interesting cocktail? The delightfully grown up Lottie Muir is the Cocktail Gardener and we caught five minutes of her time just after her success at the Chelsea Fringe, where she created the fabulous plant powered floral creation, above.
Lottie! We are avid fans of cocktails here at TWR as they allow us to be creative with our drinks making, can you tell us a bit about how you make cocktails that are floral and garden inspired?
Cocktails should be a visual feast and taste sensation so a garden, hedgerow or wild corner of a park is a great inspiration for what should be in your glass in a seasonal cocktail. If you start to pay closer attention to the plant life around you with a view to using it in your cocktail cabinet, you will notice the life cycle of plants from the young shoots, to the blossom and then the seed of a huge variety of plants. At the moment, elderflower, wild roses and honeysuckle are in full swing. Last month it was lilac. Next month, lavender and strawberries will be in the mix….it’s all there waiting for you to stick in a glass! You can also start to think about premium spirits and fortified wines that have a high level of botanicals such as the vast range of gin and vermouth. Or you can start to make your own infusions, syrups and garnishes using the plants around you – leaves, stems, flowers, bark and roots are all used as botanical ingredients in them.
Why have cocktails suddenly become so popular? It seems like every other new bar is a cocktail joint nowadays.
Cocktails at their best can conjure up tastes and smells that elicit an emotional response whether it’s a walk in the woods or a field on a summer day. They stimulate all our senses from sight, smell, taste – even to sound. So they are satisfying on many levels to make and to drink. There is also such variety in the ingredients you can use that you are only limited by your imagination. You made the prettiest cocktail recently for Chelsea Fringe, can you tell us a bit more about that? Were you foraging ingredients from the best gardens on show?
The Chelsea Fringe made me think about what I associate with early English summer in London in terms of smell, taste and look. And I wanted all that in a glass. In the street where I live there was an overpowering scent of jasmine, the elderflower were in full bloom, wild roses were climbing up a hedge and someone had just mown their lawn. That to me is quintessential late spring/early summer. I infused some jasmine in the Jensen Old Tom gin which has grassy overtones…added some rose petal syrup and elderflower liqueur and balanced it with some lemon juice and soda. I garnished it with wild strawberries and fennel I had seen in the local park, lemon balm and a lavender sprig from the garden and a lemon twist.
What has been your most popular foraged/plant powered cocktail to date?
The Woodland Martini has been the most popular – it is supposed to taste of a walk in the woods and combines douglas-fir infused vodka with smoked sage syrup.
What gins and other spirits do you think are best for using in plant powered cocktails? And where do you buy yours from?
I am a great fan of Jensen, our local gin from Bermondsey. I use their Old Tom gin which is based on an 1840s recipe. It is more intense and floral than their Jensen’s Dry with heaps of prominent botanicals from juniper to lavender and coriander with hints of grass and orange flower water. We are madly enthusiastic decorators of cakes and homes here at TWR and your cocktails look really beautiful. Can you give us a few ideas of how we can make ordinary cocktails look a bit more special?
Learning how to make foams is a good idea as it not only provides a beautiful mouth-feel and additional layer of flavour – it also allows you to place flowers on the top without them getting soggy and sinking to the bottom. Also think about using tall, narrow glasses and fill with big ice cubes so that you can sandwich fronds and petals between the ice and the glass without them all floating to the top or getting lost in a heap in the bottom of a glass. I source edible flowers in quantity from Maddocks Farm Organics in Devon (people, click that link, it’s a floral treat) as I don’t want to deprive the bees in my garden and they produce the most beautiful and unusual selection of flowers.
Do you have a recipe you can give us to start us off on plant-powered cocktail making?
Try making your version of the Chelsea Collins. Even if you don’t want to make the rose petal syrup or the elderflower liqueur you can source them from quality online suppliers and make up the garnishes based on the plant life around you..just make sure you know what you are putting in your glass as some plants are toxic. 50ml Jensen Old Tom gin 15ml rose petal syrup 15ml elderflower liqueur 25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tsp of cassis Dash orange bitters Top with soda. Pour teaspoon of cassis in bottom of a tall glass (to provide colour). Fill glass with ice alternatively placing ice cubes and flowers as you go. Pour ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, shake for 20 seconds and pour into the iced glass, Top with soda and add lavender sprig and a straw.
And finally, if we want to learn more, where can we find you?
I will be delivering botanical cocktail masterclasses using garden and foraged ingredients on Saturdays 31 May, 7 June and 14 June at 3pm at the Rib Room Bar and Restaurant, Jumeirah Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge. I also run Midnight Apothecary, a wild cocktail bar in a rooftop garden at the Brunel Museum, every Saturday evening (5.30 – 10.30pm) from Easter to the end of September. Lottie Muir is The Cocktail Gardener