In an eruption of patriotic cheer, mojitos are suddenly on the menu at our house for a family get-together. Neither my husband nor I are cocktail experts, but the mint in our ever-moist “mint ditch” is a lush green. So we’ll be muddling together mint leaves and ice cubes in tall glasses, replacing the traditional sugar with a dash of maple syrup, topped off with tequila, club soda and juice from squeezed limes.
This got us thinking about other home-grown libations. Strawberries have been late this year, but soon we might have fresh-picked strawberry daiquiris. And we could easily grow a patch of cranberries for the defining ingredient in a Cosmo. Cranberries don’t require a bog, as some assume, just extra water in hot weather. But the ultimate down-home drink is a Bloody Mary made with lush, juicy Brandy Boy tomatoes, hot peppers and a stalk of just-picked celery as a swizzle stick — plus a squeeze of organic lemon from Tradewinds, the Blue Hill Co-op or a neighbor who succeeds with Meyer lemons in a sunny window.
Over the years, I’ve drawn inspiration from a number of chef friends known for their creative use of garden bounty. Nora Pouillion used to make a bellini served in season at Restaurant Nora, her famed Georgetown eatery (alas, now closed). The Champagne was flavored with apricot puree from a tree right outside the door. (In Venice, the classic Harry’s Bar version uses peach and raspberry, two fruits a home garden might supply.) Nora used her mint chiefly for mint juleps.
Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., told me “fun, sexy drinks from the garden are a great way to convey the philosophy of eating locally, seasonally and sustainably.” He credited the restaurant’s Director of Operations Phillipe Gouze with creating their inspired cocktails.
A gin martini was made with cucumber juice, not at all strange in a time of eclectic martinis. The sorrel margarita was a hit with some adventurous customers, but the real crowd-pleaser (which I tried and loved) was the Opal Basil Mojito, in which Dark Opal basil took the place of mint and turned the drink a festive rose color. Even the most urban host could concoct that one from a pot of purple basil on the windowsill. What a great way to celebrate: “It’s organic! Have another!”
Back here at the farm, I’ve long wanted to try out an indoor lime tree. Perhaps one of the large Bearss limes, also known as Persian lime or Tahitian lime. Or a Mexican lime, the same delicious little fruit grown in the Florida Keys. Or one of each! Until then, here’s to a glorious Fourth and an excellent mojito harvest.