Also called agastache or licorice mint (Agastache foeniculum) This tough little perennial is, in fact, a member of the mint family, and the leaves do taste and smell of licorice or anise. It’s completely hardy on the West Coast and will survive winter temperatures as low as -25F. In summer, the plants thrive on sun and very little water, pushing up flowering stalks that reach a couple feet in height. Because it’s such a widely adaptable plant, you’ll find that anise hyssop does just fine in partial shade as well.
These plants have been the subject of a great deal of hybridizing, but I haven’t noticed any compromises in the flavor of the leaves. So you might as well indulge your vanity and shop for good looks. ‘Golden Jubilee’ is popular for its chartreuse leaves and brilliant blue flowers, and A. aurantiaca ‘Fragrant Delight’ produces a mix of orange, purple, and lavender blossoms. ‘Blue Fortune’ is considered the workhorse of the bunch, with light blue flowers and a really vigorous habit. They all attract bees, butterflies, or hummingbirds, and they require zero care except for shearing back the dead blossoms at the end of the season.
So what do you do with them? In Scott Beattie’s book Artisanal Cocktails, he slices the leaves into long, thin strips and shakes them over ice with vodka and a berry-infused simple syrup, then serves the drink with seltzer water and garnishes with more of the leaves and blossoms. I’ve also seen it muddled into a gin & tonic, and anise hyssop-infused simple syrup is generally a good upgrade to ordinary simple syrup in any fruity or floral drink. The flowers are edible, so feel free to garnish with them as well.