Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | Comments Off on Raspberries

There is just nothing better than fresh raspberries out of the garden, and they are ridiculously easy to grow. If you don’t have any in the ground yet, this is the year. Give them rich soil with plenty of compost, and stand back. They do need a little water year-round, and they prefer the cool summers that we have on the coast here in northern California. There are easier to handle if you put up a simple trellis such as a post at either end of the row with sturdy wire strung between it. (Warning: if there are Himalayan blackberries growing in the area where you want to plant your...

Read More


Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | Comments Off on Blueberries

The trick with blueberries is that they put out very shallow roots that form a mat of fibrous threads very near the soil surface. Most of us know that blueberries like acidic soil, but what we forget is that they need a great deal of organic matter and regular water. So before you even think about bringing blueberries home, choose a site that gets plenty of sun and that you will realistically get around to watering, even in the summer. Putting them right in the middle of your vegetable garden might be a good way to go. It’s a common practice to use peat for blueberries; if you’re...

Read More

Have a Drink in the Garden

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 in Botany, Featured | 1 comment

Okay, it’s the middle of winter, but we can dream, right?  This year, the nice people at Territorial Seeds and Log House Plants asked me to pick out a few of my favorite cocktail-friendly plants.  We got a little carried away, and the result is the Drunken Botanist Plant Collection.  We gathered up all the herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables that a mixologist’s garden would require. I’ll be posting recipes, videos, photos, and growing advice in the months to come as well. You’ll find the plant collections in West Coast garden centers supplied by Log House Plants...

Read More

Cocktails, Tree Bark, and Good Malaria Medicine

Posted on Dec 20, 2012 in Botany, Media | Comments Off on Cocktails, Tree Bark, and Good Malaria Medicine

Cocktails and malaria, my two favorite subjects.  Had a nice chat with the NPR blog The Salt about the many ways we drink our medicine, event today.  Check it out here.

Read More

Orchard in a Bottle

Posted on Dec 15, 2012 in Botany, Featured | Comments Off on Orchard in a Bottle

Fruit trees?  Cocktails?  Of course! It’s bare root season, which is to say that you’re going to be digging around in a tub of dirt at the garden center pretty soon and pulling out gnarly masses of roots and twigs. They may not look glamorous, but trust me – bare root plants are both economical and vigorous. Just be ready to plant them as soon as you get home, and keep the roots covered in damp potting soil until they go in the ground. Apples.  Before you head to the garden center, make sure you have a reasonably sunny spot to plant a tree, and take a look around your...

Read More


Posted on Nov 15, 2012 in Botany, Featured, Recipes | Comments Off on Herbalicious

It is with great excitement that I report to you on the arrival of a new gin, a gin that cannot even properly be called gin because its predominant flavor is not juniper but—are you ready?  Sage. That’s right.  Sage.  It comes from the same clever people at Art in the Age who brought us Root, a liqueur inspired by traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipes for root beer and birch bark beer.  They also make a ginger liqueur called Snap, and a rhubarb concoction called Rhubarb Tea, made in honor of early American botanist and friend of the founding fathers John Bartram. Intriguing, right? ...

Read More

Drinkable Herbs

Posted on Oct 15, 2012 in Botany, Featured, Recipes | 3 comments

We’re continuing to work our way through a year’s worth of grow-your-own cocktail ingredients, moving on this month from flowers to herbs.  Let’s start with some of the sweeter, more floral herbs you might mix into a drink, and next month I’ll move on to the savory herbs.  Autumn is a great time to plant any of these.  Just water them until it starts raining, then stand back and let them take care of themselves through the winter. Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)  Also called ‘licorice mint,’ this tough little perennial is, in fact, a member of the mint family, and the...

Read More

Blooming Cocktails

Posted on Sep 27, 2012 in Botany, Featured, Recipes | 1 comment

Last month I looked at flowers that can be used to decorate cocktails—borage and pansies and the like—but this month, we’ll consider a few flowers that actually flavor drinks.  Some of these have been used for centuries to make not just liqueurs, but boozy medicinal potions as well. Elderflower.  Cordials and sodas flavored with elderflowers are a very British thing, but it took an American distiller to recognize their potential. Rob Cooper, a third-generation distiller, tasted homemade elderflower syrup in a London bar and decided to create a liqueur from the flowers.  The result is...

Read More


Posted on Aug 15, 2012 in Botany, Featured | 1 comment

Can you eat any of the plants in this picture?  Really?  How do you know? This post from the always excellent Rowley’s Whiskey Forge got me thinking about this.  He posts a really cool recipe for a liqueur called mistela de chimajá. I couldn’t resist–I had to go look up the plant.  But more about that in a minute. First, some background:  So the foraging/wildcrafting movement has met the craft distilling movement and the result is that people want to go out into the wilderness, or into a vacant lot, or into the woods, and pull a plant out of the ground and drop it into...

Read More

Drink Your Flowers

Posted on Aug 15, 2012 in Botany, Featured, Recipes | 3 comments

Not every flower belongs in a cocktail glass. But these do.  They’re easy to grow and totally worthwhile. Check it out: Borage. People say that borage leaves taste like cucumber, but if that’s the flavor you’re after, why not just eat a cucumber? Use the leaves if you want—some people pick small, young leaves for salads or cook them with other greens—but it’s the flowers I’m interested in.  The dazzling bright blue color isn’t found in many flowers, particularly edibles, and the fact that they hold their color when frozen means that you can do a very elegant little ice...

Read More