Garden in a Glass: Bloody Mary Recipe and More.

It’s during the hottest days of the summer when heating up the kitchen by firing up the stove seems like the last thing on my list. Firing up the bbq is a decent alternative, dinner salads made out of garden veggies, and cold sandwiches get us through the July/August season without having to turn the air conditioning on in our home. When I’m planning a dinner party during these months all too often I fall back to sucking down the clichéd ice-cold beer around the grill or the table. Maybe chilled white or rose wines? Sure, they’re great hot weather standbys, but I’m completely ignoring the garden when making those kind of drinks. Why not use the fresh herbs, fruits, and even vegetables when making cocktails? Last winter I received a cocktail recipe book that has prodded me along on this idea, and while initially following the recipes verbatim I’ve now moved on to making my own cocktail creations from what’s fresh in the yard.  


It all began with throwing some fresh mint into my whiskey. If you’re a purist like myself most hard alcohols are enjoyed with little or no help from mixers, sodas, or juices. It’s hard to beat a quality brand whiskey on the rocks, a vodka martini, a shot of tequila, or a gin gimlet. With just a little help you can enliven these flavors while still preserving the quality of the spirit. After some research I found out that by bruising some spearmint between my fingers and dropping it into my whiskey I was following the original recipe for a mint julip. What’s become an overly sweetened candy cocktail is actually quite amazing when you leave out the syrup. I think bourbons and Canadian whiskeys work best for this, but I’ll continue to experiment. Later this summer I created another variation on this which was softened up a little bit for my wife who doesn’t enjoy the straight whiskey flavor. I started with a shot of whiskey and muddled mint at the bottom of the glass over ice, squeezed in a quarter of a lime, then filled the rest of the glass with soda water. It’s a new favorite after dinner digestif.


Fresh rosemary and ginger can be combined in water when making a simple syrup if you prefer a sweeter drink. I sliced a good 2 inch piece of ginger and tossed in a few branches worth of rosemary leaves into a 2 cup batch of simple syrup, then I used the syrup to make a drink with gin and soda water. The gin and rosemary are an amazing pairing. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m thinking of making a simple syrup with spearmint and peppermint added.


Thai chiles in my garden.Thai chilies in my garden.This last weekend we made a Thai chili vodka infusion by combining a dozen Thai chilies, 8 peppercorns, and a sliced jalapeno with 2 cups of vodka for 48 hours. We then poured it through a strainer and tasted it. Holy pepper! It’s going into a homemade fresh tomato bloody Mary. Bloody Mary mix recipes are abundant on the internet, but I prefer one from an Emeril Lagasse cookbook I have, and then I add a juiced onion. When I worked at Palace Café in New Orleans we used to  juice onions first thing in the morning for our bloody Mary mix so that the fumes would dissipate before breakfast hours. There wasn’t a dry eye in the kitchen, but it made a killer bloody Mary. Thai chilies are really easy to grow in the garden, the plants look very showy with their green and bright red mini peppers, and what you don’t mix with vodka can make a homemade Thai chili paste that will beat any store-bought jar.


Cucumbers are another favorite for infusions, and they combine well with gin, vodka, and tequila. Simply slice a large cucumber in 1/8” slices, mix with a bottle of your preferred spirit, refrigerate for 12-24 hours, and then strain. You’ll want to keep the bottle in the refrigerator after that, and try to use it all up with two weeks to prevent spoilage. Try a cucumber gin martini shaken with a sprig of mint!


These ideas came from what I’ve got in my garden, but maybe you have other ideas from what you grow.  I think that the idea is just to be creative, and remember...they’re always loved by dinner guests. It seems like the custom of cocktail parties has died down a bit, but these drinks, paired with fresh creations from the garden for dinner would make an evening to be talked about for the days that follow.


Fresh Thai Chili and Tomato Bloody Mary Recipe

8 cups juiced garden tomato (I used a juicer, but you could puree peeled tomatoes in a blender or press tomatoes through a strainer and discard solids)

1 juiced small onion

2 juiced celery stalks

1 t. salt

1 t. celery salt

2 t. black pepper

2 T. fresh lemon juice

2 T. fresh lime juice

2 T. Worcestershire sauce

2 t. Tabasco sauce

10 oz. Thai chili infused vodka

  •  Mix everything together and chill for at least 1 hour.  Serve over ice with pickled accompaniments.  Makes 10 drinks.



Benjamin Krikava
 lives in north Minneapolis with his family. After over a decade of restaurant work he has moved on to be employed in the medical field, now helping to prevent heart attacks rather than cause them. When he's not at work or on his bicycle you will find him in the kitchen drinking the rest of the bottle of wine that the recipe didn't call for. His last article for us was: A Cyclist's Consomme.