Flowers and other budding botanical elements this spring aren’t just eye candy to dress the table; they can bless an everyday beverage with intoxicating new scents, flavors and colors. “It’s such a joy to see a beautiful flower or plant, smell it and then add it to a delightful beverage or meal. Plants have so much medicine to share, and it’s fun to play with that,” says Myra Sinnott, an aromatherapist and owner of Essential Botany, in Washington, D.C.
Many beverage favorites can be given a floral twist with little effort, says Cassie Winslow, author of Floral Libations: 41 Drinks + Ingredients
and founder of the blog Deco Tartelette
, in Santa Cruz, California. Winslow’s go-to drinks include lavender-infused lemonade and rose petal almond milk, which can be served hot or cold. “I also love an iced lavender café au lait. If I’m feeling extra fancy, I’ll use fresh flower ice cubes, too.” Dried hibiscus is another favorite of Winslow’s, as even a few petals of the concentrated dark magenta flower will brighten and beautify any beverage—even a yogurt-based drink.
While many botanical drink recipes call for simple sugar syrup, Winslow suggests honey with a splash of water as a substitute. Other drinks are naturally sweet, like jasmine tea steeped in apple cider.
Sinnott likes to fuse the power of flowers with other botanical elements such as rose petals in a light raspberry drink. “I also use rosewater in a warm elixir with a base of reishi mushroom tea, goji berries, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger, cacao, pearl powder and honey. Rose is a heart-opener and vitalizes the body with the immune-boosting reishi and the other tonifying ingredients,” says Sinnott.
Winslow stresses the importance of buying organic ingredients, as many flowers are sprayed with toxic pesticides—or better yet, home-grown. She suggests the tea aisle of natural food stores is a good place for procuring organic floral ingredients such as chamomile and jasmine, which often come unblended in whole form.
Dried flowers are easier to source and are often more potent than fresh, she says. “Fresh is pretty, but can be more subtle in flavor.” Her rose salt recipe, which can be used to rim drinks or seasonal dishes, calls for dried roses, which have a longer shelf life and won’t clump up like fresh petals.
Marie Viljoen, Brooklyn-based author of Forage, Harvest, Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine, suggests using cold infusions rather than heat or boiling flowers to retain their flavors and aromas. She also recommends picking flowers early in the morning or late afternoon, when their scent peaks.
A Cup of Wildflowers
While botanical ingredients can be obtained commercially, it can be more fun—and frugal—to forage for them, suggests Viljoen, founder of the blog 66-Square-Feet
. “It’s a lot of fun to go out to collect ingredients you cannot find in the store. You can experience unique textures, flavors and perfumes, and play with wild ingredients that have been all but forgotten,” she says.
Some of Viljoen’s seasonal foraged favorites include the fragrant elderflower, honeysuckle and common milkweed flower. “I like to capture milkweed’s fragrance and deep pink color in a wild soda or a sweet cordial.”
For newbie foragers, drink ingredients can be sourced as easily as herbs from a window box, like the antiviral thyme, which makes for a delicious wild soda made from a handful of herbs, sweetener and water left on the countertop a few days to lightly ferment and fizz. Another spring favorite, tender young spruce tips, has a sour flavor that ferments well with strawberries and rhubarb, says Viljoen.
The same recipe can also be used to make vinegar, a longer process resulting in a more enduring product with great botanical properties. “You can create a sipping vinegar, which is good to mix with seltzer or slow-cook with,” says Viljoen.
Whether botanical ingredients are foraged, bought or brought in from the backyard garden to be put in a hot tea, a cocktail or a cold brew, the magic is in the making. “Flowers are endless fun to experiment with, especially when added to everyday drinks and dishes. It brings life to the kitchen,” says Winslow.
April Thompson is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.
SOOTHING BOTANICAL SIPS
photo by Susan Bell
Here’s an Indian-inspired herbal infusion featuring classic Ayurvedic herbs that help spread unconditional love that is so needed in the world right now. It’s recommended that you serve the infusion on heated rose quartz crystals; this will continue to emanate the love. This recipe is best made in larger quantities and stored for use throughout the year or whenever you need to spread or share more love with friends and family.
Yields: 3½ oz beverage
.7 oz cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
½ oz ginger root (Zingiber officinalis), dried
.2 oz ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera), dried
.2 oz rhatavari root (Asparagus racemosus), dried
½ oz rose petals (Rosa spp), dried
.4 oz rose hips (Rosa canina), dried
1 oz tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), dried
For the warm rose quartz:
3-4 Rough pieces of rose quartz crystal
Mix all the herbs together in a large bowl, then decant into a sealable pouch or jar, being sure to store away from direct sunlight.
Cleanse the crystals, by first rinsing and gently scrubbing them under running water, then place in the sun for a few hours and whisper some love poetry to them.
Place the crystals in the oven on a low heat (158 to 170° F) for 15 minutes, or until hot. Place the crystals in the teacups.
For a pot for 3 to 4 people, take 6 heaping teaspoons of the blend, pour over freshly boiled water, infuse with the lid on for 5 to 6 minutes, then fine strain and serve in cups over the warm pieces of rose quartz crystal.
Recipe courtesy of Michael Isted, the Herball.
Dandelion Honey Bowl of Soul
photo by Doan Ly
“I love to make a bowl of soul when I need to unwind, as this beverage is quite soothing,” says Cassie Winslow. “Dandelions have a subtle spice that pairs so nicely with other warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Steeped in your favorite nutty milk, this’ll be your new go-to goodie when you want to sit with your thoughts, gaze out the window and sip on something warm.”
Yields: one beverage
1 cup, unsweetened, almond milk or hazelnut milk
1 Tbsp honey (or agave sweetener)
1 dandelion tea bag
Freshly ground nutmeg for garnish
In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat until it just begins to simmer.
Whisk the milk, then slowly add the honey or agave sweetener and whisk together.
Pour the milk mixture into a large mug.
Add the tea bag and allow to steep for five minutes.
Discard the tea bag. Sprinkle the nutmeg on top. Recipe courtesy of Cassie Winslow,
Floral Libations: 41 Drinks + Ingredients.
FLORAL PARTY FAVORS
For those that want to impress guests with a little floral flourish at their next dinner party, here are some tips from the experts.
Garnishing is a great way to use fresh edible flowers and show off their natural shapes and colors, says Cassie Winslow, author of Floral Libations: 41 Drinks + Ingredients and founder of the blog Deco Tartelette
, in Santa Cruz, California. “Unless it’s a small pretty bloom, you’ll want to just use a couple of petals though, as whole flowers can be hard to drink around otherwise.”
Simply infusing fragrant flowers in water overnight can be a refreshing upgrade to table water, says Marie Viljoen, author of Forage, Harvest, Feast
and the 66-Square-Feet blog
, based in Brooklyn. “Go for flowers with lots of fragrance, like jasmine, roses or violets. Just put in cool water overnight and strain out the flowers in the morning.”
Drinks can be dressed up with a floral sugar or salt rim using rose or lavender. “I like to rim half the glass on the side and not just the top, to give it a cascading effect,” says Winslow.
Another fun party trick is to set up a bar and let guests garnish their drinks themselves.
Winslow suggests almost any cocktail recipe can be turned into a mocktail by using sparkling water instead of alcohol; for example, a virgin lilac margarita greyhound.
Floral ice cubes also add a fancy touch to the dinner table. To capture the blossoms in ice, Viljoen suggests filling the tray halfway with water, putting in the flowers, freezing and then filling in the rest of the water to refreeze.