Are you a fan of mint? Love a mint julep or mojito from time to time? Do you sometimes feel creative and wonder how those drinks might taste with different mint variations, or how to best cultivate your own mint?
With nearly 20 different variations of mint, it isn’t hard to get confused picking the best mint for your cocktails and at times, there are many better mints to choose besides spearmint and peppermint. Crafting a cocktail using the proper mint can be an exuberant experience not only for your patron or guest but also for you, the bartender.
I’ve compiled a small list of the mints that I prefer to use and grow for my cocktails and to accompany the drinks conjured up by my bartenders.
Also known as Mentha Citrata, this is by far my favorite mint. I had a few variations of this one growing in my garden just for those summer inspired drinks such as Mojitos and Juleps. Bergamot is a mint that has a pleasant citrus scent and can be flavored with notes of lemon or orange. Some even say that they can take on a grapefruity floral scent as well.
The trick when using these in your drinks is to gently slice a leaf in half and rub it along the rim of the glass to add a little life or face to your drink.
Side note: As a bartender it is also your duty to understand your patrons. Keep in mind that bergamot can cause some interactions if mixed with some anti-depressant drugs.
By Broly0 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) is probably the easiest mint to spot and differentiate from all of the other mints in your garden. It has a rather hairy or wooly look that pairs with a vividly green coloration.
This is one of those mints that can be so versatile due to its apple notes and its ability to calm upset stomachs. I tend to use this mint when a patron comes in with a cold or is showing symptoms of coming down with a cold. I personally prefer to pair this herb with warm scotch based drinks.
I’m sure most people have heard of this gorgeously scented herb and this falls in line as being my second favorite mint of all time. It’s a cousin to spearmint so the first whiff you take don’t be taken aback if that’s all that you gather from it. Upon your second whiff and by allowing it a little time to grow on you, you can definitely notice the cocoa notes.
You can easily spot this herb by looking for it’s purplish stem. Every once in a while, I still bartend when a friend needs it or if someone that I know is getting married. For the weddings in my area a popular ‘drink’ happens to be a rather basic Raspberry martini. I add a little flare to these by muddling up a few chocolate mint leaves and garnishing them with a few frozen chocolate mint leaves floating on top. That drink receives great feedback and the guests love biting into the frozen mint leaves.
When I think about Pineapple Mint I think a lot about Apple Mint, maybe it’s the name or maybe it’s the consistent structure between the two. You can spot this one by looking for a leaf with a creamy white ‘piping’ along the edges of their soft green leaves.
The flavor profile is similar to a tart pineapple with a fresh lingering note of spearmint. This is great to add a little flare in your frozen or blended drinks and adds a nice touch to bloody Marys. In a bloody Mary it will have your customers scratching their head trying to figure out what you put in their drink to make it taste so fresh yet so savory. Just remember to muddle the mint with your choice of Vodka and then add ice before adding in your Bloody Mary base to gain the most flavor from your mint.
I am a huge fan of Ginger so take this information with a grain of salt – but ginger mint (mentha × gracilis) makes the best infused simply syrup ever! If you’re into making Old Fashioned-s, you need to have some ginger mint simple syrup on hand and you will have your clientele beating down your door for their next drink.
Start off by boiling a handful of ginger mint, chopped with an equal part granulated sugar to water ratio in a small sauce pan. Bring the mix to a boil for five minutes, cool and strain out the leaves, or leave them in for a wicked looking bottle of simple syrup.
In lieu of fresh mint there are some bartenders and bars that utilize a condensed oil from peppermint and spearmint leaves to use during the colder months.
Growing Your Own Mint
Just like any other plant or herb, you have to make sure that you give it enough room. This advice is especially important with mint as they will ‘jump’ locations. If you’re a beginner gardener or just looking to have a little mint on hand for those hot summer days just simply buy a starter plant and plant it in a large pot or raised bed.
I generally let my mints get their moisture solely from rain and have never gone out of my way to water them. I allow my mint to grow to a height of 12 inches before I begin to pick the leaves for use in cocktails as this allows for the best time for the flavor to mature, in my opinion. When picking the leaves, it is best to pluck the leaves rather then cut the entire stem.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that even though the mint will come back every year it is vital to replant your mint every few years to keep the flavor of your mint fresh. I also prefer take some of the plants ‘offspring’ in doors to keep a fresh stock throughout the fall and winter months. You never know when someone will have a craving for mint in their cocktail.
An additional benefit to growing your own ginger mint is the fact that it will keep rodents and wildlife out of your gardens.
Have you ever grown your own mint? What is your favorite mint to use in a cocktail? Have you tried using mint oil over fresh mint leaves? Let us know your thoughts below in the comments!